Tim Sherwood's summer took a massive turn for the better at Vicarage Road yesterday. Having been fined £30,000 for criticising his Tottenham employers for lack of ambition and underachievement, the midfielder came on as a late substitute, to a decidedly mixed reception from the Spurs fans, in the Nigel Gibbs testimonial match with Watford and scrambled the only goal with three minutes left.
Watford, after suffering a build-up little short of disastrous, could use a similar turn of fortune. Their former manager Gianluca Vialli had planned a summer tour abroad, but after his sacking the trip was cancelled because of Watford's chronic shortage of funds and the new man in charge, Ray Lewington, found himself short of fixtures.
Watford were beaten 3-2 a week ago by the Ryman League side Yeadon, a team in effect six divisions below them, and then a midweek game with Swindon was called off because of a waterlogged pitch. And Lewington was not even happy about tasty Premiership opposition like Spurs. "We were up against a style of play we will not be facing week after week in the First Division," he explained.
Possibly so, but with another and more meaningful friendly against Feyenoord in Holland today, Tottenham did not exactly field their Premiership finest. Among the regulars like Neil Sullivan and Jamie Redknapp were such as Diego Bortolozzo, a Brazilian triallist, Rohan Ricketts, moved out by Arsenal, and Qu Bo, a Chinese also on trial who impressed in last week's win at Crystal Palace and has told the fans to "call me Kevin."
They are also entitled to call him the real thing. His quick, controlled play was impressive and in stark contrast to Sergei Rebrov, George Graham's £11m purchase from Dynamo Kiev, who looked cheesed off to start with, and even more so following a glaring miss after a quarter of an hour. Oyvind Leonhardsen sent Qu racing to the byline and the Chinese cut back the ball for the onrushing Rebrov, who could manage nothing better than an air shot.
The followers of both clubs were able to watch little in the way of new faces. Tottenham's new Belgian signing Jonathan Blondel was not even in the Spurs party. Nor was the Slovenian international Milenko Acimovic, while Watford, a club who have asked their first-team squad to wash their own kit, were not likely to be parading big new signings.
Coventry's defender Marc Edworthy might have joined, but he rejected the salary offer. "We can't barter with players," Lewington said. "We give them what we can afford and if they don't take it we have to pull out. The money we are offering is not what players have been used to over the last couple of years. It makes it hard attracting them."
So hard, in fact, that Marcus Gayle has been pulled back to join the defence, though he showed some of his old skills in a barren first half by driving a free-kick just too high, an effort matched in venom and accuracy by Redknapp's long-range strike.
After an hour Spurs decided to get serious and on came Christian Ziege and Teddy Sheringham, one brutally shaven-headed and the other sporting a freshly peroxided hairdo. It was not long before that Sheringham head directed the ball on to an upright, and it looked as though that might be the closest to a goal.
In contrast to Sherwood's reception, a huge cheer greeted the arrival for the final seven minutes of Gibbs, a loyal servant at the club for 20 years. At least he was on the pitch to see the only goal go in.
Watford 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1
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