Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rueful Redknapp

West Brom draw is a big blow - Redknapp

By Sam Sheringham
BBC Sport at White Hart Lane

"I want to go home, see my wife, walk the dogs and have a glass of red," sighed Harry Redknapp as he left the press room at White Hart Lane.

The craving for home comforts summed up the Tottenham manager's rueful mood after seeing his side held to a 2-2 home draw by West Brom, a result which damaged their hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League.

Spurs looked to have snatched a victory when Jermain Defoe fired them ahead with a brilliant strike on 66 minutes but a stunning curling finish from substitute Simon Cox in the 82nd gave the Baggies a point.

"I couldn't see that coming," reflected Redknapp. "The kid has hit a world-class strike. He has hung that up from 25 yards right into the top corner. That's how it goes, you know. You won't see many strikes like that during the season."

The equaliser left Spurs deflated and the sight of the otherwise outstanding Gareth Bale rooted to the spot after giving the ball away in the closing stages encapsulated the sense that Tottenham may just have run out of steam at the end of a memorable season.

After all, they have spent much of their campaign juggling the demands of a thrilling run in the Champions League with their efforts to finish in the top four and thus ensure another season among the continent's elite.

Harry Redknapp watches on with Roy Hodgson in the background Redknapp watches on with Roy Hodgson in the background

Amid the giddiness of the victories over the Milan clubs, it has been easy to forget that Spurs were bottom of the league when Redknapp took over two-and-a-half years ago.

Their achievements in such a short space of time are little short of extraordinary, but according to Redknapp the flip side is that success may have fostered unrealistic expectations.

"I just find it hard how everyone seems to expect so much," he said. "Spurs had never been in the Champions League before this season and suddenly people think we have to be there."

Spurs' late season struggles - they have just one win in their last seven league games - are in marked contrast to the recent upsurge in fortunes at Liverpool, who are just three points behind the north Londoners after their 5-0 thrashing of Birmingham and could yet pip them to fifth place, and the Europa League place that goes with it.

Redknapp expects the Red resurgence to continue next season and believes competition for the Champions League places will only get more difficult.

"Manchester City have gone out and spent God knows what to get above us. Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea are there every year, Liverpool will be there next year.

"It's very, very difficult to get in that top four. But we've had a great season here and it's not over yet. The football they have seen here this year has been out of the top drawer.

"We've got a good squad. We have never been so close to these teams as we are now."

If Spurs are to challenge for the top four again next season, Redknapp knows he must retain star performers like Bale, who excelled against the Baggies after being forced to revert to left-back when Benoit Assou-Ekotto tore his hamstring in a vain attempt to prevent Peter Odemwingie giving the visitors a fifth-minute lead.

Bale, voted player of the season by his peers, showed just how effective he can be when coming from deep, frequently plucking long cross-field passes out of the air and roaring past makeshift right-back Gonzalo Jara.

If you can't improve the squad then don't expect to be in the Champions League any more

"That's where he will finish up playing in years to come," said Redknapp. "He will probably be the best left-back in the world.

"When he plays wide, people get tight to him and kick him up in the air all day. But coming from left-back where he is coming on to the ball all day, you could see him being unplayable there."

Redknapp said there was "no chance" of Bale being sold in the summer, and called on Tottenham's board to invest in the squad in order to keep pace with their rivals.

"Tottenham is a great club that is well-run financially so we don't need to sell anybody. We might sell some fringe players who are not in the team but those people who are worth big, big money are not going to be sold.

"I've not spoken to anyone about transfer targets. But if you can't improve the squad then don't expect to be in the Champions League any more."

With a trip to Stamford Bridge up next, and away days at Liverpool and City still to come, it will require a phenomenal effort for Spurs to finish their season on a high.

But with Defoe serving up a reminder of just how lethal he can be, and Rafael Van der Vaart and Luka Modric oozing class in midfield, there remains plenty of reasons to be optimistic at White Hart Lane.

Indeed, when Redknapp sits back to take his first sip of red wine, he may just allow himself a smile of satisfaction as he contemplates the exciting times ahead.

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