Sunderland (Away)
Premier League

Saturday 11th August 2007


Back in the Big Time.  Sleeping giant.  Championship champions.  Passionate big crowd behind them.  Football hotbed.

All the clichés come out in time for the first game of the season.  Not just the first game of the season for the two clubs, but the first game in the Premier League 2007-08 season, as Sky have chosen it for an early kick off on the opening day.  But there is a lot relying on this game for Tottenham as much as Sunderland's first game back in the Prem.

With a balance of £30 million spent, Martin Jol will be expecting big things from the Spurs team he has assembled.  However, he will go into this game without several key players, such as Ledley King, Gareth Bale and both the first team squad's left backs.  This will mean a start for Younes Kaboul alongside Michael Dawson and this could be an exciting prospect, but also a nerve-racking one.  The young Frenchman has shown a willingness to go forward and while his strength will be vital at the back, his forays up-field might cause a flutter or two in the heart region.  Ricardo Rocha will slip into the left back slot as he has done in pre-season.  With Aaron Lennon out post-operation, Wayne Routledge will be hoping to grab the right wing spot and the forward line will probably consist of Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane to start with, having Darren Bent on the bench should he be needed.

The Black Cats have spent big too.  £9 million, potentially, on goalkeeper Craig Gordon is a huge amount.  What I have seen, he is a good keeper, but £9 million ??  Come on.  I know we have spent big sums of money on players, but this appears as over the top as some of the tackles Keane used to perpetrate as a player. 

Roy has had to shop from different shelves to Martin Jol and has had some very public rebuffs this summer.  This has made him more determined to beef up his squad, with Paul McShane, Michael Chopra, Roy O'Donovan, Kieran Richardson, Dickson Utuhtu, Greg Halford and Russell Anderson.  Rugged defender McShane he knew about form Manchester United, as he did with Richardson, although, for me, he usually disappoints in delivering what is expected from him.  Greg Halford impressed in midfield when Colchester player Sunderland and his stay at Reading was a very short one before he made his way North, as did Michael Chopra obtained from Cardiff City.  The prospect of Cork City's Roy O'Donovan partnering him up front is not one to strike so much terror into the hear to Premier League defenders, but as he is new and has no fear, he might have an impact.  Russell Anderson has been signed from Aberdeen, but how he will fit into the English pattern of play is yet to be seen.

It will be the defence who are tested most rigorously this season, so the back four could be aided by midfielders tracking back to add numbers to protect their goal.  It will test Tottenham's imagination in how to navigate past them.  With an array of strikers available, it will be the men behind them who supply the chances who will need to be at their peak.  Pre-season games have shown good ability to keep possession and to await the time for the killer pass, so we will have to hope that this will translate into the real action on Saturday.

There are certainly the personnel to stretch Sunderland and our away record is something we need to start putting tight.  The fact that many of the side have not played Premiership football before might go one of two ways.  It could inspire the Sunderland team, but they might freeze when they realise they are carrying the weight of expectation to get along.

I think that Spurs will have too much for the home side and even though it might take a little time, patience seems to be the name of the game, but it will be a disaster if they do not ensure that they get something out of the game.

PREDICTION : -  Sunderland  1     Tottenham Hotspur   2

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


SUNDERLAND :  - Greg Halford (hamstring)

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Ledley King (knee); Gareth Bale (knee); Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee); Aaron Lennon (knee); Young-Pyo Lee (knee)


Sky Sports 1 - (live coverage)
Match of the Day  (BBC 1)  Saturday -  22.15 - 23.35 (highlights)
Match of the Day 2  (BBC 2)  Sunday -  22.45 - 23.45 (highlights)
For coverage in all parts of the world, check here and here.

Radio :  
BBC LONDON 94.9FM (London area only), Digital Radio (London area only) &  Sky Channel 0152
 (live coverage)
BBC Radio Five Live (live coverage)  606/939 MW

If available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard in these countries on these stations ...
Australia (Melbourne) SEN  -  116 AM  Live Transmissions: TWI, Saturday. 12.45 & 1500 matches
Australia (Sydney)  Radio 2  -  1611AM  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 12.45 Match
Singapore Media Corp Radio  -  93.8 FM  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 15.00 Match
South Africa  SABC (Radio 2000)  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 15.00 Match
Uganda  Radio 1 (English) 90.0 FM, Radio 2 (Lugandan) 87.9 FM  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 15.00 Match
North America (USA, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean)  Sirius Satellite Radio  Live transmission: Saturday - 12.45, 15.00 (TWI) & 17.15 (BBC) Sunday - 14.00 & 16.05 (BBC) Mon, Tue, Wed - Various times (BBC)

Internet :   Live webcast  - subscribers only
Planet football - (free - only available when match is on.)
BBC London -
click on link to "Listen to Tottenham Hotspur live commentary" on top right hand menu.




Sunderland   1   Tottenham Hotspur    0      (Half-time score : 0-0)

Premier League
Venue : -  Stadium of Light
Saturday 11th August 2007
Kick Off :  12.45 p.m.
Crowd :   43,967
Referee :  Alan Wiley (Burntwood)
Weather :  -  Rain early in game, but sunny and warm
Teams : - 
Sunderland :

  1  Gordon

12  Nosworthy
  6  McShane
33  Wallace
  8  Whitehead (c)   

  4  Etuhu
  8  Yorke (36  Miller 78)
  7  Edwards
10  Richardson (15  D. Collins 72)

11  Murphy
  9  Stokes (34  Chopra 72 )

Unused subs: 
13  Ward
31  Connolly

Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Robinson

  2  Chimbonda
30  Gardner
  5  Kaboul
  7  Stalteri

  6  Tainio (23  Bent 59)
  8  Jenas
  4  Zokora     (22  Huddlestone 87)
15  Malbranque

  9  Berbatov (18  Defoe 77)
10  Keane (c)

Unused subs: 
12  Cerny
33  Rocha

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of

Tottenham Hotspur
Scorers : -  

Chopra 90 (+4)

Tottenham Hotspur


Cards : -  

Whitehead (foul) 51   


Tottenham Hotspur 

Zokora (foul) 42   


Match Report : -  
Once more, early season optimism last just over 90 minutes, as Spurs fail to use their superiority over Sunderland for the majority of the game to concede a last gasp goal and return to London with nothing.

Three aspects of the club's play last season came back to haunt us.  Failure to take the game to our opponents, as, with Sunderland being there for the taking,  Tottenham decided that they would not go for the kill, but try to pick them off with a single goal that never really looked like arriving.  Secondly, the lack of points away from home in the last two seasons has cost us making the step up to fourth in the Premier League.  Many more performances like this and we will be looking at the same situation once more.  Lastly, the inability to keep a clean sheet, which is the minimum that Spurs should have managed in this match ... especially against a team which barely features in most pundits top half of the table predictions.

It is not that I am anti- the team, but their showing today was lacklustre to be kind and poor to be more realistic.  Sunderland were up for it, as expected, but they did not have the quality to hurt Spurs on more than a couple of occasions.  Whereas, Tottenham had a wealth of stars, but few shone in the Stadium of Light.

With a large share of the possession, Tottenham really ought to have more to show for it than a weak Keane shot and a late drive from Tom Huddlestone.  A claim for a penalty looked like one which would have been awarded for Man U at Old Trafford, but we are not in the habit of profiting from these decisions. 

It was interesting that Steed Malbranque was chosen to start on the left, where he had a good pre-season.  When the ball was played out to him in a wide position, there was a useful situation created and two crosses caused concerns in the Black Cats' back four.  The failure to capitalise on this useful source of balls into the area was perpetrated by Malbranque being pushed inside to firm up the centre of midfield, with Tainio doing the same on the other side.  This left Spurs narrow down the middle and when they did get the full-backs forward, there was no midfield man wide to support or cover them.

A lot of Tottenham's attacking play was too easily picked off by Nosworthy and McShane (who was probably the man of the match) as we tried to hit Berba, with nobody playing up alongside him.  Sunderland's forwards were limited to scraps as Kaboul used his strength and Gardner shepherded them well.  A Stokes long range effort and a blocked Richardson shot were the only incidents in the first half apart from the Murphy opportunity.  As for Spurs, Jenas dragged a 25 yard shot well wide after Berbatov had touched it back for him, then the Bulgarian jinked around new keeper Craig Gordon and was then floored by a challenge from Whitehead, but referee Wiley, was not interested.

Keane struck a 20 yard daisy-cutter at Gordon with little pace and the other end saw Dickson Etuhu have three efforts; one was a header well off target as he reached behind him and the others were shots - one wide by a yard and one blocked for a corner.

At half-time, there should have been the chance for Jol to instruct his players to open the play more and to up the tempo.  However, a half-paced performance followed and in the end, it was inevitable that the coup de grace would hit Tottenham.

Jol's assertion after the game that it had been a boring one is a bit of an indictment of his side, who are supposed to be the entertainers of the Premier League.  I know that last season that came from letting in almost as many goals as we scored, but it might be preferable if they could get a few for themselves first.

The way the midfield played, Malbranque in the first half and Zokora excepted, there was too little decent service to the front two and in the second period, both Berbatov and Keane were dropping back as far as the halfway line.  While it did not affect the pattern of the game too much to start with, as time went on Sunderland pushed higher up the pitch and Spurs were forced back.

Just before the hour, Chimbonda, sporting his new, un-corn-rowed hairstyle, was fouled twice as he was approaching the Sunderland goal and a free-kick right on the edge was taken by Dimitar, but he could not get it to come down quick enough after getting it over the wall.  With half an hour to go, Darren Bent came on for his debut, as Jol tried to get something going up front.  The big two almost produced a chance for Keano, but his dallying on the ball saw him easily dispossessed.

Just after 70 minutes, Collins and Chopra came on for Sunderland, while five minutes later Defoe replaced Berbatov.  With Spurs having the stronger forward line, we hoped that it would pay dividends, but Liam Miller's earlier introduction gave the home team a bit more guile in midfield.  By this time, Tottenham had also suffered ankle injuries to Chimbonda and Kaboul, so were not fully mobile at the back.

Defoe almost seized on Bent's click on and a cleared corner fell to Hud, who struck it well, but with not enough venom to beat Gordon from 25 yards.  With two minutes until full time, it was Tottenham's first real shot in anger, which says much for the display.  If we fail to create chances against Sunderland, what hope is there against the big boys ? 

A free-kick generously awarded, for a foul against Chimbonda, gave Whitehead the chance to swing the ball into the Tottenham area and left to sneak in, Etuhu had the chance to win it for Sunderland, but he took the ball on his thigh and it ran away from him, but made Robbo dive and palm out from the in-running forwards to prevent a goal.  It should have been a sign of things to come, but as the clock ticked past the three minutes time for stoppages, a ball down the right pulled Kaboul from the middle and the resulting cross from Wallace on the right went over Gardner and dropped at Chopra's feet.  The signing from Cardiff took one touch and from eight yards out slammed it into the bottom corner to score with virtually the last kick of the match. 

While it was gutting to lose in such a way, especially having conceded a last minute goal on our last visit to the Stadium of Light, it was not something that perhaps you might not have expected from Spurs.  Bringing on Bent did liven things up a bit, but again, the passes he was getting were not designed to bring the best out of him.  It is no use having four strikers who have everything, if you haven't got players who can make that everything happen. 

From before the off, it was obvious that this would not be as straight forward as it might have seemed, as Michael Dawson ricked an ankle in training and was replaced in the line-up by Anthony Gardner.  To be fair to the lanky central defender he didn't do too bad.  An early step on the ball in his own area when he should have hoofed it away was replaced by a performance where he extended his Go Go Gadget legs to nick the ball away in front of their attacker.  However, he did duck to miss a left wing cross in the 38th minute, leaving Daryl Murphy at the far post in a good position, but a poor first touch allowed Robinson time to come out to close him down and save.  The only other part of his game he needs to beef up is his strength in the air.  Tall and pacy he may be, but he gets knocked off the ball too easily, as the goal proved, when a Sunderland player jumped at him to clear the way for Chopra's late winner.

With Kaboul having a sterling game at centre-half, Stalteri chipped in with a decent enough showing, but again, he gets panicked in possession.  Unfortunately, two other players might have not been playing.  Jenas, who I admire, had a mare of a game, with his all action dynamic runs missing and every time he got challenged, he fell to the floor looking for a free-kick and then sat there whingeing about it.  The other player who should have done a lot better was Robbie Keane.  Again, appealing for fouls on him and then giving the ball away regularly throughout the match made his contribution minimal.  With Berbatov having one of the games where he fails to show sufficient strength against the opposition's central defenders and then starts giving away petty free-kicks, we did not need Keane to drop deep and then be ineffective there.

Once more, as poor first game means Tottenham will be playing catch-up and it is a game that they will have to get used to very quickly, as Everton are next up on Tuesday.  And that won't be an easy one.





Reaction : -



I have not been as upset by a performance for a long time.  It was poor in comparison to standards Spurs exhibited pre-2005, let alone of the previous two. 

With the midfield lacking creativity, it might mean more money spent to get someone in who can produce the “fantasy”, as the French say, of a Ginola, Hoddle or Waddle.  Not sure who the best option might be, but we have been looking at Kim Kallstrom of Lyon for about six years now, so perhaps it is tome to give him his chance. 

Jenas fell over too easily and didn't get up.

Keane gave the ball away at almost every opportunity.

Berbatov looked disinterested and we might have to rethink who is going to play up front away from home if he has games like this, where he is dominated by two relatively inexperienced Premier League players.  I think he will leave at the end of the season if we don’t get Champions League football, but we need him to shoot the goals for us to get there. 

Too many players didn’t perform to the best of their abilities and it looked like they felt Sunderland were there for the taking … which they were.  It is just we couldn’t take them. 

To me, it’s a lot about tempo.  We were too slow and conceded too much possession when we were not under pressure.  The build up let the home players get back behind the ball and then we gave the ball away.  Not having a decent shot on goal until the 88th minute is fine if it goes in and is the only goal of the game, but when it doesn’t and they get one six minutes later, it looks bad.  It looks like another season where we might need to be three goals ahead before we can even think about getting a point. 

Perhaps that is a bit unfair as we were without three left backs and two centre-halves and had two players limping in defence by the end, but the whole idea of splashing the cash was to build a strong enough squad to stand the ravages of injury and suspension.  I thought that was for January-April, not for the first game of the season !! 


My God I hope I don't have to sit through another 90 minutes like that again this season.  That was the most inept spurs display I have seen since the days of Christian Gross.  Why, oh why do Tottenham always make crap sides look half decent ?  Their two centre halves looked like world class against a non-existent spurs forward line. 

How many times did we concede possession then berate the ref and fling our arms up in the air.  Jenas especially.  Someone tell him if you lose it, get up off your arse and win it back. 

Big Martin better sort them out now before this season goes the way of so many others ... down the pan. 

I know its only one game but we should be beating teams like Sunderland, even with the players we had missing.

Come on Spurs, please don't let me down again.
Keep the faith ?  I'm trying.


So, the first day of the season is over and there were four away wins.

Was our's one of them ?

Was it **** !!

While others win away against much better sides than Sunderland, we are left to wipe the last minute egg off our face and look forward to our next four away trips ... Manchester United, Fulham, Bolton and Liverpool. 

Twelve points from those ones anyone ?? 



“I don’t believe it”

As Michael Chopra, the Newcastle born Sunderland striker, scored with seconds left it was like the 3,000 travelling Spurs had all morphed into Victor Meldrew.  It was not quite his quirky accent but everybody said “I don’t believe it” although for some it was more like “I don’t f’ing believe it”. 

Sky Sports selected Sunderland v Tottenham as the opening game of the season for one reason, there was a chance that there would be an upset which always makes great drama.  It might have been about 92 minutes and 30 seconds into the game but the drama came and all the pre-season talk of Tottenham finishing fourth looked just talk.  Some fans will be point out the injuries to King, Bale, YP Lee, Lennon and, in training on the Friday, Dawson, as the factor, but I point the finger at one man, Martin Jol. 

“We love Martin Jol” rang out around the Stadium of Light and I joined in with a heartfelt rendition.  I really do think the Big Martin Jol is top bloke, but tactically, I still do not think he is there yet.  The bloke sitting next to me quite rightly said midway through the game “if we cannot beat the starting line up they have put out, there is something seriously wrong.”  He was 100% right and that “something seriously wrong” was the tactics. 

I believe, well, perhaps that should now be the past tense of believed, that Tottenham had one of the strongest squads in the Premier League this season.  Certainly a squad capable of beating Sunderland and, just perhaps, getting us into fourth.  After one game that cannot be true.  We played a 4-4-2, yet two players were playing out of position.  Paul Stalteri is not a left back and Teemu Tainio is not, and never will be, a right winger.  

In terms of Stalteri, that was clearly because we had lost all three recognised left backs.  I, like most of the papers, thought Rocha would have slotted in, but perhaps the injury to Dawson late on Friday scuppered this plan.  Equally, Jol clearly does not watch videos of all matches.  It was Stalteri, at right back for this game, that got caught out when we last played Sunderland and Murphy equalised on 90 minutes two years ago.  Back to the present day and it was once again Stalteri that got caught out and this time, Chopra scores in injury time for the Sunderland win.   

To be fair to Stalteri, I thought he had a decent game, but he was hampered, as the whole team was, by the midfield.  Tainio is a great squad player, but why, oh why, oh why, do we keep trying to play him as left winger or a right winger ?  He is a central midfielder and all he does is tuck in.  This makes the midfield very congested in the centre and forces the play down the left to Malbranque.  You do not have to be a master tactician to see this was the issue.  With only a threat on the left hand side, Sunderland were able to control the game and keep Berbatov, Keane and latterly, Bent and Defoe at bay. 

Jol could see it was not working but then his next change was hardly brilliant either.  Bent replaces Tainio, but this does not fix the problem, it merely has other players trying to make the best of being out of the wrong position.  It would have made more sense to have replaced Malbranque with Bent and played three up front, with Keane operating as an attacking midfielder/forward and Jenas, Zokora and Tainio across the midfield.  This would have provided the link to Berbatov and Keane, well in my mind anyway !

As it was, we had to wait until the 88th minute and Tom Huddlestone to have a strike at target and even then it was a relatively tame effort.  It is Everton next up which is going to be a hard game.  We played them in the third game of last season and, despite Kevin Kilbane being sent off after just over half hour, we still managed to lose.  It is going to be an equally hard game and Jol has to get his tactics right.   

There was perhaps only one plus point from the Sunderland game, Younes Kaboul looked like a very decent player.  It was the first time I had seen him play and I was very impressed.  Especially as he was playing with, in the words of one supporter, “ a lanky streak of p/*s” in Anthony Gardner.  If I was Daniel Levy, I would be warning Jol about him ever playing Gardner again.  Jol came out and said he played very well, was he watching the same game as me ?


I am writing here because I normally enjoy reading your site, including of course the post match reviews and reaction.  Today, however, I took considerable exception to the rather lengthy piece by Gareth Jones (Ed : - Johnson ?)(who, I suppose, could be you - not to worry this is just analytical).

It's a bug bear of mine that football fans generally seem to show crass extremes  - attitudes can turn from 'the end of the world is nigh' to 'we're going to win the league' in the space of two victories, and vice versa.  However, your excellent site normally shows considered, intelligent and well-thought views, hence my regular attendance.

Now, Saturday's game was bad, but if the whistle had gone after 92 mins what would we have said ?  "Boring, but we should and could have won it" from most of us.  We were dominant for the whole of the first half and Berbatov should have got a penalty. Sure, there are some lessons to be learnt in terms of tempo in the second half etc., and I also didn't agree with the tactics (just because we have four good strikers, it doesn't mean you have to play them all; much like the Gerrard/Lampard debate for England).

But we conceded in the 93rd minute, lost the point we certainly deserved and suddenly we have the 'finger pointing at Jol' scenario - one short and worrying step before the cries for 'Jol out'.  This is absolutely ridiculous.

I was amazed last season when these shouts first surfaced; Jol was forced to sell Carrick, the man whom he'd built the team around, against his will (Man U forked out £18m for a reason).  Of course we were going to suffer in the early part of last season.  Yet still Jol guided us to 5th.  Again.  This is unbelievably impressive.  I'm not going to defend Jol's record here, but needless to say it's very easy, especially against comparison of any previous manager we've had since Venables.

So, we are one unlucky game into the season, one where we had five defenders out injured.  It was gutting to lose, of course, but no conclusions can yet be drawn.  It is not possible to tell the difference, one game into the season, between a manager's tactical naivety, a mistake or even just bad luck.  And with the last two seasons under his belt, you would have thought Jol would enjoy the benefit of the doubt.

Until we are proven otherwise, we need to get behind the team.  We need to give them the confidence they need and help where we can.  We need to support them and pick them up when they're down.  Heaping criticism on the team at the first opportunity is wrong, and in my view also misguided.  But it's certainly wrong and definitely a symptom of the current English disease.

As thought leaders within the club and fans, I think your site has a duty to point people in the right direction and that piece from Mr Jones was facing backwards.





Other scores this weekend :
Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2 Saturday
Bolton Wanderers 1 Newcastle United 3 Saturday
Derby County 2 Portsmouth 2 Saturday
Everton 2 Wigan Athletic 1 Saturday
Middlesbrough 1 Blackburn Rovers 2 Saturday
West Ham United 0 Manchester City 2 Saturday
Arsenal 2 Fulham 1 Sunday
Chelsea 3 Birmingham City 2 Sunday
Manchester United 0 Reading 0 Sunday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Newcastle United 1 1 0 0 3 1 3 +2
2 Manchester City 1 1 0 0 2 0 3 +2
3 Chelsea 1 1 0 0 3 2 3 +1
4 Arsenal 1 1 0 0 2 1 3 +1
5 Blackburn Rovers 1 1 0 0 2 1 3 +1
6 Everton 1 1 0 0 2 1 3 +1
7 Liverpool 1 1 0 0 2 1 3 +1
8 Sunderland 1 1 0 0 1 0 3 +1
9 Derby County 1 0 1 0 2 2 1 0
10 Portsmouth 1 0 1 0 2 2 1 0
11 Manchester United 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
12 Reading 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
13 Birmingham City 1 0 0 1 2 3 0 -1
14 Aston Villa 1 1 0 0 1 2 0 -1
15 Fulham 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 -1
16 Middlesbrough 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 -1
17 Wigan Athletic 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 -1
18 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1
19 Bolton Wanderers 1 0 0 1 1 3 0 -2
20 West Ham United 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 -2


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