Saturday 9th February 2002
sacking of Peter Taylor, Leicester City might have signed their
relegation certificate, as the young manager had taken them to the top
of the league earlier in the season, but with injuries hitting, they
plummeted. The Board obviously thought they had to take action and
brought in survival specialist Dave Bassett to keep them up.
He has criticised his players without actually calling them useless, but with the ones he has brought in, the lack of quality is clearly there for all to see. With the battling Wise out for the rest of the season and the recent loss of Matthew Jones for a long period, their midfield will be severely weakened. The only plus for them will be the return from suspension of Muzzy Izzet. There he will be joined by the eminently annoying Robbie Savage, who will get his usual reception, and Stefan Oakes. Spurs could give them a bit of chasing if they play as they can.
The injury situation at the club has also robbed them of Darren Eadie, Gerry Taggart, Arnar Gunnlaugsson and Gary Rowett all long term. With the hapless Ade Akinbiyi ready after a viral bout, he will be playing alongside big money signing Jamie Scowcroft, as Brian Deane is also out with a calf muscle pull. Neither have hit the goal regularly, but they are strong forwards, who we will have to watch from corners, which is one of our weaknesses.
Despite that, they have been shipping goals and that is not the fault of Ian Walker or Tim Flowers in the Leicester goal. Both have done well, but the defence has been prone to lapses and here will be picked from Elliott, Sinclair, Davidson, Lee Marshall, new boy and former Derby defender Jacob Laursen and the other Bassett signing from Forest Alan Rogers. It really depends if Les is fit for this game as to how Tottenham will play. if he does, then Elliott does have trouble against him, but if it is Iversen or Rebrov, he will probably be able to keep them quiet. Sinclair is always a bit suspect and Marshall has been moved back from midfield, so has certain faults playing in that position. Rogers can be good going forward, but since a knee injury, his pace is not what it was. Davidson should not provide much of a barrier to the Tottenham attack.
Apart from some long balls played over the top for Akinbiyi to try to muscle the Spurs defenders off the ball, there will be little craft about their approach.
Coming a week after the match at Derby, the strugglers will be fighting for points and the Foxes always raise their game against Tottenham anyway. However, I don't think this Leicester side have a lot of good points (sorry for the pun), with their honest industry not being enough for the Premiership these days, as teams like Fulham have shown. A bit of a stroll for Spurs despite the efforts of Savage et al to try and put Spurs off their game and the fact that some Tottenham players might be missing to ensure they are available for the Worthington Cup Final in two weeks time ...
PREDICTION : - Tottenham 4 Leicester City 0
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
|Tottenham 2 Leicester City 1 (Half time score: 1-0)|
|Saturday 9th February 2002|
|Kick Off : 3.00 p.m.|
|Weather : - Bright and windy, heavy rain late in the game|
|Crowd : - 35,973|
|Referee : - Mr. A. D'Urso (Billericay)|
Scorers : - Tottenham
- Anderton 36, Davies 61
Spurs : Iversen (dissent) 71
Leicester City : Savage (dissent) 65, Impey (foul) 83
Spurs : Sullivan;
King, Richards, Thatcher (Thelwell 65); Taricco, Anderton, Davies,
Sherwood, Etherington; Ferdinand (Rebrov 82), Iversen
Leicester City : Walker;
Sinclair, Elliott, Stewart, Laursen; Davidson, Oakes, Impey, Savage;
Tottenham : White shirts, Navy shorts, navy socks.
Leicester City : Blue shirts, white shorts, blue socks
Any team that includes Robbie Savage is surely one to avoid like the plague. When that team is managed by Dave Bassett, you have a recipe for disaster. And luckily, like the Titanic, the Foxes are having a season to remember in that respect.
For a side who have won only three games all season, they look blooming awful. They also do not appear to have a clue about how to play together. The manager has rung the changes (some enforced by injuries), but has failed to find the even vaguely winning formula that served him so well at all those relegation haunted teams he has been at the helm of. They are nothing more than a bunch of players who seemingly get together on Saturdays to play football without any semblance of tactics or skill.
Tottenham's only failing was not finishing them off earlier in the match. Two goals had gone past our former keeper Ian Walker before the visitors pulled one back and pressured Spurs towards the end. Anderton had opened the scoring with a volley that flashed across Walker after some head tennis between Ferdie and Iversen set up his chance. Spurs then had to wait until the hour for Dazza to turn provider this time, his low cross from the right finding a touch from Simon Davies that directed the ball into the net.
In between Anderton was pulling the strings in the Spurs midfield as the puppet dancers in the Leicester side couldn't get near him. He put through Iversen in the first half and his shot flew a couple of feet wide off the far post. Les rammed one wide and then Etherington let fly from the left wing and although Walker coolly let the ball go by, it only missed the goal by a yard. At the other end, Sullivan had been sharp enough to deny Davidson, who's 25-yarder was turned aside, before the same player (after being hit hard by an Etherington tackle) struck another dropping ball from a corner and luckily the pace was taken off it by a block from a Spurs defender.
With Spurs passing the ball around comfortably, Richards should have done better with a free header from a corner, but he couldn't get over it. Leicester certainly didn't get over it, as they were too busy defending to breakout and the youngster Piper seemed unable to keep his feet amongst the exalted company he was now keeping.
Savage had already introduced his studs to Tim Sherwood's stomach, when he got booked for dissent in the second half. It was probably frustration from not being good enough to compare to his Welsh colleague who was outshining him in midfield. Davies made a now trademark run into the box to get on the end of the Anderton cross for the second goal. The young man is really coming along.
Unfortunately, Ben Thatcher, who was having a solid game, clashed heads with Deano and came off worse, having to leave the field, with what looked like a broken cheekbone. Thelwell came on, but always looks like a cat on a hot tin roof when he defends. Sherwood was penalised on the edge of his own box for foot up against Savage, of all people, who made a passionate plea for a free-kick in his unadorable way. The fact that D'Urso gave it was not surprising in the way that he reffed the second half. With the Spurs wall moved back and people pushing and shoving, it was no surprise to see Taricco falling over as Savage pulled off the end of the wall just as the kick was taken. Oakes hit the ball perfectly through the hole left by Savage's trickery and Iversen was booked by the ref for trying to point out this illegal act.
Funnily enough, it was Les who seemed most wound up by this and being in the side despite having four yellow cards against his name already, he went about administering justice to the Welsh Afghan hound in no uncertain manner. As Savage came in to foul him, Sir Les leaned into the blond bimbo and he was felled and a free-kick given. Savage then tried everything he could to provoke Les, but the melee that followed ended with Taricco on the floor and Impey acting like the Tasmanian Devil from the Warner Brothers cartoon. D'Urso didn't have a clue what was going on and made little attempt to diffuse the situation. Standing well clear, he then consulted both linesmen before booking Impey and making Savage and Ferdinand shake hands. Some referees have no bottle. Impey should have gone and as Savage had already been booked, he should have accompanied him to an early bath.
Iversen had had the chance to finish it all, when, at 2-0, Anderton put him through, but he lobbed the ball over the rapidly advancing Walker and it hit the bar. Unluckily for Tottenham, Les followed in, but his header went backwards as he was too far under the ball. The match hinged on that free-kick, but was saved for Tottenham by Neil Sullivan's smart save from Davidson, who burst into the area and forced the Scottish keeper into a valuable block to keep all three points in the Spurs locker. For any other result would have been a travesty. Leicester were woeful and are certain to be relegated at the end of this season to the Nationwide League. They have few attractive points and fewer League points. They will not be missed.
|MEHSTG TOP MAN : - DARREN ANDERTON|
|TWO TIME LOSER|
|Why is it that an average
footballer can make so much money and attract such notoriety in the game
of football, when they have as much to do with football as Paper Lace
has to do with music as Beethoven.
So why should it be that most newspaper headlines that involve Leicester City are created by an untalented nondescript like Savage. He really has no place in the game. When Danny Blanchflower said the game was about Glory, the daft Welshman must have thought he said "gory". Because he typifies everything that is bad about the game. He cheats, he tries to get other players in trouble and he has no unique talent that sets him apart from other players. He will be a welcome addition to the First Division next season. But then again, you wouldn't wish someone like him on your worst enemy.
Which is why it is so pleasing that Tottenham managed to come through this ordeal with three points and Leicester can travel back to their Fox hole with nothing. Brawn is all well and good, but you need more than that to win football matches. If Bassett is trying to recreate some form of Crazy Gang, he is looking for his players from the Chain Gang. Elliott is carrying a lot of excess baggage, the young players brought in are not accustomed to fighting for points and other players are clearly not up to the task either. For all his rhetoric about what Taricco did and how unlucky they were, at least he was realistic enough to admit that the facts tell the true story.
When Bassett talks of players play acting and diving, there is a basis for his knowledge on that subject. When the most impressive performer for his side was the referee in the second half, there must be worries in the Leicester camp. His team's main thrust is to upset the opposition and to court controversy. One player in particular is expert at this as he has few other skills available to him. The reason he is involved in so many sending-offs is like Jasper Carrott's joke about his mother-in-law's driving, as she has seen hundreds of accidents, but had never been involved in them. Savage's approach to the game is nothing more than a facilitator for trouble to kick off. As the Good Doctor said to me after the game, that if he ever came to this club he would tear up his season ticket.
Tottenham's game in comparison is a thing of beauty and their passing opened up a poor team. Walker did not have a direct save to make really as everything that Tottenham fired at him either went past the goal or past him. Anderton's volley showed good technique to keep the ball down and Davies' toe poke into the corner of the net saw Walker rooted to his line by a fine low Dazza cross. Iversen did well when he lobbed against the bar, despite everyone thinking he should have got the ball in with Walker getting ever closer to him. Etherington looked lively and with a better decision on a cross or two, he could have set up a goal. His run from the halfway line and shot tested Walks, but his overall contribution was improved again from his early games. Although he was up against the experienced Impey, he found that his forays that were thwarted in the first half needed to be amended and he used his pace to better effect in the second.
Sherwood prodded the midfield along and battled well, looking much fitter than at the end of last season, while Les was fired up and was very disappointed when substituted before he got booked. Iversen also did well, although he needs to get a greater percentage of his shots on target, while Rebrov didn't have much chance to show his skills when he replaced Ferdinand. When he did, he tended to dawdle on the ball and what could have been a shooting opportunity was lost. Once again, it was indicative of a lack of confidence. But when the Press have reported that he has said he is leaving at the end of the season, perhaps that is not surprising. King was calm cool and unruffled, while Richards was strong - and a bit too strong for Ben Thatcher's face - and should have got on the scoresheet with a towering header.
Taricco should really calm down as a sending off today could have cost him his place in the Worthington Cup Final. He does need to get involved and he will only get a reputation for being a play actor if he continues in this vein. He must learn to walk away. Anderton was creative and worked hard. It is useful to have him in the side when he is fit and on the top of his game, as his passing is perceptive and accurate. It's what we need to crack open defences and Dazza has been the star performer for a number of weeks now. Alongside him Davies provides the option for colleagues with his endless running. He gets wide to provide crosses and also gets into the box to get the finishing touches to others passes. Davies will be a huge star for many years to come.
Sullivan saved Spurs at the end, when it all got a bit silly. It shouldn't have come to that, but with the referee losing his grip on the game, it was inevitable that they would rattle Spurs. Neil's save from point blank range from Davidson was a welcome return to form for the Scottish goalie and the trip that Savage perpetrated on Taricco as he went to close down the free-kick that scored their goal proved to get what it deserved. Nothing. And that is the strength of the emotion I will feel if Leicester go down. While they try and win matches outside of the laws of the game, they will get no sympathy from many fans across the country.
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