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Football: Ferdy: All This Is Down To George.

LES FERDINAND and Darren Anderton both winced at being labelled under-achievers.

Although both knew the finger wasn't pointed just at them, the accusation hurt.

Within hours of his arrival as Spurs manager, George Graham left no one in doubt of his views.

Why, he asked the assembled players, has a club with so much talent been struggling? You didn't need to be Einstein to work out the answer.

Too many were cruising, living on past glories and often preferring the warm comfort of the treatment room.

No one was singled out, but both Ferdy and Anderton suspected they were targets.

Both had seemingly lost their way, their sparkle extinguished as life under former manager Christian Gross became a slog.

Now both can't thank Graham enough - for different reasons.

Anderton has reached his first final after being on the losing side in four previous semis. "Five if you include an FA Youth game as well," he said.

Ferdinand also gets the chance of collecting his first medal from soccer saying: "I'd swop all my England goals for hitting a Wembley winner."

Both admitted benefiting from Graham's winning formula.

Spurs are at Wembley in the Worthington Cup final after defeating Wimbledon 1-0 over two legs.

And Ferdinand echoed the happiness and gratitude felt by fans and players. He said: "After last year we were determined collectively and, as individuals, to try and do something about it.

"George has come in and made a lot of difference. He had previously been to Wembley eight times in this competition and it rubbed off on Spurs. Some of our fans came up to me on the pitch after the match and told me 'we've wanted this for years'.

"People say it's only the Worthington Cup but we're delighted about it and there's still a place in Europe up for grabs for the winner.

"It's all down to George. He has got us well organised and working as a team with a lot of confidence. We certainly don't give away goals so easily now."

Since Graham arrived in November, they've conceded 22 in 23 matches - but only three in the last nine. Ferdy added: "He has been saying that we've under-achieved, so he is delighted the way we've responded.

"The fans don't mind 1-0 wins now because we've got to Wembley.

"Throughout our team there is competition for places and that's what you need at a club like Spurs because it keeps you on your toes.

"This is the first final for me and it's been a long time coming. I have played at Wembley plenty of times and made a good living out of football but the icing on the cake will be if we win it.

"I need some medals so I have something to show for my time in football."

Anderton said: "It means so much to me to actually win a semi-final . I've had so many disappointments at that stage - but this makes up for it.

"It was probably one of the worst games of my career. It was a horrible game on a terrible, dreadful pitch.

"But once that final whistle went all that mattered was reaching the final. I was beginning to think I was jinxed.

"Before the game the gaffer told us that no one remembered semi-finals. It was just the finals they talked about.

"This was one of the best moments of my career. The only thing that compares was the goal I scored against Colombia in the World Cup.

"It was a team achievement. The togetherness in the dressing room was amazing. I lost my shirt in the scrum at the end. I threw it to the fans just to be able to get off and down the tunnel. They have been desperate for success.

"They have also been good to me through my series of injuries and it was great to give them something back.

"I think the fans will be quite happy with George Graham from now on."|

Spurs will be looking to extend an unbeaten run to 13 matches at Middlesbrough on Saturday, but Wimbledon could be facing the collapse of their season after three defeats in a row.

Manager Joe Kinnear, watched a video of the game long into the early hours and it confirmed his view that Steffen Iversen's winner was offside.

He said: "It doesn't make it any easier and I feel so desperately disappointed for the players.

"My skipper Robbie Earle was in tears in the dressing room. Three times in three years he has been a losing semi-finalist. It hardly seems fair."
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Stenson, Tony
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 18, 1999
Previous Article:Football: FA Battle For Wembley.
Next Article:Football: Gerry In A Loan Plea.

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