Looking Forward



Premier League

Sunday 8th December 2002

For all their lowly position, West Bromwich Albion will give us a test on Sunday.  The newly promoted side have found life in the Premiership difficult, but they have gone about their task in a refreshingly entertaining manner with the emphasis on attack.  This has not necessarily resulted in them scoring a lot of goals, but they do possess one of the most physically built forwards in the league in Jason Roberts.  Fast and strong, he is a handful for any defender.  The hope was to match him up with the returning Lee Hughes, but the ginger forward has not been a first choice since his purchase from Coventry City.  Daniele Dichio has also got a look in recently, scoring the winner against Middlesbrough in their last outing, but long term he does not appear to be part of manager Megson's plans.  Their four wins so far have all been by 1-0 and the ability to stick away their chances is being brought home to them abruptly.

The other emphasis in the Baggies' survival plan is to stop the goals going in at the other end.  Apart from a 2-5 reverse against the Gooners, they have succeeded in this respect so far.  The man mountain of Darren Moore is the focus for their back four and the others have all contributed to making the WBA side difficult to break down.  Clement is dangerous from free-kicks and also has a useful shot from open play too.  Moore is obviously a threat and Deano will have to try and counter him from set-plays, while Balis, Gilchrist or Wallwork will comprise the others in the defensive line.  Keano should have the ability to pull the defenders around, while, with any luck, the returning Davies will be able to make use of the space that creates.  If Simon is not in the starting line-up, the geriatric midfielders might find it harder to get forward and our attacking options will be limited.  Ziege and Carr should be able to put in enough supply from the flanks by out-manoeuvering Brom on the flanks.  Scott Dobie, who has been watched by Spurs apparently, could feature and has been making a name for himself with club and country (Scotland).  A big lad, he can be powerful in his play.

The WBA midfield has some talent there, but there is little variation in the type of player they will field.  Gregan and Johnson are both tall runners, who will get stuck in and have the odd flicker of forward passing ability.  McInnes is the grit and may be subjected to the ref's wrath as he has been already this season.  Bought in from Tranmere, Koumas is the big hope, but he is still acclimatising to the Prem. and as such is being eased into the side.  A good runner with the ball and he can pick out a sweet pass, he could be a danger.  Sigurdsson and Marshall are both hard workers, who are not likely to produce too much concern, but the former Leicester man has scored against us before, so we can't take them for granted.

The one player getting all the plaudits at the Hawthorns at the moment is keeper Russell Hoult, who is being touted for England.  26 clean sheets last season and impressive displays despite the results this time round, he is a commanding presence and Spurs will need to be at their best to get the ball past him.  He is prone to the odd horrendous mistake though, so maybe it might be our day ??

Most of Albion's games have been fairly close, and although Spurs have home advantage, I see why this one will be little different.  There will be a need to match WBA's effort, which Tottenham failed to do last week at Birmingham and there should be a desire to take the game to Albion.  The midfield should be carefully selected by Hoddle, as there will not be room for lightweights, so Davies return is essential, with Freund and Redknapp the preferred option.  Like so many teams before them, Spurs must not assume that they just have to turn up to claim the three points.  A win is necessary before next week's match and with finishing like they exhibited against Leeds United in the last home game, Spurs should just edge home ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham   2   WBA  1

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



Tottenham  3   WBA  1  (Half-time score : 2-0)
Sunday 8th December 2002
Venue : -  White Hart Lane
Kick Off : -  16.05 p.m.
Weather : -  Clear, but very cold
Crowd : -  35,958
Referee : -  A. Wiley (Burntwood)
Teams : -  Tottenham : -  Keller; Perry, Richards, King (Iversen 64); Carr, Davies, Anderton, Redknapp, Ziege; Sheringham (Poyet 75), Keane 
Unused Subs: Hirschfeld, Ferdinand, Doherty

WBA : - Hoult; Balis, Clement, Gregan, Wallwork; McInnes, Johnson (A Chambers 85),  Sigurdsson, Koumas; Roberts (Dichio 82), Hughes (Dobie 56)
Unused Subs: J Chambers, Murphy

Colours : -  Tottenham -  White shirts, Navy blue shorts, White socks with navy blue turnover.

WBA -  Yellow and green striped shirts, Green shorts, yellow socks

Scorers : -  Tottenham - Ziege 3, Keane 31, Poyet 81

WBA - Dobie 74

Cards : -  Tottenham -  Ziege (dissent) 32, Keller (foul) 66

WBA -  Clement (foul) 76

Many fans might wonder how Tottenham won this match, but I would have thought the answer to that was fairly easy.  Spurs scored three and West Brom only got one ... it was as simple as that.

It was never a classic performance from Tottenham, but having gone ahead with their first shot, there was a ease about that play that meant that at 2-0 at half-time, the points were in the bag.  As opposed to the Baggies.  But the visitors did play some good stuff and could have grabbed a point had the finishing been better.

A sandwich of Sheringham between two robust defenders gave Spurs an early free-kick on the edge of the WBA box almost centrally located.  There was a farcical few moments as Clement ran from his station on the post to a point halfway to the edge of the box and back a few times.  As he did so, he was obviously trying to influence Ziege as to where he was going to put the shot.  Luckily, he did so and Christian put it just where he had come from ... just inside the now unguarded post.

What should have heralded a spate of attacks on the West Brom goal only saw Tottenham trying to play pretty and giving away possession too frequently.  There were gaps on the Spurs left that the Baggies capitalised on and the chances started to come from that source.  Hughes put in a skidding cross, which evaded Roberts and Johnson at the far post, who only made contact with the post itself.  Then a couple of minutes later, Roberts was put in by Koumas and he got around Keller as he came out, but could not get his shot on target.  It was the story of Albion's day, as most of their many shots failed to test Keller.

A run down the line by Balis in the 14th minute lead to a low cross that Roberts got something on, but it came to Clement, who had made a run forward into the box.  He obviously didn't have time to set himself, as it left his foot, just five yards out, but missed by more than that distance.  Firstly, I thought it was on his wrong foot, but on replay, his favoured left peg was the one that missed when it might have been easier to score.  Spurs were not competing in midfield and Koumas was making a lot of the running there, including one run that ended with a low 25 yard shot that did have Kasey stretching to hold on to.

So it was a bit against the run of play when Tottenham scored again, but it was a masterfully created goal.  A neat bit of play between the trio of Anderton, Sheringham and Ziege on the left wing led to the German playing a volley through the middle of the WBA defence, which was latched onto by Keane as he ran away from Wallwork.  Faced by the imposing figure of Hoult, Keano flicked the ball with the outside of his foot past the keeper and inside the right hand post.  He cartwheeled away in front of the visiting fans, who had been giving him some stick as he was a wolf and a sky blue too.  He was lucky that the ref did not take too dim a view of it. 

Mr. Wiley did take a dim view of Ziege throwing the ball down after a free-kick had been given for a foul on Roberts.  It looked as though it was a harsh award, but ZIege was daft to do what he did, especially as it meant that the ball was progressed to the edge of the Tottenham box.  Luckily, it was then too close for Clement to have a decent go at goal. 

Meanwhile, an almost exact replica of Keane's goal came about just before half-time, when Redknapp sent him away from the defenders and this time he chose to hit the ball low under Hoult.  The keeper, being tipped as an England possible, this time managed to get something on it (an elbow I think) and it bounced off his body and then up, agonisingly over the bar.  At 3-0, the game would have been sewn up, but as it was we knew that there would be more life left in the game yet.

Tottenham started to attack from the start of the second period.  A low driven cross by Carr, flicked off Gregan's ankle and was deflected wide and then a couple of crosses into the box produced no end product for Spurs.  Hoult was dominating his area on crosses and too many were aimlessly flighted in.  Dobie came on for the ineffective Hughes, while Spurs brought on Iversen for Ledley King, moving to a 4-4-2 from 3-5-2.  It proved to be a mistake.

Sheringham gave the ball away for the n-th time and Albion broke away through Koumas and Keller was committed to making a challenge, which upended the Welsh midfielder.  The Baggie fans were howling for a red card, but Koumas was not going towards goal and when a yellow was brandished in Kasey's direction , it was the right award.  However, his presence was important as the resulting McInnes free-kick was saved low down at a post, although his comfort did not last for long.

McInnes broke forward and rode a couple of weak challenges from Spurs players, before the ball broke to sub. Dobie, who hit a diagonal shot across Keller from the right corner of the box from 25 yards.  With this goal, it looked like Spurs might suffer for their lacksadaisical play and it was a good move when Poyet came on for Teddy, as we needed to hold the ball better and to have some more presence in midfield.  Having said that, a WBA corner was met by Clement six yards out and his header was off target, when one on target might have asked a few questions of the Spurs defence.

With this, Tottenham were sparked into attack to try and take the emphasis of the game to the other end.  Carr made a tricky run along the line and his cross flicked off Gregan's head at the near post and was nodded out for a corner just before Iversen could get there.  With ten minutes left, Spurs were putting pressure on the Albion defenders and when Gregan had a chance to clear, he made a weak attempt to do so and the ball skewed off his boot about a yard from where he stood to go out for a throw.  Davies came over to take it in front of the East Stand. His long throw was nodded on by Richards and there was a scramble in the penalty area.  Iversen flicked the ball up with his heel, it appeared to hit Gregan's arm and while some appealed, Poyet seized on the ball and poked it goalwards.  With Keane standing a few feet off the line, he swung at the ball and it trickled into the net.  As everyone went to Gus, it looked as though Keano missed it completely.

With the minutes ticking away, Spurs continued to go forward and when Carr closed Gregan down, he pushed the ball a little too far away and Robbie was quickly in to try and lob Hoult with the outside of his foot.  Unfortunately, the ball went way wide this time, but the final whistle soon followed and there was a sigh of relief that the points were ours.

While WBA played with a lot of spirit, there was a lack of cohesion in their moves and Roberts and Hughes were poorly served from midfield.  They should win more matches this season if they play this way, but they probably learned that a little quality goes a long way in the Premiership.  I mean the little we have has taken us back to seventh !!

Kirk Hammarton




Returning home from the game, I listened with interest to the comments of the callers to the phone-in radio shows.  Few had a good word to say for Tottenham, even most of the Spurs fans.  But the words that came from the Baggies fans made me smile.

They believed that they should have had a point and that they had "slaughtered" us, having 17 shots and we only had 3 in the first half.  From which we scored twice.

That tells the whole story of the game.  If you have seventeen shots and don't score, do you really believe that you are going to pick up many points in a season, let alone one particular game ??  While Tottenham did play like they have been lately ... poorly, they did enough to win and it is a harsh lesson that WBA will have to learn.  Spurs could have been three up at half-time, but with better finishing it could have been 3-2 to Albion.  But they didn't have better finishing and that is the bottom line.  Many of their wins this and last season came through 1-0 scorelines.  If you score more than one, you stand a good chance of winning against them.

They did play with a lot of heart and passion as Hoddle and Megson told the media, but that won't always win you games at this level.  It might give teams a few frights, but unless you catch a team cold, they won't roll over, but gently prod away until they get an opening and then clinically finish you off. 

Spurs scored too early for it to be a contest.  Ziege's free-kick found the bottom corner of the net within a couple of minutes and from then on in, Tottenham believed that they could play pretty football for the rest of the game.  Every time they approached the Baggies area, they had to try and engineer the goal of the season, instead of having pot-shots at Hoult, who showed he is a capable keeper.  The lack of determination in Tottenham's play meant that Koumas could have the run of the midfield, with no white shirted player having the ability to tackle.  He made the most of it, having a couple of shots and setting up a couple of chances, but no-one ever looked like scoring. Even the goal WBA did score came out of the blue.  Dobie hit a fierce drive that went past Keller before he knew it.  That made it 2-1, as Spurs had already scored the goal of the month.  A neat triangle of volleyed passes between Anderton, Sheringham and Ziege ended up with a pass through the middle of the defence and Gregan could not catch Keane.  Robbie tucked away that chance although he was stopped by Hoult when in a similar position later in the first half.

The Albion goalie also got lucky a couple of times in the second half.  A back-pass got stuck under his foot as Davies closed him down and he just got it clear before Simon nicked it off him.  Then as another shot came in, it deflected off for a corner, but in trying to stop it, Hoult handled the ball before it crossed the line. What should have been a yellow card was neatly ignored and just a free-kick was given.

The end of the game came as a bit of a relief, as the cold was getting through to the bones and there was little to be gained in prolonging the agony for all concerned.

Anderton played the game like he wanted to produce the rapier thrust every time he had the ball, Redknapp was quiet and Davies almost invisible, such was his lack of involvement in the match.  Keller had little to do, but did it well and was sold short by Sheringham giving the ball away and leading to the move where Kasey had to rush out and tackle Dobie, getting a yellow card for his foul.  We missed Freund in the midfield.  Teddy started well, but faded and was rightly taken off, much to his annoyance.  While he might have been upset at being subbed, I was upset that he was still on the pitch at that stage, as he was giving the ball away and generally not helping our forward movement.  Bringing Gus on was not perhaps the answer in my opinion, but as he managed to get on the end of a long throw move to score the third that gave us breathing space, I suppose it was a tactical master-stroke by Hoddle.

There will have to be a drastic improvement in the play before next Sunday or we will be reeling from the pressure we will be put under.  I suppose that was Glenn's reason for resting Freund and for taking King off.  However, in doing so and going to 4-4-2, it left Tottenham backing off the Baggies midfield as they pressed forward.  Iversen for King is not the change we had hoped for.  At least Perry had a good game and he will be needed next week, when a similar scoring rate form our few shots would be of great assistance !!

Bruce Castle


Other scores this weekend :

Aston Villa

0 Newcastle United 1 Saturday
Bolton Wanderers 1 Blackburn Rovers 1 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 2 Liverpool 0 Saturday
Everton 1 Chelsea 3 Saturday
Fulham 1 Leeds United 0 Saturday
Manchester United 2 Arsenal 0 Saturday
Middlesbrough 2 West Ham United 2 Saturday
SCBC 2 Birmingham City 0 Saturday
Sunderland 0 Manchester City 3 Monday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts
1 Arsenal 17 11 2 4 36 19 35
2 Chelsea 17 9 6 2 31 14 33
3 Manchester United 17 9 5 3 27 17 32
4 Liverpool 17 9 4 4 27 17 31
5 Everton 17 9 2 6 20 20 29
6 Newcastle United 16 9 1 6 26 23 28
7 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 17 8 3 6 23 23 27
8 SCBC 17 7 5 5 20 17 26
9 Middlesbrough 17 7 4 6 21 15 25
10 Blackburn Rovers 17 6 6 5 23 20 24
11 Charlton Athletic 17 7 2 8 18 20 23
12 Manchester City 17 7 2 8 20 23 23
13 Fulham 17 5 4 7 22 22 22
14 Birmingham City 17 5 5 7 16 21 20
15 Aston Villa 17 5 4 8 15 17 19
16 Leeds United 17 5 2 10 20 25 17
17 WBA 17 4 3 10 12 25 15
18 Bolton Wanderers 16 3 5 8 18 28 14
19 Sunderland 17 3 5 9 8 23 14
20 West Ham United 17 3 4 10 17 31 13

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