As a club, Tottenham Hotspur has had a reputation for playing entertaining football.
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From the ‘glory, glory’ years of Bill Nicholson, when the team won the double in 1961, to the short-lived champagne era of Terry Venables and ‘Gazzamania,’ Spurs have always tried to give their supporters a pure football experience.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp could benefit from not being in the Champions League. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Under the guidance of Harry Redknapp that reputation has been cemented, especially after their first foray into the Uefa Champions League last season when they dazzled Europe’s elite with some exhilarating performances, most notably against AC and Inter Milan.
Unfortunately for the north Londoners they missed out on qualifying for this year’s UCL edition to their detested neighbor Arsenal, but this could be a blessing in disguise.
Without the distraction of the Champions League, Redknapp has used the Europa League as an opportunity to blood some youngsters while resting starters for the Premier League. It is obviously paying massive dividends because his players look rested, refreshed and supremely poised for the challenge of winning the club its first league title in 51 years.
Since losing to both Manchester City and United in August, Tottenham have taken a staggering 28 points out of a possible 30, a run that has seen them move from 18th place up to the lofty heights of third and just seven points behind the blue half of Manchester.
It is their best start to a campaign since…the title winning team of ’61.
This transformation from relegation fodder to title contenders can be put squarely on the shoulders of Redknapp and his legendary ability to wheel and deal in the transfer market.
Consider this: Brad Friedel, Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor cost Spurs the princely sum of $8 million dollars in fees before the window closed on August 31. That amount wouldn’t have even got you Fernando Torres’ left pinky! In anybody’s book this has to be the best purchased trifecta of the campaign.
Granted, Friedel may only have three clean sheets but the confidence he gives the Tottenham back line is almost unmeasurable when you consider the heart-in-mouth performances of Heurelho Gomes. The American simply exudes the personality of a world-class goalkeeper, a key ingredient for any club wanting to challenge for the title.
Cases in point are the last two title-winning goalkeepers – Petr Cech and Edwin van der Sar. World class, no doubt.
Parker was named the Football Writers’ Player of the Year with a relegated West Ham side last term and if you weren’t familiar with how good he was, you must be now. Even England boss Fabio Capello has had his head turned by the 31-year-old who seemingly has an engine that will not quit.
There is no doubt that by playing for a pure football playing team the qualities that have generally been used for defensive purposes are now flourishing in a more attacking mode.
Emmanuel Adebayor has been in red-hot form in recent weeks. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
And then there is the Adebayor factor. I’m no fan of the Togo striker who I consider nothing more than a cold-blooded mercenary but when he’s in the ‘mood’ there aren’t many better strikers in the world.
How long he stays in that ‘mood’ seemingly depends on random factors, but Redknapp has, for the moment, tapped into his head and is getting nothing but scintillating performances.
These three signings have given Spurs the strong spine that the team perhaps previously lacked. They are big personality players that have the qualities to lead an experienced group that extra mile.
With Gareth Bale growing in stature in every match he plays, Kyle Walker developing into a fully fledged international, Younes Kaboul finding week in, week out consistency and Benoit Assou-Ekotto actually looking like he enjoys his football everything is in place for Spurs to maintain a strong challenge instead of dropping points to lesser teams, which has been their Achilles heel in the past.
That point was born out on Saturday when they traveled to The Hawthorns without their best two and most creative players, Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart. The Tottenham teams I’ve followed in the past would have lost to West Brom after falling a goal behind but not this current edition which has that all-important quality all title challenging clubs have – namely belief.
The only thing that I think of that can derail this team from reaching for the stars is Harry Redknapp’s court date for tax evasion. The trial, which is expected to last for two weeks, begins on January 23, 2012, a date which also coincides with a tough row of fixtures that will truly tell whether Tottenham can put aside 51 years of hurt.
Starting away at Manchester City on the 22nd Tottenham then play Wigan (h), Liverpool (a), Newcastle (h), Arsenal (a), Manchester United (h). It has been said that players will use anything as a justification for failure – will the trial prove a distraction or can Harry use it as a motivating stick?