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Tottenham's Wembley crusade gathers momentum

After sacking Ossie Ardiles, Sugar hired someone he cannot intimidate. Francis is a reflective character, with an admirable understanding of the texture and traditions of the game.

He finds emotional release in studying the bloodlines of racing pigeons, rather than boardroom blood-letting, and a thriving antiques business guarantees financial independence from football.

Francis has shaken Sugar's hand on a deal securing his presence at White Hart Lane until the summer, but rejects the encumbrance of a contract which, given the game's contempt for legal convention, merely imposes an unwanted moral dilemma.

Liverpool set the tone of a fascinating first half

"If you haven't got a contract you can't break one," he rationalised. "I understand the situation. I'm used to having no money to spend. I'm unfortunate, in that I didn't come into the job at the best time, and I've just got to get on with it."

His satisfaction at the style and setting of victory was palpable. The former England captain made his debut as a player at Liverpool, whose team embody his belief in intelligent, experienced players subjugating themselves to the cause.

Liverpool set the tone of a fascinating first half. The pace was relentless, the passion a reaffirmation of the emotional intensity of Cup combat. Subtle cushioned passes were executed in a blur of perpetual motion, and players thrived in unusual guises.

Darren Anderton, once a waif consigned to the wing, marked his growing maturity in central midfield, where his energy and appreciation of space complemented the holding role occupied by David Howells.

His talent for reading a game, employed in front of an orthodox back four, was overlooked by Ardiles, who failed also to recognise the enduring excellence of Gary Mabbutt. The captain, whose tackling was clean and precise, shackled Ian Rush completely.

Mark Walters, one of the few survivors of the flawed regime of Graeme Souness, is a one-man lottery

Spurs had trained in the morning. They determined to deny Liverpool space in which to play, yet still found themselves behind.

Mark Walters, one of the few survivors of the flawed regime of Graeme Souness, is a one-man lottery. So random are his thought processes that one suspects even he cannot predict what he will do when the ball arrives at his feet.

Suddenly, surging from just inside the Tottenham half, he skipped past two challenges, drew three defenders away from the near post, and fashioned a cross which Robbie Fowler headed high into the net.

Cue pandemonium. Anfield, a brighter, less oppressive place under the stewardship of Roy Evans, renewed the old anthems. Tottenham had been reminded of the futility of relying on fate.

The half had entered the first of seven minutes of unjustifiable injury time when Howells threaded a typically perceptive pass to Klinsmann, who squared the ball to Teddy Sheringham.

Liverpool were never the same again

Many strikers, seized by the urgency of the situation, would have taken deliberate aim and sent the shot soaring towards the blue and white balloons which danced above the heads of travelling fans, penned in the Anfield Road end. Sheringham was rather more measured. His 25-yard effort, caressed with the inside of his right boot, curled around goalkeeper David James, and in off the post.

Liverpool were never the same again. Tottenham, underlining the importance of the conditioning work introduced by Francis, had greater physical resilience, more mental strength.

"The fitter you are the longer you keep your ability, your skill, your concentration," stressed Francis. Klinsmann, he added with a smile, was one of the three fittest players under his tutelage.

So when Anderton returned a John Scales clearance to the German, with the assistance of a deft Sheringham flick, something more than instinct, however finely honed, was at work.

An angled right-foot shot secured his 23rd goal of a talismanic season, and subjected him to the full force of the FA Cup. As he cantered around, in an ecstatic daze, he was embraced by his manager, who confided: "I said 'Jolly well done' in my best German." Klinsmann admitted: "I felt really emotional. This is why I am here, what people talk of in Europe when they talk of the FA Cup. It is very special."

Those of a sensitive disposition are already bracing themselves for the latest aural abomination committed on the club's behalf by Chas & Dave. Tottenham may well be on their way to Wembley, but Alan's legs are not at all trembly.

"The last time we were there was for the FA commision which took 12 points away from us, put us out of the FA Cup and fined us £500,000," Sugar mused. "It would be nice to go back there for a different reason. . . "

Copyright - The Daily Telegraph

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