As Harry Redknapp lay convalescing from an operation to unblock two arteries, Tottenham were going down to defeat in Kazan without the heartbeat of their team.
The arduous trip 450km east of Moscow into the perishable winter environment of Tatarstan was too much too soon following Redknapp’s surgery and without their leader it was too much for a second string Spurs line-up.
Both will ultimately recover. Redknapp expects to be patrolling the White Hart Lane touchline within a couple of weeks and Spurs will be hopeful of eventual progression to the latter stages of the Europa League. However, given the circumstances of Redknapp’s absence, Tottenham fans should be grateful of what they’ve got.
Hindsight is wonderful and all that jazz but it is safe to assume that Redknapp is not unequivocally appreciated down the Seven Sisters Road. His rent-a-quote style and proclivity to plead for yet more transfer funds grates those who have doubts about his tactical prowess and wherewithal to be the man to take Tottenham to the places where the dreamers dream,
In a cruel quirk of fate, Redknapp found himself laid up when he was due to celebrating his third anniversary in charge of the club and his cynics will need no reminding of the critical state the side where in when he found them.
The Lilywhites were a pale shade of gray, languishing in the relegation zone after a dismal start to the 2008/2009 season under the hapless Juande Ramos. The Spaniard was sent packing with Redknapp absconding from Portsmouth to pick the team up, shake them around and very much ‘Harry Redknapp’ them into a Champions League place some 20 months later.
That prestige has since been relinquished and the restless are using the failure to advance from that levied position as a barometer of Redknapp’s failings. He may have his limitations but his overall record in football management over almost 30 years suggests the pro’s far outweigh the cons, and when put in relation to managing Tottenham Hotspur – who could do it better?
Spurs do have to assess their possibilities and limitations. Based on the uncodified hierarchy of the Premier League they peer up towards a quartet of clubs – and Liverpool – with superior resource in terms of squad depth and resource to further improve those squads.
At present Spurs are going through a rare period of stability. The experiments with Jacques Santini and Juande Ramos were unmitigated disasters where cash was frittered away without much return. Redknapp has spent plenty himself, as he has done elsewhere, but similarly to wherever he has been he has spent well and achieved relative success with it.
The wheeler-dealer tag has long been unflattering to a man who’s transfer success rate is enviable and with the pressure of signing big he has the priceless quality of being able to motivate the players at his disposal and instil them with the confidence and bravado to over-perform.
Once again this summer, Redknapp acted shrewdly even when Daniel Levy tightened the purse string. The acquisition of Scott Parker and the loan signing of Emmanuel Adebayor were typical pieces of shrewd Redknapp business, improving gradually and efficiently by signing players he thinks he could get the best out of to improve his team.
A quarter of the way through the season, Tottenham find themselves in their customary slot on the periphery of the top four, playing some excellent and exciting attacking football to full houses week in week out.
The impending move to a new stadium requires consistency and creativity and in Redknapp, Spurs have a manager who can continue to do so whilst guiding the club through a transition period whereby they will aim to instil an infrastructure which can set the club up amongst the elite for years to come.
The situation at Tottenham is not too dissimilar to their north London rivals Arsenal. Trophies and success are craved but the necessity to build the blocks for future progression tapers any kneejerk wishes they have to stray from their principles.
Redknapp currently has 18-months of his contract to run, although the prospect of the vacant England hot-seat post Euro 2012 will test both manager and clubs resolve to maintain their relationship.
The likely interest of the FA confirms Redknapp’s reputation as the best English manager around and that notion should not be lost on the Tottenham support who ponder what life without Harry would be like.
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