Francis confident that his resurgent Spurs will escape ban

MARK BURTON

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 0

Even at White Hart Lane, a byword for conflict in recent times, there is unanimity on one issue - Terry Venables is the man for the England job.

Alan Sugar said as much on Saturday "My gut feeling is that he will continue as England manager," the Spurs chairman said. "I know Terry has said that he is not going to do it, but in a couple of months things may be different."

El Tel's successor in N17, Gerry Francis, is also in no doubt. He put the onus on the Football Association. "I urge the FA to talk to Terry and get him to change his mind," he said after again ruling himself out of the job.

Not that it was all encouraging news for the man who has given debate on the rights and wrongs of the TV era a new meaning. Francis was also full of praise for Sugar's ability in fighting for what he thinks is right.

Sugar, having got the FA to overturn Tottenham's FA Cup ban last season, is now calling on them for support to overturn a ban from European competition. He, and Francis, feel Spurs and the similarly suffering Wimbledon have been hung out to dry over their ill-fated, ill-considered involvement in the Intertoto Cup.

Both are confident that Spurs will win this off-pitch battle, as they claim the backing of the FA and the Premier League in using begged, borrowed and green players. "We did everyone a favour by taking part when Uefa threatened to ban all English clubs from Europe if no clubs entered, and we've got nothing but stick over it ever since," Francis said.

The ban appears not so pressing for Wimbledon, unless they win the FA Cup, but Francis has propelled Spurs into third in the Premiership, unexpected heights achieved on the back of a run of only two defeats in their last 20 League games. He said he would be devastated if the European reward for being third in May was taken away.

He is proud of Tottenham's record and has just as much reason for pride in one of the most significant contributors to it. Chris Armstrong was his choice to come in after Jurgen Klinsmann left - the former Crystal Palace forward would not have been everybody's.

On Saturday, though, he was again superb and headed the winner from a cross by Tottenham's other prime mover in the match, Sol Campbell, who shackled City's creative force, Georgi Kinkladze. Armstrong's display of skill, pace and intelligence is, in this TV age, the only kind of salute to the critics that anyone can get away with.

Goal: Armstrong (66) 0-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Mabbutt, Nethercott, Edinburgh; Caskey, Dozzell, Campbell, Rosenthal; Armstrong, Sheringham. Substitutes not used: Wilson, Slade, Day (gk).

Manchester CIty (4-4-2): Immel; Summerbee, Curle, Symons, Ingram; Ekelund (Brown, 60), Lomas, Flitcroft, Kinkladze; Rosler, Quinn. Substitutes not used: Kernaghan, Margetson (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Bookings: Tottenham Hotspur: Rosenthal.

Man of the match: Armstrong. Attendance: 31,438.

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