The two faces of respect

Tottenham's own goal: Santini's silence leaves a sour taste on the day Spurs said farewell to an old hero and his legacy
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The Independent Online

Tottenham have made a profession of getting things wrong for years now; but they excelled themselves on a day of high emotion for everyone connected with the club, the day that Bill Nicholson, their greatest manager and the man who created the modern image of the club as entertainers and stylists, passed away.

Tottenham have made a profession of getting things wrong for years now; but they excelled themselves on a day of high emotion for everyone connected with the club, the day that Bill Nicholson, their greatest manager and the man who created the modern image of the club as entertainers and stylists, passed away.

On the pitch it was bad enough as the team sent out by Jacques Santini was deprived of the wit of Jermain Defoe up front to add some sparkle to the hard labour from those behind by the manager's decision to start him on the susbtitutes' bench. It was left to Bolton Wanderers to provide the style for which Spurs are, historically, famous and they produced enough of it to ensure that they went home with a 2-1 victory to their credit.

Off the pitch, it was even worse. Tottenham conjured another of those public relations disasters which have dominated their recent history. Santini was apparently too upset by the poverty of his players' performance to venture out to address the press, and through them the Tottenham supporters who could not be party to the proceedings. Of course, the Frenchman knows little beyond the history books of Nicholson's achievements, but he was reminded of the significance of the man to the club and as manager he should have understood that it was incumbent on him to make some gesture, even in broken English, to the emotion of the moment.

If he really could not do that, the club should have insisted that someone else could put the reaction of the playing staff to the sad news that broke during the morning. Perhaps Chris Hughton, although not at the forefront of Santini's coaching team, was the man who the club should have put forward.

He could have delivered Santini's refusal to attend. The bulk of the interest lay in the reaction to Nicholson's death. Hughton, with his long connection with the club, could surely have done that without upsetting anyone higher up the coaching hierarchy. Absurdly, it was left to Sam Allardyce to express a view, and he admitted that he did not play against a Nicholson team because Bill Nic retired before the Bolton Wanderers manager and former centre-back had faced Spurs on the pitch.

Before the match a number of the club's greatest players from down the years had lined up on the pitch to observe a minute's silence in memory of the man who led the club to its highest point. There paying their respects were Pat Jennings, the former Northern Ireland goalkeeper; Martin Peters, part of England's 1966 World Cup-winning team; Martin Chivers, a striker who spearheaded their European campaign in the early Seventies, and Paul Gascoigne, midfield maestro whose moment of madness almost ended Spurs' hopes in the 1991 FA Cup final.

They were in that line because they realised that they owed something to Bill Nicholson. The club's hierarchy might have considered their debt more sympathetically, too.

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