With the season starting slightly earlier this year due to the World Cup, most teams in the Premiership have played 8 league games already. Last season, the 8th round of matches was played two weeks later, on the weekend of October 18th/19th. By the end of it, Tottenham were staring up at every other team in the league with a lowly 2 points. A 2-1 loss against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium had left Spurs trailing Newcastle by 4 points and Stoke and Fulham by 5.
A club in disarray, the fans in despair, the players lacking leadership on or off the pitch, things were not looking good. Not since 1988* had Tottenham propped up the table, ironically on Halloween. That season was to shadow a remarkable turn around in events at White Hart Lane as the week continued to get worse as Udinese beat Spurs on the Thursday 2-0 with a implosion in the last 15 minutes. Juande Ramos cut a depressed figure on the touchline in Udine, a man completely at a loss to explain what was happening or it seemed able to arrest the decline.
Daniel Levy’s reign as chairman had seen plenty of ups and downs during the course of the 7 years that had led to this point. Ramos was supposed to be the marquee managerial signing to move Spurs onwards from the work of the underrated and under appreciated Martin Jol. It was fast becoming a disaster of epic proportions as the club lurched from crisis to crisis. After 5 managers in that time, Levy was under enormous pressure to finally deliver, yet here they were, bottom of the league, winless, shapeless and facing relegation.
After the defeat in Italy, Ramos made the usual “We can play our way out of trouble” statements, but they rang hollow in the ears of the Spurs fans. Other than a well deserved point at Stamford Bridge, there had been nothing to cling to in the way of optimism. No-one else could see where the win was going to come from, the team looked beyond help. On Saturday, October 25th as the fans prepared for another inevitable defeat the next day against Bolton, things couldn’t get much worse.
As Match of the Day finished, I flicked over to Sky Sports News, just to see if perhaps anything at all had happened. As the image flicked on, the newsfeed at the bottom of the screen suddenly went in to to overdrive. “Tottenham have sacked Juande Ramos, Gus Poyet and Daniel Comolli with immediate effect…..Harry Redknapp has been confirmed as the new manager of Spurs …. Discussion with Redknapp next on Sky Sports News.” Then the adverts kicked in. Damn it!
I’d had a drink, who wouldn’t when you’re team was bottom of the league and playing like Worksop Town. I rewound the pictures and watched it again. Yep, still said the same. I shot to the PC, went on the BBC football site. It was the top story, Breaking News. The I checked the Guardian, yep, same there. It was true. I ran to the bedroom and woke my better half up, she told me to stop winding her up. I insisted it was true, and probably to simply placate me, she got up and went downstairs with me to see for herself.
Chelsea fans don’t believe a lot, though living with a Spurs fan means you get used to false dawns on a seasonal basis. Sitting down, SSN burst in to life once more, BOOOOOOOOOM went the special effects, WHOOOOOOOOOOSH went the graphics and then it was confirmed by the presenters clearly excited that people would actually be watching for once late on a Saturday night. Redknapp was indeed the new manager of Spurs. I let out a hearty cheer! My other half wasn’t impressed at all, ” Oh no, I’ve always really liked Harry. What has he done that for!” Time for another drink I decided, my despair transformed in minutes to optimism! Ah the joy’s of football eh!
As managerial announcements go, for me, its quite possibly one of the oddest I’ve ever come across, late on a Saturday night, less than 24 hours before a team is due to play a match. I bet every newspaper editor was cursing Levy throughout the United Kingdom. Yet, in the 38 League games Redknapp has managed Spurs in now, his record reads Played 38, Won 19, Drawn 8 Lost 11.With this season’s excellent start, Redknapp has assured that for the first time in 4 seasons, Spurs are not playing catch up after a slow start. 16 points from 8 games is Tottenham’s best ever start to a Premiership season.
No Spurs fan thinks that we’ll win the League, or finish in the top 4, but after the year of hell that was the Ramos era, it’s a whole lot better. The oddity of Ramos’ tenure, Spurs won the League Cup, their first trophy in 9 seasons and a 5-1 victory against Arsenal, yet it will always be viewed as a dreadful year. Two shots of sunlight do not make a summer, but at least Harry’s got Spurs fans smiling again.
There is still plenty of work to do at Tottenham, the centre half issue needs resolving due the injuries King and Woodgate now have. The midfield have to learn to be able to play without Modric against big teams and not let Palacios do all the running, Keane needs to keep performing as he did against Burnley and Hull City. Defoe needs keep running and not get downhearted and the players outside the first 11 need to knuckle down and try and force themselves into Redknapps plans rather than whining to the media. Then maybe a top six place wouldn’t be out of the question, anything else would be a bonus.
*Spurs became the first team to be bottom of the First Division on Halloween in 1988 and not be relegated, actually finishing 6th as Gascoigne and Waddle combined to drag them up the table. The following season saw Spurs finish 3rd with Lineker joining the team as Waddle went to Marseille.