Tottenham Hotspur proved at Eastlands on Wednesday that fortune really does favour the brave. Adventurously set up with two strikers on the pitch, Spurs dominated the game and thoroughly deserved to beat Manchester City. It now seems that the brave will be rewarded with a fortune. The Champions League and all its riches awaits.
The hosts simply had no answer to the waves of white shirts which swamped forward with such verve. City looked tired and devoid of any creativity. Barry and De Jong were effortlessly upstaged by Spurs’ vivacious midfield, whilst Adebayor and Tevez were shorn of any inspiration whatsoever. By the time Peter Crouch stooped to head the winner, City already looked like a team which knew fourth place was beyond them.
Spurs have deserved the success which their performances this season have brought them. It wasn’t long ago that Tottenham were perennial cup specialists and top four pretenders, yet they are now rightfully one of the top four teams in the country. It has been quite some transformation – and the manager must take great credit.
For so long labelled a shrewd wheeler dealer rather than a classy tactician, this season Harry Redknapp has finally proved that he is one of, if not the best English manager in the country. Since taking charge of the lacklustre side he inherited from Juande Ramos, Spurs have added a steely resolve to their defending in addition to their already strong attacking talent.
Ledley King and Michael Dawson have reinforced the calls for them to be included in the England squad with some colossal performances; especially in the second half of the season. The home victories over Arsenal and Chelsea owed much to the goal keeper Gomes and particularly the English centre back pairing. The ‘you score 3, we’ll score 4’ philosophy now appears to be a thing of the past.
In addition to the usual astute signings, Redknapp has proved that he can always get the best out of his players. Heurelho Gomes, Tom Huddlestone and Luka Modric look like players reborn, whilst Gareth Bale is starting to show why he was rated so highly at Southampton. All the great managers are also great ‘man-managers’, and in Redknapp, Spurs have one of the best.
It is a poignant reminder that Spurs have not yet qualified for Europe’s premier competition proper. The victory at Eastlands merely provided them with the opportunity to play a two-legged qualifier to enter the group stage, and there are some dangerous sides lurking as potential opponents. Ajax, managed by former Spurs manager Martin Jol, would certainly be an interesting tie for the Spurs fans.
Everton were the last team to break the top four in 2004, yet they crashed out of the Champions League qualifiers at the first hurdle to Villarreal. Redknapp will know fully well that the hard work starts now if they are to avoid a similar fate to Everton. There will be no complacency, and he will expect some investment from the Spurs board over the summer to move the club forward and keep them there.
Incredibly, third place is still a possibility for Spurs. If Arsenal were to lose at home to Fulham on the last day and Spurs take all 3 points at Turf Moor, Tottenham would leapfrog their arch rivals. It would be the icing on the cake for Spurs and their extraordinary season. The champagne would certainly start to flow, although Harry Redknapp might decide to wear a slightly cheaper suit this time around.