By Mac Byrne
Whilst the majority of footballers are smack bang in the middle of their summer break, there’s no rest for the ‘poor’ manager and it’s all about out with the old and in with the few for Harry Redknapp.
Tottenham have historically been seen as a team of flair and – for their fans – frustration; perennial cup winners who generally only come good when the year ends in a one. Cue this season, becoming Champions League charmers, turning in some outstanding performances and turning over such revered opposition as Inter and AC Milan and Werder Bremen on their way to a brave but ultimately battering quarter final exit in Real Madrid’s Bernabeu.
And herein lies the problem. Having taken huge strides into the promised land of the top four they took their eye off the domestic ball and found themselves taking a giant step backwards into the Poor- opa League. That endless Thursday night trawl around the Europe’s ‘not’ spots that, whilst providing essential ‘European action’ of sorts for star players, ultimately leaves them drained come the weekend’s domesticity – unable to fight their way back onto the top table.
Thus the conundrum; better to sit this one out – as suggested by Mr Defoe (!) – and concentrate on getting back to where the real money is, or give it your fans SOMETHING to shout about and risk never hitting those heights again?
And of course without the premium of the Champions League comes another problem; A) what happens to your star players and B) how do you attract more? We’ve already seen Spurs’ star man Modric touting himself to the Premier league’s big boys, and if you take the Croatian heart out of the ‘Hart, what message does that give to the rest of the squad and those eyeing a move to North London’s famous Lane? If anyone can wheeler-deal their way back into the top four it is undoubtedly the king of spin himself but even he is proclaiming the need to eject players before injecting new blood into his bloated squad.
Whilst he may not want to part with his prized asset, with big bids flying in from the League’s big hitters and Spurs falling behind the big guns it only seems a matter of time before one of the big four gets bigger and Spurs get smaller! The club’s insistence that Modric is ‘going nowhere’ – as any football fan knows, is football speak for ‘give us more cash and he’s yours’!
And what of the rest? In Spurs’ quest to build a team capable of challenging for the Premiership they have acquired a bit of rough along with the diamonds. Players such as Robbie Keane who, despite being readily loaned out to all and sundry, can’t seem to find anyone willing to come up with the reddies! Other names being touted are Peter Crouch, who despite the obvious options he gives any team clearly doesn’t figure high in Redknapp’s vision for a super Spurs. Then there’s David Bentley who, despite being one of footballs more gifted exponents, has failed in his last shot at the big time. Then there’s forgotten – not to mention hard to pronounce – heroes such as Moussa Sissoko, Wilson Palacios, Niko Kranjcar and ‘Humilio’ Gomes, the king of calamity who would appear to have dropped one clanger too many if he is being replaced by 40-year old Brad Friedel!?
Aaron Lennon appears to be the only other player Spurs don’t want to lose but may have to and with resurgent Liverpool waving a £20m+ wad for the flying front man, the departure of yet another international may well signal Spurs’ return to the chasing pack.
At the end of the day, with ‘Arry the geezer at the helm, you can be sure of more headlines and surprises in the coming weeks. But as England’s next manager in waiting – and that job a year away at best – one can’t help thinking that Redknapp has kicked his Spurs on as far as he can and that this season may well be one of consolidation before the 2012/13 season, a new manager, player clearout and a wait for another year ending in one for more silverware…