PL25: Alive and kicking Blades cut through timid Tottenham

To celebrate 25 years of the Premier League each week in Football Fancast we’re going to be looking back at a memorable game that took place on the corresponding date. This time out we revisit a one-sided thumping that knocked the glamourous hype of a new league for six.

Eight months prior to an in-form Tottenham travelling up to Bramall Lane, full of swagger and seeking a sixth consecutive win, Sky had announced that season to be bigger and better than ever before. This was the birth of the Premier League and its summer metamorphosis from the dowdy old Division One had been accompanied with fireworks, tremendous amounts of hype, and an advert featuring Vinnie Jones showering in a changing room to the soundtrack of Simple Minds’ Alive and Kicking.

With vast fortunes now being pumped into the top flight the ubiquitous commercial assured us that we could expect to be blown away on a weekly basis by a whole…dramatic pause….new….another dramatic pause….ball game. This was a new dawn. This was Hollywood meets the Superbowl.

Eight months later the cheerleaders were gone and the ill-judged idea of having parachutists arrive with the match ball had been quietly put to one side and on a bobbly, weather-worn pitch in South Yorkshire twenty British players – along with Nayim and goalkeeper Erik Thorstvedt – played out a thoroughly one-sided affair. In the home dug-out prowled Dave Bassett, as fossilised in his thinking as his future namesake Mike. The best player on the cut-up turf that day was journeyman Glyn Hodges.

It was becoming increasingly clear that some metamorphosis took time.

With the Blades firmly in the relegation mire you might wrongly assume that it was they who endured a 6-0 battering in this midweek fixture.  After all, though this was anything but a vintage Spurs side it still showcased record signing Teddy Sheringham up front and a fully fit Darren Anderton on the right. This was still Spurs even with Jason Cundy, Dean Austin and Andy Gray (not that one, no, nor that one either) in the ranks.

In actual fact it was United who ripped into proceedings from the off, going in front after just thirteen minutes with a bizarre goal that looked perfectly ordinary on first viewing. On receiving a short corner at the edge of the box winger Franz Carr turned in routine fashion while two Tottenham defenders appeared to forget who had the ball and continued to charge towards the corner flag. In acres of space the lightning-fast wideman was able to pick his spot and drill the ball past the flailing Thorstvedt.

Less than ten minutes later the lead was doubled and again Spurs’ back-line was in disarray. On this occasion it was Andy Gray (not that one, no, nor that one either) who met an explorative cross and headed it firmly into the ground and up into the roof of the net. It was a great finish if truth be told.

Which was more than could be said of his team-mates’ efforts down the other end. Sheringham scuffed one to widespread jeers. Paul Allen did likewise. Tottenham were all at sea.

Amazingly by half-time the score was 4-0 with two smart finishes in quick succession by Scottish striker Ian Bryson showing his more illustrious counterparts how it was done. It could be argued – without any intended snobbery – that those two minutes were the high point of Bryson’s career.

In the second period Brian Deane put the game incontestably to bed with a fifth before substitute Paul Rogers turned a thumping into a humiliation for the North London giants who failed to rally at any stage even for the sake of pride. Indeed so comfortable was the victory Dave Bassett never once needed to reach into his pocket and reassess his playing personnel on his pack of Benson and Hedges.

Watching the massacre from afar that evening was Spurs chairman Alan Sugar and the meekness of his team’s surrender was the final straw for a unique managerial set-up that had first-team coaches Doug Livermore and Ray Clemence front and centre overseen by a chief executive in the form of Terry Venables. Perhaps Sugar had got somewhat carried away with the fresh, modern promise of the Premier League. Perhaps it was that which made him go all continental and experimental? Whatever the reason it clearly wasn’t working and by the season’s end the future Apprentice firer was hiring Ossie Ardiles, he of the 3-2-5 formation that bordered on sheer lunacy. For Tottenham it would be a whole new ball game.

What happened next?

Sheffield United were suitably bolstered by the performance and result to bring home eighteen points from their remaining eleven games and finished the campaign free from the clutches of the drop.

Tottenham – like United – lost in a Wembley FA Cup semi-final, the defeat to Arsenal effectively ending any hopes of making their mark on the Premier League’s debut outing. For them 1992/93 was nothing more than okay and entirely forgettable.

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