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WTPS: Richards, reports and reaction

Posted on 23 September 2001  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Michael Owen, unsurprisingly, grabs all the headlines in Sunday's newspapers after a pulling a hamstring in the second half at Anfield.

Our performance wins fleeting praise here and there but apart from Owen, match reporters concentrate on Jari Litmanen's contribution.

Amy Lawrence's report on the back page of the Observer reads as follows...

One moment of pure inspiration. In the midst of a tensely contested tussle, it took one man with mature intelligence and masterful control to break a game set for deadlock.

Step forward Jari Litmanen, whose splendid goal separated these two sides. The Finn, in only his second start of the season, seized the opportunity to shine. Liverpool, starting the day in the bottom half of the table, needed something special to help their sketchy season gain some momentum. Litmanen delivered. But Liverpool's day was marred by an injury to Michael Owen, which could be very bad news for England's World Cup hopes.

Tottenham began well. The danger was immediate: from Christian Zeige's corner, Les Ferdinand powered in a header that Nick Barmby was well positioned to glance off the line. The home foundations looked frail.

Spurs arrived in good spirits, buoyed by a well-earned victory on their travels at Sunderland, and bolstered by the eventual arrival of Dean Richards from Southampton. The £8 million defender joined too late to appear here. That said, young Ledley King was impressive and will take some displacing.

After Liverpool's impotent performance in midweek in Dortmund, the faithful were hoping for more cutting edge. Gérard Houllier had chosen to rest England's strike force, Michael Owen and Emile Heskey, the risk of burn-out in advance of Wednesday's vital Champions League game against Dynamo Kiev perhaps playing on his mind. Robbie Fowler and Litmanen began looking a touch rusty.

John Arne Riise tried to provide the much-needed spark. The Norwegian possessed plenty of energy and endeavoured to impose himself on the game, surging up the left at every available opportunity. He latched on to Litmanen's astute pass and jinked his way into the box, but could only drag his shot directly at the Tottenham goalkeeper.

Liverpool were crying out for someone to seize control of the game. Without the influential Steven Gerrard, beginning a three-match ban after that viciously ill-timed tackle on George Boateng, it was a surprise to see last season's playmaker-in-chief Gary McAllister restricted to the bench. Slowly, slowly, Liverpool searched for rhythm, direction, fluency. Litmanen drove into the side netting. Fowler tried a snap shot. Nick Barmby's dribble came to nothing.

The sudden lift came courtesy of the elegant Litmanen, who wowed the crowd with an outstanding flick - well worth the entrance money alone. The Finn should have opened the scoring three minutes from the break, Anfield rising to salute the seemingly inevitable as he bore down on goal. But the outstanding Neil Sullivan stood his ground bravely before stooping to conquer this particular threat.

Tottenham, whose away record was so unenviable last season, have a different approach this. They know they are tougher to beat. They have more belief in themselves. But there is not quite enough guile to turn periods of possession into clear-cut openings. Gustavo Poyet just failed to connect with a looping pass in front of goal and Zeige's acute drive swept off the line. The craft of Sergei Rebrov was again left moping on the sidelines.

Just as Tottenham grew in confidence, moving the ball around well and almost capitalising from a patient build-up when Ferdinand's angled drive bobbled dangerously in front of Jerzy Dudek's goal, they were stung. And how. Litmanen let rip from 25 yards with a brilliantly executed strike. It was at once delightful and deadly. He milked the moment with the grateful Kop - deservedly so.

It speaks volumes for the esteem he is held in at Anfield that there were boos when his number came up, even though the man replacing him was none other than Owen.

Introduced alongside Heskey to run at a now back-pedalling Tottenham defence, it looked as if the visitors had missed their chance to take something more than pride away. It didn't take long for that most vibrant strike force to make their mark, Owen sprinting into the box to whip in a cross for Heskey, who missed his connection by a whisker. Owen's devastating pace is such a wonder to behold but he appeared to overstretch himself in search of a goal and instead limped off gingerly.

Houllier later confirmed that Owen pulled a hamstring and was 'highly unlikely' to be fit for England's World Cup qualifier against Greece at Old Trafford on 1 Oct.

On came Rebrov for a cameo. But it was not his day either, although it was indisputably Litmanen's.

Elsewhere, Geoff Sweet interviews new signing Dean Richards over two pages in the NOTW. Richards admits, amongst other things: "I can't tell you how glad I am this is all over.

"Lowe wanted an unrealistic £10m for me. I'm not worth that.

"In the end, the only way I was going to be a Spurs player was to forget about an agreement I made with former Southampton manager David Jones when I joined them on a free from Wolves in 1999.

"I made it clear that should a bigger club to come in for me, Southampton would not stand in my way and they agreed. There was also a clause in my contract which entitled me to 20 per cent of any fee.

Rounding figures up that amounted to £1.8m. But there was another problem. Lowe maintained Tottenham are NOT a bigger club than Southampton.

"Excuse me-and with respect to everyone on the south coast-I think if you took a poll hardly anyone would agree him.

"But that was his view. My view is he didn't want to sell me to Tottenham because of the acrimony between the two clubs over Glenn's move to White Hart Lane."

On the rumour front, the People say our scouts have watched West Brom's Scott Dobie and we are one of three clubs chasing Sunderland hotshot Kevin Phillips.

The NOTW says we have targeted Birmingham striker Andrew Johnson in a £4m move and while both the Express and Mirror link us with a possible move for Southampton full-back Dan Petrescu. The Mirror's Chat Zone column says Saints are interested in Oyvind Leonhardsen.