No picnic for English clubs by the sea

European football, of a kind, arrives on the south coast. Phil Shaw reports

Here's one for Arsenal supporters to gloat about. Tottenham Hotspur returned to European competition yesterday, only to be beaten 2-0 by a moderate Swiss side, Lucerne, and outdrawn at the gate by a collection of cuddly toys.

At Brighton's Goldstone Ground, a team who who should have been billed as Tottenham Hotchpotch coaxed fewer than 2,500 stalwarts to sit in the shade on a scorching afternoon and watch their opening Intertoto Cup game. In neighbouring Hove Park, a Teddy Bears' Picnic attracted more than twice as many furry companions.

Every bear that ever there was, at least in East Sussex, seemed to be gathered there. Yet across the road there was no sign of Spurs' Teddy - Sheringham, that is - or any of his high-profile colleagues. Wearing the cockerel instead were the captain of Barnet, Mark Newson, Northampton's Ian Sampson, Charlton's Alan Pardew and, even more bizarre, St Mirren's David Byrne, playing for his 14th club.

Only three of the "home" side have appeared in the Premiership, whereas Lucerne, who finished sixth in Switzerland, were at full strength. In the circumstances, and compared with a similarly depleted Wimbledon's 4-0 drubbing by Turkey's sixth-placed club the previous day, defeat was no disgrace.

Spurs had two "goals" disallowed, and must have drawn encouragement from the showing of Steven Slade, a 19-year-old striker from Romford who is built more like Joanna Lumley than Jonah Lomu. However, the fact that Lucerne's players actually knew each other gradually told, and in the 69th minute the splendidly named Martin Fink converted a cross.

Petre Aleksandrov headed the second with three minutes remaining. With his white head-band and curly hair, the Bulgarian was a dead ringer for Brighton's own Steve Foster - Fozzie Bear? - though he is hardly the kind of "crack Continental" to help establish the Intertoto Cup in Britain.

For this is a tournament to make the Auto Windscreens Shield and the Anglo-Italian Cup look massively popular. Until clubs field full-strength teams, which would mean overworked players foregoing their holidays, summer football will never grip the popular imagination.

The night before the opening day in the Hove festival of football, the Bosnian coach of Bursaspor Kulubu, Wimbledon's opponents, sat up studying videos of the Dons. "Warren Barton and Dean Holdsworth," said Nejat Biyedic with an authority undermined only by the fact that Barton recently joined Newcastle. "And Vinnie Jones," he grinned.

In the event, not one Wimbledon first-team player appeared, and a side comprising youth players, reserves and loan signing met a predictable fate. The faces were not those Biyedic anticipated, but as he said afterwards, the hosts' approach had been exactly as he expected: "Long balls . . . typical English."

A third of Saturday's 1,879 crowd were Turkish-Cypriots from London. Taunted with "you're worse than Crystal Palace" after an early miskick, they were soon banging drums and waving flags. Bursapor's badge depicts an alligator with a ball in its mouth, an appropriate metaphor for their superiority once Ecument Shain fired them ahead.

John Cheesewright, borrowed from Colchester, gifted them a second goal. The Wimbledon XI's only experienced player, the 32-year-old Danny O'Shea, strove to prevent a Turkey shoot on his day release from Northampton, but further goals rewarded Bursapor and the live television audience back home.

Sam Hammam, Wimbledon's owner, conceded it was "men against boys", but predicted that the Intertoto would soon replace the League Cup in the priorities of Premiership clubs. "The concept is perfect," he said. "It's the timing that's wrong."

Wimbledon are back at their Hove from home a week next Saturday to tackle Beitar Jerusalem, a fixture sandwiched between trips to Slovakia and Belgium. Spurs also return, to face Osters of Sweden, as well as travelling to Slovenia and Germany. Sheffield Wednesday, beaten 1-0 in Basle, may stage their home games at South Yorkshire's own San Siro, Millmoor at Rotherham.

The champions from each of the 12 groups, plus the four best runners- up then go into a knock-out competition, with the last four guaranteed entry to the Uefa Cup preliminary round. The English trio will have full squads available by then. In the meantime, the tournament's credibility looks as threadbare as some of the picnic-goers in the park.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Day; Newson, Coll, Sampson, Clapham; Byrne (Spencer, 83), Pardew, Watson, McMahon; Slade, Hendry (Wormull, 74).

Lucerne (4-4-2): Mutter (Karpf, h-t); Emur, Wolf, Wyss, Baumann; Jollen, Bwalya, Sawu, Melina (Camenzind, 65); Fink, Aleksandrov.

Referee: B. Saules (France).

Goals: Sahin (6) 0-1; Kilic (26) 0-2; Sahin (55) 0-3; Unal (77) 0-4.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Cheesewright; O'Kane, O'Shea, Laidlaw, Skinner; Payne (Euell, 77), Newhouse, Appleton, Piper; Dobbs, Tomlinson (Thomas, 58).

Bursapor Kulubu (1-2-5-2): Gancev (Dincbudak, 85); Ozer; Unal, Ornek; Kilic, Devrim (Akdogan, 81), Koseoglu, Akjun, Yildirim; Sahin (Sen, 64), Baljic.

Referee: R Olsen (Norway).

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there