CAN GARDNER REPLACE SOL?

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AMIDST the clamour from the fans for big-money signings at Tottenham, Spurs have followed the past week`s capture of Dave McEwan from Dulwich Hamlet and IFK Hasselholm`s Jon Jonsson by swooping for another player whom the White Hart Lane faithful may be unfamiliar with - Port Vale defender Anthony Gardner.

But, with central defenders of the quality of Sol Campbell and Chris Perry at his disposal, what is it in the 19-year-old`s game that has prompted George Graham to stump up a fee that could rise to one million pounds?

Of all the players in the First Division, only Charlton`s Mark Kinsella has attempted more tackles than the 93 Gardner has made, and even the Republic of Ireland midfielder cannot match his total of 61 successful challenges.

This means Gardner has won 66 per cent of all the challenges he has made, making him one of the division`s most successful tacklers - a feat especially impressive considering Port Vale`s lowly league position. Indeed, he has been most effective in the tackle of all of Vale`s first-choice side.

The 19-year-old has made more headed clearances than any other Vale player, and his aerial presence coupled with his ability to time a tackle may remind Spurs fans of Sol Campbell. Indeed, the Spurs captain has only won one percentage point more of his challenges than Gardner this season.

Campbell is by far the better passer, but, with the experience of playing in the Premiership and at international level, this is hardly surprising.

With time on his side, Graham may be able to mould his new signing into a player of the same calibre as Campbell. As the England man is stalling on a new contract, and his present one is due to expire at the end of next season, this may well be his intention.

Stuart Condie