Santini spurns the chance to honour the panache of old

Tottenham Hotspur 1 - Bolton Wanderers

Jason Burt
Sunday 24 October 2004 00:00
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It was surely the day of all days for Tottenham Hotspur to cast off their caution and play. The death of Bill Nicholson, their greatest manager, demanded it. After all it was he who had created the history, the panache, the philosophy, that the 12 men who have followed him have struggled to match. But then it was the most elegant of legacies.

It was surely the day of all days for Tottenham Hotspur to cast off their caution and play. The death of Bill Nicholson, their greatest manager, demanded it. After all it was he who had created the history, the panache, the philosophy, that the 12 men who have followed him have struggled to match. But then it was the most elegant of legacies.

Not that Jacques Santini seemed to acknowledge its significance. The latest incumbent refused to speak after this well-deserved defeat in which his side conceded two goals for the first time this season. His ill-judged silence was a sad indictment and said much for what he understands his inheritance to be and how long he deserves to enjoy it. "He's a passionate man," said a Spurs spokesman. It had been explained to Santini that his refusal would be criticised, but he still did not budge from his office where he sat watching a tape of the match.

There was a typed-out tribute from chairman Daniel Levy and "quotes on the website" but how strange that it was left to the opposition manager, Bolton's Sam Allardyce, to offer any post-match valedictory to the "brilliance" of Nicholson. Allardyce, whose side consolidated their fourth position in the Premiership and in the sublime Jay-Jay Okocha had the game's best player, offered an indictment as well. "We found the first 30 minutes were not as difficult as we thought they were going to be and we took control." Indeed they did. Pre-match and Tottenham's Ledley King said "the lads are determined to put on a performance" for Nicholson, but they failed to do so.

Throughout it all the autumn rain was unrelenting, but, as the fans arrived, the bouquets and sodden cards slowly grew outside the entrance to White Hart Lane. Many were simply addressed to "Mr Tottenham". "Goodbye Sir Bill," said another, in reference to the deeply-held belief that Nicholson deserved a knighthood. The campaign will now have to be a posthumous one. "Thank you for the glory years," said another. "To Sir Bill, the Greatest Spur ever" stated a third. The tributes will be moved to pitch-side and the stadium, whose approach bears his name, will be open all this week. A book of condolence has been opened.

Former players - Martin Peters, Martin Chivers, Mel Hopkins, Ralph Coates and Paul Gascoigne - formed a line for the minute's silence. Before that the big screens flickered between black-and-white and colour footage of the glory years. The double-winners, the first British team to win a European trophy. Goals from Dyson, Greaves. "What a game," declared the commentator.

The proceedings left the match as overcast as the leaden skies. Spurs started without their brightest star with Santini consigning Jermain Defoe to the bench. When he came on, late in the second half, he injected some much-needed flair. His exclusion would have bemused the watching Sven Goran Eriksson but not as much as the contributions of Paul Robinson and Anthony Gardner on 11 minutes as Radhi Jaidi headed in easily from Gary Speed's inswinging free-kick to give Bolton the lead.

It was astonishingly lax from Spurs and it set the early tone. Okocha ruled the midfield as he did in winning this fixture last season. Neither Jamie Redknapp nor Pedro Mendes could get close to even his slipstream and it was not until the stroke of half-time that Spurs produced a moment of luminous play as Noureddine Naybet joined the attack and fed the ball to Frédéric Kanouté on the area's edge. His clever lay-off was measured for Robbie Keane who calmly shot low through Jussi Jaaskelainen's legs for his first Premiership goal this season.

Spurs continued to be sloppy after the break as, twice more, Okocha tried from distance. One effort powered over, the other wide while Stelios Giannakopoulos volleyed across goal when he should have scored. Then, with Okocha unmarked, El Hadji Diouf's pass was wild.

Spurs did not heed the warnings. The ferocity of another shot by Okocha surprised Robinson and although the goalkeeper blocked, the rebound fell to Giannakopolous. Somehow Robinson parried again but, again, the ball went to a Bolton player. This time substitute Henrik Pedersen made no mistake. His goal was his first touch and Spurs became desperate. Defoe's free-kick flew narrowly wide and then Kanouté's header bounced off a post. They simply could not find the flourish the occasion needed. And neither could their manager.

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