Redknapp urges Spurs to focus on bread and butter after glamour of Bremen
Thursday 16 September 2010
From the glamour to the grindstone. On the flight back from Bremen to Stansted in the early hours yesterday, Tottenham Hotspur's VIP supporters – who included old campaigners Martin Chivers and Alan Mullery – may still have been buzzing from a thrilling first game in the Champions League proper, but at the front of the plane the management were already keen to focus minds and bodies on Wolverhampton Wanderers' visit this weekend.
Constantly adapting to the different demands of Europe and back again in quick succession is one of the hardest lessons for players and managers to learn, Manchester United's experiences these past few days suggesting that even those with whole passports full of stamps can be caught out. Like Sir Alex Ferguson, Tottenham's Harry Redknapp had to find the right balance in his team selection, and there was greater satisfaction to be taken from the exciting 2-2 draw away to Werder Bremen than United could dredge up from their tie.
There was still a price to be paid. Already without Heurelho Gomes, Michael Dawson, Luka Modric and Jermain Defoe, Redknapp decided to risk the new Dutch signing Rafael van der Vaart, who made the second goal for Peter Crouch but had to come off with a calf strain after the home side completed their recovery to equalise early in the second half.
It is unlikely that Van der Vaart will be given a third game in eight days at home to Wolves, although William Gallas, who was left on the substitutes' bench in Bremen, could return in defence.
Asked to consider the next group game against the Dutch side Twente, who held the holders Internazionale 2-2 on Tuesday, Redknapp said: "I don't even think about Twente. That's finished until we play again. Wolves will be in our faces on Saturday, like Wigan were. All games are hard after Champions League games. We learned that last time and Wolves will make it tough for us."
Redknapp has admitted that after playing Young Boys in the play-off round, he should have brought in some fresher players for the home game with Wigan three days later, which Spurs unexpectedly lost to a team they had beaten 9-1 last November. The warnings are there for the visit of Wolves, who defeated them twice last season and return to London with taunts from Fulham supporters last weekend that they are "a disgrace to the Premier League" ringing in their ears.
Adding the experience of Van der Vaart and Gallas has further strengthened a squad whose list of all-international substitutes in Bremen confirmed the fact, all the more so given the list of injuries. Crouch – who forced the first goal with his pressure, headed the second superbly and narrowly missed scoring a winner just before the finish – summed up the mood when he said: "Our bench was as strong as any in Europe, so we have to take the positives from this game."
Crouch benefited from Van der Vaart's role between midfield and attack, where Werder found it impossible to pin him down. As Ledley King, returning as captain for his one game per week, put it: "In his first day of training it worked really well, linking up and playing off Crouchy. He's played at the highest level and it's great to have players like him. There is no reason why we should have any fear and we have to get it into our heads that we are as good as all those teams out there."
Spurs must now prove that includes Wolves on Saturday.
Results so far: FC Twente 2 Internazionale 2, W Bremen 2 Tottenham 2.
Tottenham's remaining fixtures: 29 Sep FC Twente (h); 20 Oct Internazionale (a); 2 Nov Internazionale (h); 24 Nov Werder Bremen (h); 7 Dec FC Twente (a).
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