Remember how awful Tottenham were at the beginning of the season? Their fixtures and results page looked like a game of Duck, Duck, Goose only the ducks were losses and the goose was a draw. One squinted at the players dressed in white, wondering where they came from and what they had done with the team who’d been knocking on the Champions League’s door only a couple of seasons earlier. Maybe Tottenham’s players were tied up and gagged in a warehouse somewhere à la The Dark Night and these dudes had stolen their uniforms to pretend to play some football. Of course it didn’t help that they’d sold off all their established strikers the summer before.
Gareth Southgate was off somewhere chuckling to himself and thinking, Spurs are going to get relegated if they don’t shape up!
Enter Harry Redknapp.
A new manager should be given a couple weeks to turn bad results around. Redknapp had every right to this. Supporters were likely telling themselves, as they buzzed with anticipation, Once he gets his system in place, we’ll be alright.
But, there was no waiting for the new manager. They don’t call him Harry Houdini for nothing.
His first match in charge was a win. Spurs’ first of the season. 2-0 against Bolton. Then it was the unbelievable 4-4 north London derby. Then it was win, win, win, win, Fulham, win, win.
Spurs, who’d recorded back-to-back losses against promotion teams (Hull, Stoke) in October under Juande Ramos, kicked off October with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool. Liverpool’s first loss of the season. Spurs beat the Reds again two weeks later, knocking them out of the Carling Cup.
“They have a decent squad on paper, but it is not a well balanced – I think maybe a soft centre and think we need a bit more strength and aggression,” he said of Spurs as he was taking over. The immediate turnaround in their form and results is a testament to his managerial impact. (The struggles Portsmouth have had since he left says a lot too.)
In the winter he brought strikers Jermaine Pennant Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane back to Tottenham. And now Spurs are knocking at the door of Europe once again. One more win over Liverpool and a Fulham loss to Everton would put Spurs in seventh spot. But even if they don’t make it to the continent, they’ve climbed so far above safety, they cannot deny the effects of that Redknapp touch.
Redknapp’s bluntness must have been a bucket of cold water in the faces of the players. You can see it in the way he refuses to mince words in interviews. Where most managers will be somewhat tactfull about a player’s poor performance (Oh, he didn’t have his best match. But we know he’s got the quality and the goals will come), Redknapp will say right to the bouqet of microphones before him, Gawd, ‘e was bloody awful! Wasn’t ‘e?
This is the man who took the police to court after they’d raided his home and arrested him during an investigation into corruption.
Redknapp is a true character and his manner and presence can always be trusted to keep things interesting. On and off the pitch he’s practically an institution in English football. Has been since he first signed with West Ham in 1964 at seventeen years of age.
Though he has only one major trophy to his name (last year’s FA Cup) in his 45-year career, the magic he brings and his ability to turn a club’s fortunes completely around is the stuff of legends. He did it for Portsmouth. He did it for Tottenham. Don’t be surprised if he does it again. It looks like Southgate’s position at Middlesbrough may be up for grabs. If only they have a few million pounds laying around.