Tottenham turn down place in Inter-Toto Cup

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The Independent Online
FOOTBALL

Tottenham will refuse to enter Europe through the Inter- Toto Cup, the Uefa Cup feeder competition which is scheduled for the close-season. Wimbledon have also said that they will not enter the tournament.

"We wouldn't want to enter. I can't see how we could get the players to play in it or where we would play," explained Gerry Francis, the Spurs manager. "Our pitch will need a lot of work on it in the close-season, players are away on international duty and anyway, they need a proper rest."

"I can't see how the Premier League can call for a reduction in the number of games and then offer this as a carrot for teams to get into Europe by playing throughout the summer. That would mean football all year round and that is not fair on anyone at the club." Francis believes Spurs must win their remaining games if they are to have any chance of playing in the Uefa Cup next season.

"There's still so many permutations if Manchester United win the League, or Blackburn win the League and United lose the FA Cup. Even sixth place may not be good enough."

Ian Wright, the Arsenal striker, is trying to focus his attention on matters on the pitch, instead of off-field headlines. Furious Tottenham supporters tried to invade the pitch after Wright scored a hotly-disputed penalty in Saturday's north London derby, and a bottle was thrown at the Arsenal player.

In the build-up to tonight's League game against Wimbledon at Highbury and the Cup-Winners' Cup final in Paris next Wednesday, police are following up complaints that Wright incited the trouble with provocative gestures.

"It was those people who tried to start a mini-riot, but I've got the bad headlines and I haven't done anything," Wright said. "To be honest, the less I say about it the better, because some people are trying to make something out of nothing.

"They look at me and think of a previous reputation, or whatever, and I'm the target. It was pretty scary for a while, but luckily I managed to see the bottle coming and picked it up and handed it to the referee.

"Now I just want to forget it and concentrate on the Wimbledon match and the massive game we have coming up next week against Real Zaragoza."

A police spokeman confirmed: "Only one written complaint about Ian Wright has been received to my knowledge from the Spurs match, but there were also one or two telephone calls, and we have to treat these matters seriously.

"Our people at the match did not see anything objectionable in the player's behaviour, but when we have time we will study videos of the game, and if there is anything untoward we will report it to the Football Association, which is the usual practice."

Wright will lead Arsenal's attack against the Dons, but the main focus of attention will be on the Gunners' defence, where the reserve centre- half, Andy Linighan, steps in for Steve Bould, who is suspended for next week's European final.

"I must give Andy a game at this stage," said the Arsenal manager, Stewart Houston. "But I won't decide the rest of the team until just before the kick-off, because there are two ways of looking at this match.

"I could field my cup final team to establish the pattern for next week, or I could give some of them a break at the end of a long season. We'll be aiming for a good win to finish the season at Highbury and I know we'll get a wonderful send-off for Paris from the fans who have been marvellous again this season, despite our ups and downs."

Wimbledon agreed to bring the game forward two days to allow Arsenal extra time to prepare for Paris, even though it means that the Dons are playing their third match in six days. However, Joe Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, said: "We've got a good record at Arsenal and if we play like we did against Liverpool, we'll get three points."

However, Dean Holdsworth, Andy Thorn, Robbie Earle and Mick Harford all missed the match with Liverpool on Tuesday through injuries, and are likely to be out again. Other doubts surround Efan Ekoku and Marcus Gayle, both substituted against Liverpool.

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