Looking Forward

 

BLACKBURN ROVERS

Premier League

Tuesday 1st January 2002

With a game against Spurs coming up and a lack of goals costing them points through their recent programme of matches, Blackburn Rovers went and spent an undisclosed amount (believed to be in the region of 8 million) on Manchester United's out of favour goalscorer, Andy Cole.  His debut will no doubt be against Spurs, having completed his signing after their match on Saturday, when they lost 0-1 to Derby County, who completed the double over the Lancashire side.

Souness has produced a tough outfit who believe that they can live with anything the Premier League can offer.  However, they have been in and out of their best form so far this season and have yet to put together a run of results.  However, they have drawn with Man U, smashed seven past West Ham and taken a point ina  3-3 draw at Highbury.  How they will fare against the top teams, we will find out.

USA keeper Brad Friedel is the man in possession of the gloves at Ewood Park.  This caused some upset at the start of the season and there was talk of both Alan Kelly and John Filan coming to Spurs as back-up for Sullivan.  However, Kelly opted to stay (although he has been out on loan), while Filan has moved on to Wigan Athletic.  In reserve, they have former Gooner Alan Miller, who is a large chap and has been out on loan to get first team experience and match practice.

One Blackburn defender I know little about is Nils-Eric Johansson, who was signed from Nuremburg for 2.7 million.  He gets the nod occasionally, but I am not sure he will be risked by Souness in this one, which he probably sees as a more traditional encounter.  Wise heads in the shape of ex-Man U Henning Berg and ex-Liverpool Stig Bjornebye are probably the order of the day.  both are getting on a bit and our wing backs should push up to get behind them when they have the opportunity.  Also, a player of old is Craig Short, who might be a bit leg-heavy these days, thus explaining his two red cards so far.  He is good in the air at both ends of the pitch and can time a tackle well (although obviously, not all that well).  

Younger recruits are available in the shape of another former Old Trafford man, John Curtis, who is a solid tackler, but may lack a bit of pace and Michael Taylor, who is tall and mobile, giving Rovers some flexibility in where he can play.  Another who is a danger at dead ball situations.  Elderly defenders Simon Grayson and Jeff Kenna are on the fringes of the team these days, with Kenna having recently been on loan at Wigan Athletic and Grayson looking around after similarly being at Stockport County for a short spell.

England midfield prospect David Dunn has been a real boon for Rovers this season, as he has continued his development in the hothouse of the Premier League.  He has shown a determination and skill that has taken aback many experienced opponents.  Alongside the more experienced Gary Flitcroft and Keith Gillespie, he has matured quickly and could soon get called into Sven Goran Eriksson's side.  Flitcroft is an old hand at the Premiership having played in it for Manchester City, but his enthusiasm spills over into foul play too often, detracting from the hard work he does for the Blackburn midfield.  Gillespie has reformed his wild ways at other clubs and has shown this season that his wide play can be effective as well as easy on the eye.

Damien Johnson is another Irish product, who, like Duff, is a wriggling midfielder, who loves to take players on.  Solidly built, he will not be easy to displace from the ball.  Signed from Glasgow Rangers Turkish international Tugay has provided some steel in the midfield and the ability to put his foot on the ball and pass to a ell-placed colleague.  He can also unleash a ferocious shot, as he showed earlier in the season against SCBC.  He has displaced Alan Mahon, who came in at the end of last season from Sporting Lisbon after leaving Tranmere Rovers.  He is a skillful player, who can play off a bigger man and will give any side trouble with his running off the ball.  This season, he has been joined by the Aussie former Millwall man Lucas Neill, who has impressed in his few starts so far.  He has picked up four yellow cards so far, thus showing his game is not all about finesse, but he is a strong lad, who can cause problems at set-pieces.

Having lost Marcus Bent to Ipswich and Nathan Blake to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn had to do something to bolster their forward line.  Corrado Grabbi has not been the scoring sensation they had hoped for when he arrived from Ternana and rumours still circulate that he will be returning to Italy, as he has failed to settle in the North-West.  That is why Andy Cole has been brought in, to add some goalscoring instinct to the front-line.

Irishman Damien Duff is a fast and tricky dribbler, who creates chances and also can finish in style, while Matt Jansen is a great prospect who has made his mark at Under-21 level and awaits the call-up to the full England squad.  Jansen is a quick and intuitive player, who once spurned a move to Manchester united to join Crystal Palace.  You have to admire him for that ... or think that he is stark raving mad !!  One who has been there and done it already, is Welshman Mark Hughes, who is part-time manager of his country while still turning out occasionally for the Rovers.  Despite his age, he will still try to rise out of his bath-chair to score an acrobatic volley !!

Other oldies in this part of the team are Craig Hignett, who has been around since Moses was a boy, but still has a lot of energy for the game and can find himself in the penalty area to notch the odd goal, while Egil Ostenstad has recently been involved, whereas he looked on his way out of Ewood Park a few months ago because he wasn't getting a look in.  Both are capable of getting into the right positions to score, so need to be watched closely should they feature.

Most likely side : - Friedel; Bjornebye, Short, Taylor, Berg; Flitcroft, Dunn, Gillespie, Tugay; Jansen, Cole

With Souness returning to his first club, he would love nothing more than to take all three points back up the M6.  His side will work hard to deny Tottenham the space to pass and also, if the game at Ewood Park is anything to go by, try and rough up a few Spurs players who he feels won't fancy it.  Coming off the back of two defeats and a draw Spurs will be looking to get some results under their belt before the Worthington Cup semis.  Blackburn face Sheffield Wednesday at the same stage of the competition, so will also be seeking some form after losing home games over Christmas since beating Charlton Athletic at the Valley.

Since it will be a bit of a battle, the midfield will be the area where all the play will be condensed into and therefore, few goalscoring chances will be available, leaving the final score as ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham  1  Blackburn Rovers  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.

 

 

Tottenham  1   Blackburn Rovers   0                              (Half time score: 1-0)
PREMIER LEAGUE
Tuesday 1st January 2002
Kick Off :  3 p.m.
Weather : -  Cold, bright
Crowd : -   35,131
Referee : -   Mr. J. Winter (Whitley Bay)

Scorers : -   Tottenham  -   Richards 44
                  Blackburn Rovers  -  None

CARDS

Tottenham :  None

Blackburn Rovers :   Neill (foul) 31, Tugay (foul) 79

TEAMS 

Spurs :  Keller; Richards, Perry, King; Taricco, Anderton, Fruend, Poyet (Sherwood 84), Ziege; Sheringham, Ferdinand
Unused Subs : Sullivan, Gardner, Davies, Rebrov

Blackburn Rovers Friedel; Neill, Berg, Short, Bjornebye (Dunn 60); Duff, Flitcroft, Tugay, GIllespie (Hignett 71); Cole, Jansen (Ostenstadt 79)  
Unused Subs : Kelly, Taylor

Colours: - 

Tottenham :  White shirts, navy blue shorts, blue socks.

Blackburn Rovers :  Navy blue shirts, white shorts and socks.

A weird atmosphere surrounded this New Year's Day win over Blackburn, as both players and fans must have enjoyed a heavy New Year's Eve.

The fans were quiet and the players tired (and almost emotional) as they came together for this visit of Rovers with their new signing Andy Cole.  Not since we beat West Ham one Boxing Day 4-0, can I remember hearing the players shouts so clearly.  Many of them were aimed at the frustration experienced when the ball would not go into the Rovers goal.  Firstly, Steffen Freund was released on the right of the box by an astute Sheringham ball, but he chose to shoot and pulled it across the face of goal.  Following this, Ted met a cross from the left wing and Friedel dived to the floor to stop the volley, which was cleared straight to Les, who shot disappointingly wide.  Then a corner, headed on by Richards, led to a scramble in front of the goal with Sheringham being denied by Duff on the line, then Friedel and others blocking the ball before it went in. 

Blackburn hardly had a shot, with the nearest being Flitcroft's sliding effort that went wide and another that went over.  New boy Cole found himself free in the six yard box, but he out his header off target.  Most that came Keller's way in the first half was fairly straightforward for him to deal with.  Freund had his eye on a goal to start 2002 and one shot was deflected wide, when it looked as though it might creep inside the post.  Les looped a shot over the bar from the right side of the six yard box, while an earlier effort had zipped over the bar.  Ziege had a great chance to score, when Sheringham slipped him into a similar position to the Southampton game earlier this season at the Lane.  However, rather than strike it first time, on this occasion, he chose to take a touch and Rovers' American keeper smothered the ball.

With the game stuttering towards half-time, Teddy put a through ball into the left wing channel and Anderton stretched to force a corner off Berg.  He got up to take the dead-ball kick himself and found Dean Richards at the near post to head in.  Some said that Richards lost his marker, but it appeared to be the other way round as Neill moved off the Spurs centre-half and left him free on the post.

Not the most impressive of performances by Tottenham, but they still could have been three up by the break and we were left to ponder whether it would be another case of missed chances costing us in the second half.  And that is exactly what happened, as Rovers pressed forward to test the resilience of the Tottenham side in the second period.

The second half did indeed show Spurs at their most heavy legged.  Gus Poyet was out of the action for much of the rest of the game and was eventually substituted in a  like-for-like swap with Tim Sherwood.  The lack of control of the play meant that Spurs were constantly giving the ball straight back to Rovers and facing wave after wave of attack.  Luckily for Spurs, the Blackburn players did not have the final pass to damage Tottenham and when they did shot they were invariably off target.  Tugay came closest early on, when his shot fizzed past the post.  Andy Cole had a few decent enough chances with one saved by Keller and another when he completely missed his kick with the goal gaping.

Keller was showing that Hoddle's faith in him was not misplaced as he saved well from substitute Hignett and then in an almost action relay of the Spurs scramble in the same goalmouth, he reacted sharply to deny Cole and then Richards got to the ball first to put it out for a corner.  In fact, Richards was the man who rescued Spurs on a number of occasions, getting his head in the way, making interceptions or producing an exquisitely timed challenge when Jansen was through.  While Anderton was pushing him hard, with another top display of passing and tackling (yes, tackling), Deano was just the more important player with his goal on top of a solid defensive show.  Perry and King also deserve note for their sound performances to stop Blackburn when they pushed forward.

Towards the end, Ostenstad was brought on for Blackburn and that signalled a more direct approach, but Tottenham held firm and gradually took the ball towards the Rovers goal and tried to waste time in the corner of the pitch.  It appeared that Mr. Winter was going to play on until the visitors scored, but the final whistle brought a relieved cheer from the Tottenham fans and three points after a poor return from the last three matches.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : -  DEAN RICHARDS

Pete Stachio

 

A WINTER'S TALE

 

Cold and hung-over, the match was an example for cancelling Bank Holiday games, especially when the official was giving everyone a headache with his incessant whistling.  What with the fact that he did not get a new watch for Christmas meant that we had to suffer an extra three minutes with an extra minute, and a half on top of that for some reason, of the hanging on that the Spurs side are now becoming famous for (or not as the case may be).  

The mood of the game was typified when Gus Poyet, who had been having an anonymous game left the fray to be replaced by Tim Sherwood.  The former Blackburn man arrived to boos from the visiting supporters and silence from the home fans.  Meanwhile, Gus was visibly unhappy about having been taken off, as he waved his tracksuit top around.  Whether he felt he still had a part to play or just that it was Deadwood who had replaced him, only he will know (but we can guess).  

The oft quoted Hoddle criticism of Andy Cole that he needs four or five chances to score proved to be the case in contrast to Souness' pre-match comments that the ex-Manchester United player would prove him wrong.  His former team-mate Teddy Sheringham was having a mixed bag of a match with some excellent touches and some dummies that left his colleagues without the ball - especially Les and Freund in the second half, when we had promising moves forming.  Indeed, Steffen might have been away for his first Spurs goal had the confusion not occurred.  There were too many examples of Tottenham trying to walk the ball in.  Pretty passing around the edge of the box is all very well if it comes off, but at 0-0, we need to establish a lead before decorating the game.

When Spurs did attack in the opening twenty minutes, they looked threatening until it came to the last shot.  Too often the final attempt on goal failed to hit the mark and realistically, Friedel had a pretty quiet afternoon, in keeping with everything else this afternoon.  For the rest of the Blackburn side, they were much of a muchness.  The defenders kicked anything that moved and I was greatly disappointed by Jansen, who I rate highly.  Tugay was spraying passes about all over the place.  Row X, Row DD, Row J.  That was when he wasn't getting hit in the face, as every time a Spurs player went near his he grabbed his face as though struck by a WWF wrestler.  Oh, and his reactions to some tackles needed clearance from Air Traffic Control !!  In the end the game had just about the right outcome, but it was touch and go at the end.

What was nice about the afternoon was the sight of Steve Perryman and Keith Burkinshaw walking out at half-time to be interviewed by Martin Chivers.  It was especially good to see Burky back, as his comment about there "used to be a football club over there" implied that he would never return, but maybe ENIC have got their good PR working.  It was a shame that there was only about two minutes to speak to both the ex-Spurs favourites.  Perhaps a longer time can be allotted in future.

Anyway, with any luck, this could be the start of a decent run again for the team, but the games are coming thick and fast and it remains to be seen how the old legs hold out.

Pete Saik

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