Jermain Defoe is pushing for a return to Tottenham's team tonight, after two and a half months out, with a reminder of how things have changed at the club in his absence.
Victories over Internazionale three weeks ago and over Arsenal at the weekend have raised expectations around White Hart Lane to a new level. With Rafael van der Vaart likely to miss tonight's Champions League tie with Werder Bremen, Defoe's recovery from an ankle injury sustained on England duty at the start of September is timed perfectly.
But as a demonstration of the higher standards expected by Tottenham these days, manager Harry Redknapp yesterday welcomed Defoe's return with a few challenging comments that are designed to motivate the 28-year-old to greater heights. Redknapp spoke of how Defoe needs to improve his focus and contribute more goals, and used the striker's lean spell at the end of last season as an example. The evidence is that he has scored only four Premier League goals in 2010.
The Tottenham manager also revealed that Defoe is being tutored by the club's former strikers-turned-coaches Les Ferdinand and Clive Allen to hold the ball up better.
Redknapp said: "Jermain is without doubt our biggest goalscorer but I think he can score more goals. He should get 20-plus every year. Last year he had an unbelievable spell and then he dried up. It's up to Jermain to emulate the greats. There's part of his game he can improve. His hold-up play can be better. When the ball comes to him he can be stronger, that's an area he can improve.
"His goalscoring is fantastic, and his movement, but to be the complete frontman, his hold-up play can be better, taking the ball into feet and protecting it better. Les and Clive have been working on that with him."
The loss of Van der Vaart to an ankle injury is cushioned by the return of Defoe, who made an impact without scoring when he came on at half-time of Saturday's remarkable 3-2 victory at Arsenal.
Jermaine Jenas, who came into the side in place of the injured Tom Huddlestone last weekend, said the genesis of that historic victory, Tottenham's first at Arsenal for 17 years, can be traced back to a memorable defeat.
Jenas said Tottenham's 4-3 defeat to Inter at San Siro last month, when Spurs were 4-0 down and reduced to 10 men at half-time, has been the spark that has lit up their season. "It was a catalyst," Jenas said. "We didn't perform in the first half, went down to 10 men and people wrote us off. But in the second half we gave ourselves a mental victory. We had Inter on the ropes with 10 men at San Siro. Not many teams will go and do that. And in doing that we looked at ourselves and said 'We can do anything if we're all at it'."
A victory tonight over a struggling Werder team will see Tottenham qualify for the knockout stages. Bremen have lost five of their last six games, have nine injuries and their Germany international midfielder Torsten Frings is suspended.