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Saturday 23rd August 2008

Well, looky here.  Who's this coming to visit the Lane ?  Why it is a charabanc full of ex-Spurs ... Chimbonda, Taino, Malbranque, Reid, Fulop ... along with a host of new faces, who probably haven't even been introduced to each other yet.

Roy Keane has been a bit of Coleen McLoughlin this summer.  Anything that is his bag is snapped up.  Well, it seems a bit of a random purchasing policy, but it was almost anyone who was available was snapped up ... and there's still time for more.

As I write only a mere two player shave signed on at the Stadium of Light ... Djibril CIsse on a season's loan and David Healy on a more permanent basis from Fulham.  Joining them in red and white stripes are [takes a deep breath] ... David Meyler from Cork City, Bolton striker El-Hadji Diouf and Nick Colgan from Ipswich Town.  With an 8 million offer accepted for West Ham United's Anton Ferdinand, Roy may well keeping splashing the cash until Niall Quinn's disco pants pockets dry up.

How the sum of parts adds up to a whole remains to be seen as the season pans out, but Spurs have had more time together, so should (logically) be a more cohesive outfit.  But since when has logic applied to THFC ??

Teemu Tainio is a doubt with a muscle injury picked up in the opening day defeat by Liverpool, but Chimbonda and Steed should feature.  Tottenham know about the industry of Malbranque and will have to work hard to stop his progress, while they may have more joy against Chimbonda, who likes to get forward and also doesn't like to get back.  Andy Reid had a good delivery with both feet.  His size always belied his ability and that makes him look over-weight, but he keeps going and is not afraid to take shot from distance either.

As well as former Tottenham players, there is a healthy ex-Man U presence with Phil Bardsley, Danny Higginbotham, Paul McShane, Liam Miller and Kieron Richardson in defence and midfield.  The addition of Healy brings another Red Devils youth team player to the squad.  These players have obviously been given a good upbringing at United, but had to leave to find first team football elsewhere.  Some have done well getting Sunderland up and maybe more will be expected of them this season, after finding last season tough.

Whether Cisse will play is not known, with Healy perhaps the more likely to get a run out.  Cisse had great pace before he broke his leg twice playing for Liverpool and was then shipped off to Marseille, from where he has joined Sunderland on loan.  Healey has made it hard work scoring in the Premiership and even in the Championship and with Leeds United in League One before that.  His initial success came at Preston, but subsequent moves have not seen him hitting the back of the net so freely, although, in a strange contradiction, he is a prolific scorer for Northern Ireland in internationals.  He will need to be tightly marked, as he is a player who knows how to get shots on target.

Sunderland suffered with late goals being conceded last season, while they also benefited from goals in the closing stages.  Their defence was one which had a lot of hard work to do, as their forwards failed to score enough goals.  If Tottenham can get an early goal and put the back line of the visitors under pressure, then they may buckle.

I think Keane will make sure they are made of sterner stuff this season.  He will have them playing at least two banks of four (with the midfield perhaps a five), although the loss of Kenwyn Jones is a big loss to Keane, as he would have lead the line well.  However, Sunderland suffered at WHL last season when they started with one up front and maybe a change of tactics might improve the way they play.  I certainly wish Tottenham would go away from home with two players in attack to give the opposition something to worry about.  If the players do get through, they will face one of the better keepers in the division in Craig Gordon.  He fluffed one last season, but it was some of his performances which were the difference between relegation and survival.

It won't be as easy as some people might consider.  The Black Cats might get lucky with their new players fitting in together, but with Spurs needing a result and with Berbatov expecting to play, regardless of the Manchester United transfer, Spurs should just about edge a tough game with Sunderland showing that Roy Keane will have them at their tigerish best to attempt to repeat last season's early season win over Spurs.

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  2    Sunderland  1

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


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Alan Hutton (foot); - (-); - (-); 

SUNDERLAND :  -  Teemu Tainio (leg muscle); - (-); - (-); 


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Tottenham Hotspur   1    Sunderland   2      (Half-time score : 0-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Saturday 23rd August 2008
Kick Off :  3.00 p.m.
Crowd :   36,064
Referee :  Mike Dean (Wirral)
Tottenham kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Dry, sunny with some cloud
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Gomes

  4  Zokora
26  King (c)
39  Woodgate
32  Assou-Ekotto (  6  Huddlestone 56)

14  Modric
  7  Lennon (17  Giovanni 56)
  8  Jenas
  5  Bentley
  3  Bale      

10  Bent

Unused subs: 
21  Sanchez
11  Gilberto
16  Gunter
20  Dawson
24  O'Hara 

Sunderland :

  1  Gordon

  2  Bardsley
  5  Nosworthy
15  Collins
22  Higginbotham

  8  Malbranque     
  6  Whitehead
20  Reid (12  Miller 87)
10  Richardson       (  9  Cisse 65)

11  Diouf
14  Murphy

Unused subs: 
13  Ward
16  Chopra
18  Leadbitter
23  Healy
44  Stokes

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur

Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Jenas 73


Richardson 55
Cisse 83

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  

Bale (diving) 26  



Richardson (removing shirt) 56
Malbranque (foul) 58   


Match Report : -  
Following up a disappointing away start at Middlesbrough, Spurs gave up three more points to North-East opposition with a naive performance against Sunderland, who took a 2-1 victory away from White Hart Lane.

Starting once more without Dimitar Berbatov (this time not even on the bench), Tottenham had little idea how to play with one man up front.  Left with only one recognised striker, it made things difficult with the midfield not supporting Darren Bent that well, either with support or supply.  Once again, the Lilywhites dominated possession, but they will have to be more productive at the scoring end of the pitch if they fail to keep clean sheets at the other end.

The game started off with a former Spur hacking down Aaron Lennon.  Not Tainio, out injured, nor Chimbonda, not selected, but Andy Reid.  Perhaps jealous of the little man's pace ?  He did the same later in the game and with referee Mike Dean booking Gareth Bale later for diving, it is a shame that something is not done about cynical tackles like these to allow players to play the game without the risk of being blocked or chopped down.

Sunderland were tough throughout and mostly fair, but Tottenham made things easy for them by playing the wrong sort of pass to Bent.  The first half saw Gordon's goal rarely threatened and Gomes had a quiet time of it too.

A second minute corner from Bentley went right across goal with no Spurs player making a move to make contact with it, then Zokora played a ball into the area with the outside of his boot, but it lacked accuracy and went over Bent's bonce.  Bentley shot wide when positioned about 25 yards out and quite central, but his corner in the 17th minute was flicked on by Woodgate and again, it went too high for Darren to get on the end of.

Gomes took a couple of crosses, with one ending in treatment after Collins caught him in the face.  A blocked free-kick started a Spurs break and Lennon lead the way forward, but unfortunately resulted in no clear effort on goal.  But six minutes before the break, the game almost saw it's first goal.  The ball was worked to Steed Malbranque and he let fly from 25 yards out, beating Gomes' dive, but his drive bounced back out off the post.

Half time saw no changes and the game restarted with Sunderland winning an early corner this time, but nothing came from it.  The next corner of the game should have seen Tottenham go ahead, as Bale met Bentley's 49th minute corner with a free header right in front off goal, but somehow manage to put it over from a couple of yards out.

Gomes flung himself to his left to block Murphy's volley and in the next attack Sunderland took the lead.  A poor clearance by King saw the ball drop very invitingly for Richardson, who struck it instinctively to arrow his shot past the diving Gomes from just outside the box.  The keeper had no chance and it was a goal out of nothing that looked like one of many last season that were put past us.

Ramos decided to take early action and brought on Huddlestone and Giovani for Assou-Ekotto and Lennon.  It was a move that saw Tottenham pass the ball better and Malbranque committed his third poor foul, this time on Modric, before getting a yellow card.  From a free-kick, Bentley put a low ball in and Gordon saved, but as the ball dropped in front of goal, Woodgate missed the chance to knock the ball home for the equaliser from close range.

Spurs were in the ascendancy with their neat passing and for the first time in the game, the movement was making passes possible.  Gordon was brought into action once more in the 64th minute, as Bent was released by Bentley's through pass inside the box, but he took it a little wide and his angle was tight, although he still won a corner, as the keeper kicked his shot away.  Nothing came from it and Sunderland made an attacking change, as Djibril Cisse replaced the goalscorer Richardson.

Substitute Giovani found some space on the right and dipped a shot over the bar, when he might have been better advised to fire it across the six yard box, then Jenas ran onto Gomes' long kick out and got there just before the Sunderland goalie, but couldn't get it on target having put it over the keeper.  It looked as though Modric was having a bigger influence on the play and some nice one touch football passed the ball across the pitch and a corner was won and from it David Bentley's ball went out to Modric and his effort was blocked.  He had more luck in the 73rd minute, when the Croatian's first shot was blocked, but he followed it up on the edge of the box and shot again, only to see Gordon parry it.  Jermaine Jenas had continued a run into the penalty area and found the ball in his path to side foot home to make it 1-1.

Bentley had a shot tipped over by Gordon before the goal, but kept the pressure on the visitors, when his 77th minute free kick from the left had to be pushed away for a corner.  From that corner Sunderland broke away and gave Spurs a taste of what was to come.  With seven minutes remaining, Whitehead got Murphy away on the left.  His usual trick is to go one-on-one against Stalteri, but without him, he took on Zokora and put in a cross that Gomes came for then went back.  He was taken out by the cross and Cisse jumped higher than the two Spurs defenders to head home a simple goal from a couple of yards out.  It was poor defending by Spurs and once more, a goal in the closing stages had robbed us of the points.

Not that we would have deserved all three.  Sunderland were worthy winners.

Ramos needs to sort out how the team are going to play and get the people he needs to do it.  Whether that is with Berbatov or without, I think most Spurs have their own thoughts on, but whatever way, it needs to be sorted out quickly.




Reaction : -



With only one forward, it gave the Sunderland team the initiative to bring the game to Spurs.  Any ball out of our defence came straight back and without a second player up front, the out ball was always predictable.

Playing a long ball in the air to Bent is not his game.  We have played the ball on the floor all pre-season, so when the real thing starts, we knock high balls for him to head onto ... nobody !!  If it was Ramos' intention to play with two forwards, why didn't he stick someone else up front with him.  Either play Bentley up there or play Dos Santos from the start.  If it came to it, I would rather see Pekhart given a game, at least he is a striker and is one who played pre-season in the first XI.

The Berbatov saga cannot be allowed to drag on.  it needs to be sorted out this week, to give us time to bring someone in.  Arshavin is not a straight replacement for Berba, but would be for Keane, so that means Bent will have to play the Bulgarian's role.  Alternatively, bring in a big forward alongside Darren to flick the ball onto him, leaving the ex-Charlton man to be the more mobile of the two.  We had plenty of crosses, but nobody attacking them, as one forward can only attack one position.

Modric needs to show a better awareness of where his team-mates are too.  One time in the first half, he took on players on the edge of the box and shot into them, rather than releasing Bentley outside him, who was in space the little man had created.

Giovani looked class when he came on and commits players, while Bentley crossed the ball well and Lennon showed good pace.  Aaron was under-used when he had the beating of the full back in the first half.

We also need to resolve the defence.  Every time a ball was cleared out of Sunderland box, it dropped and one of their players was first to it ... usually in acres of space.  With the full backs encouraged to get in support of the forwards up the flanks, it needs cover for them from the midfield.

With one up top and Jenas playing the first half in front of the back four, it was like a formation for an away game.  Someone said last week that we should have a go away from home, rather than get beaten just sitting back.  If we play like this at home, teams will soon twig that they can get something.

Most of us knew the pre-season results counted for nothing, but we were expecting a better start than last season.

We need to get off the mark, but might still be bottom within a few weeks yet.


With all the talk about strikers, which I do agree we need, what about a defensive, get-stuck-in ball-winning midfielder.  Having a midfield of Bentley, Lennon, Jenas, Modric and Bale is not exactly the toughest that opponents will come up against.

We need a Graham Roberts type player in their to protect our creative players and to give them some cover.








Other scores this weekend :
Blackburn Rovers 1 Hull City 1 Saturday
Fulham 1 Arsenal 0 Saturday
Liverpool 2 Middlesbrough 1 Saturday
Newcastle United 1 Bolton Wanderers 0 Saturday
Stoke City 3 Aston Villa 2 Saturday
West Bromwich Albion 0 Everton 2 Saturday
Wigan Athletic 0 Chelsea 1 Sunday
Manchester City 3 West Ham United 0 Sunday
Portsmouth 0 Manchester United 1 Monday



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


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