Redknapp still struggling to prove his worth

 

For a man who was about to face the most expensively-assembled football team in history, Harry Redknapp was in a convivial mood yesterday. He joked with a television reporter about joining in training. He made a mock acceptance of Jose Mourinho's offer of a 0-0 draw in the first leg and pretended to leave. Only when he was asked about how he was valued by the hierarchy at Tottenham Hotspur did we see a flash of the Redknapp temper that is never far from the surface.

Asking Redknapp whether he feels appreciated at Spurs might seem like a daft question but it has more relevance than you might suspect. There is a school of thought among some at Tottenham that playing Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League is not Redknapp's achievement but exactly where the club should be. Those people point out that Rafael Van der Vaart was not Redknapp's signing and that he did not have as much faith in Gareth Bale two years ago as he does now.

So back to the question: do Spurs appreciate Redknapp? "If they've got any brains they do," he said. "If they haven't they won't. Getting into the top four is so difficult. When have Tottenham finished above Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United before? I must have missed it, if it happened in the last few years. If Manchester City don't finish top four [this season] after having spent £140m there's something wrong there.

"We are settled right in there [in fifth place] and we have a game in hand over Manchester City. We have had a difficult couple of games but we are only five points behind Chelsea. At this stage in the last few years it has been 18 points or more behind Chelsea. I don't care whether people appreciate me. I really don't care. As long as I know I have done a good job I don't care too much what other people think."

It was an answer that sounded as if it had been uttered in private more than once. There were concerns last season that, having broken into the top four and qualified for the Champions League, Redknapp might find himself exposed at that level. When he was offered a lucrative job in Dubai during the summer he was closer to leaving than some might think. Eventually he agreed a new contract but the stresses and strains remain.

Every time an obstacle has been thrown in Redknapp's way, or a seemingly indomitable opponent blocked his path, he has overcome it. He has beaten Internazionale at White Hart Lane and beaten Milan at San Siro. Tonight he comes up against what many Premier League executives regard as the ultimate test: he faces Jose Mourinho who, even at a low ebb after Saturday's home defeat to Sporting Gijon, is dangerous.

Should Redknapp overcome Mourinho, who has only ever really been tamed by Sir Alex Ferguson among the Premier League's current managerial fraternity, then his stock will rise again. What price that if he goes as far as the semi-finals this year he persuades Bale to stay for one more season and then bows out next summer as the new manager of England? He has virtually assured his place as Fabio Capello's successor and eliminating Madrid, as well as acquittal in his tax evasion trial, would make him a shoo-in.

But as ever with Redknapp there is an unwillingness on his part to relax and enjoy the ride. He was still fuelling the doubt around William Gallas's fitness although he is expected to play tonight. He was also complaining about the injuries to Steven Pienaar, whose groin problem means he has not travelled, and Niko Kranjcar (a bruised foot). Spurs could be down to only six substitutes tonight instead of the regulation seven.

Throughout Spurs' Champions League run, Redknapp has refused to play the role of the starry-eyed manager who is just pleased to be on the big stage. "It's great coming here to play but it is only a good night if you play well," he said. "It depends on the 90 minutes. That's all that matters, it's not about me coming here or the stadium. Real Madrid are one of the great clubs and it is great to be bringing team here but if you don't play well it's not a good night."

When Mourinho faced the Spanish press earlier in the afternoon he seemed to be as much at odds with them as he was with the Italian media before he eliminated Chelsea with Internazionale last season. Currently eight points behind Barcelona, Madrid are anxious that they could be embarrassed again by their rivals in the league. Exiting the Champions League to a club that, to their minds, is not among the European elite would be a crushing disappointment.

That was why when it came to questions about Redknapp, Mourinho was only too happy to change the subject. He laid it on very thick talking about the Englishman as his "friend" who, he could not help adding, had never before been at a club that was capable of challenging in the Champions League. "He [Redknapp] is a good manager for every team or every national team," Mourinho said. "I think no limits for him. Give him a team, give him a national team and he is ready for everything."

For all the bonhomie, Redknapp, like Mourinho, is loth to trust anyone. Both know that in their own way they are under pressure to deal with the enormous expectations that both their clubs have. Both have personalities that cause friction at boardroom level. But if Redknapp triumphs over the next two games, it will be hard for anyone at Spurs to argue that he should not be properly appreciated.

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century