The Francis effect is fine by Campbell

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The Independent Online
Sol Campbell, Tottenham's England Under-21 full-back, praised Gerry Francis for giving Tottenham the one thing they were missing under his managerial predecessor Ossie Ardiles - a defensive platform. While Jurgen Klinsmann and Teddy Sheringham still capture the headlines, the Francis-inspired resurgence at White Hart Lane has been based on the principle that was missing in the Ardiles era.

The Argentinian's romantic ideals were lived out to the full in his "famous five" front line of Klinsmann, Sheringham, Darren Anderton, Nick Barmby and Ilie Dumitrescu, but the lack of shape at the back induced panic attacks both in Tottenham's supporters and, more importantly, the club's chairman, Alan Sugar.

Francis was assisted in his drive for defensive solidity by the return of Gary Mabbutt to the captaincy and centre-half position, while David Howells, mostly out of favour under Ardiles, came in to add midfield steel.

In October a lightweight and insipid Spurs slid away from Notts County with their League Cup tails between their legs and Ardiles preparing to receive his P45. Faced with an equally daunting task in the FA Cup at Sunderland on Sunday, the defence provided the springboard for a 4-1 drubbing that earned the club a home tie against Luton or Southampton in the fifth round.

With Tottenham's attacking propensities goals were always going to come, but the defensive resolve is a testament to Francis, as Campbell insisted. "The difference is the system - we've got one now," he said. "We did not have one before but now everyone knows where to be, and if the ball is in a certain place everyone knows where to go. Unfortunately, earlier in the season we were at sixes and sevens. When the ball was in one place somebody was in another instead. But now we've got it together."

Campbell confirmed the impression that Francis's efforts on the training ground are the secret of his success. "You've got to work," he said. "You do not get anything if you do not work hard. We've worked and have a defensive system now. It does not matter where the ball is on the pitch, everyone knows where to be. That's what it's all about."

Since Francis got to grips with his players, Spurs have lost one game in the last 13, at Aston Villa last week when, perhaps significantly, Howells was missing through injury.

Campbell agreed that Howells has been a key ingredient, although he also praised the part played by the remaining Romanian at White Hart Lane, Gica Popescu.

"David came in alongside Gica and they're both playing like maestros," Campbell said. "It's nice to have Gica there because he can play it around in midfield and link with the strikers. And while David can pass as well he also likes to get his foot in. It's always comforting to have the pair in front of you and it's helped a lot.

"The way we're playing at the back is a big boost for everyone. If you do not concede a goal you cannot lose and we're doing our jobs defensively. We're happy with that and we've got to go on from here."