Two years ago, Tottenham lost the FA Cup semi-final to Portsmouth – a tie they were heavy favourites to win – and the feeling was that the life had gone out of their season. They responded by beating Arsenal and then Chelsea in the space of three days and secured the club's first ever Champions League spot in the penultimate game of the season at Manchester City.
As it stands, defeat for Harry Redknapp's team to Chelsea on Sunday in the FA Cup semi-final looks like it might just tip a team that look like they are in a bad place into one that does not know where their next win is coming from. The memories of 2010 suggest that Spurs' form is not as predictable as that. Even so, there are those at the club who are worried what the effect Sunday's defeat could have on the end of the season.
The strange aspect of Spurs' season is that when Redknapp was in court in January and February, fighting for his job, reputation and his liberty, the team's form barely wavered.
Monday's defeat to Norwich City at home was a gruesome result, especially given that Redknapp had hoped the team had turned the corner with a win against Swansea City eight days earlier.
Redknapp is well aware of the suggestion that his position as favourite to take the vacant England manager's job is regarded as a factor in his team, at one point the emergent force in the Premier League, going into such a decline. Privately he is dismissive of that factor.
The situation has been compared to the malaise that affected Manchester United in late 2001 when Sir Alex Ferguson announced his impending retirement – later retracted – at the end of the 2001-2002 season and they lost in the league to Newcastle, Bolton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham before Christmas. But, as Redknapp will point out, he has made no announcements.
In many respects, Redknapp won the biggest battle of his career when he was acquitted at Southwark Crown Court. On that day he would have said that football's triumphs and disappointments were of secondary importance to fighting for your reputation in court. However, the Spurs manager is understood to be struggling to be quite so philosophical now his season is unwinding so dramatically.
In some ways, the semi-final against Chelsea on Sunday is respite for both teams from struggles in the league. But it is what state the losers are in come Monday morning that will have the greatest effect on who clinches that fourth place.
- More about:
- Bolton Wanderers
- Chelsea F.c.
- Harry Redknapp
- Newcastle United
- Premier League
- Swansea City
- Tottenham Hotspur