Keeping fringe players happy is difficult admits Harry Redknapp


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The Independent Football

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp admits he has a fight on his hands to keep his fringe players happy.

With Spurs currently on a 10-match unbeaten run that has seen them climb to third in the Barclays Premier League, Redknapp has been loath to rotate his squad, although tomorrow's Europa League clash with PAOK Salonika will be a rare exception.

Vedran Corluka this week joined Sebastien Bassong, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Heurelho Gomes in declaring his wish to leave White Hart Lane in January due to limited first-team chances, while Jermain Defoe has been linked with a move to QPR after falling behind Emmanuel Adebayor in the pecking order.

But with two-thirds of the season remaining and the club fighting for silverware in three competitions, Redknapp is reluctant to deplete his squad.

"It's difficult because the players want to play. You won't keep them happy [if they're not]. You just hope you can convince them [to stay]," Redknapp said.

"You want to keep them happy and onside. We need them. We're going to need a big squad and unless you can get a replacement, you can't afford to let people go.

"We need that strength in depth, especially if we stay in Europa League."

While Spurs' league form has seen them rocket to within two points of second-placed Manchester United, their Europa League campaign has stuttered slightly.

A 1-0 defeat at Rubin Kazan saw the London club drop to third in Group A, but they could return to the summit if they beat PAOK at White Hart Lane, and could go through as winners if they also win against Shamrock Rovers next month.

Redknapp wants his team to regain the initiative with a victory against the Greeks, but admits that he will stick to his policy of turning to youngsters like Jake Livermore, Harry Kane and Tom Carroll to do the job.

"Tomorrow is a must-win game. We are a point behind PAOK. You can see Rubin beating Shamrock, so we need to win," Redknapp said.

"We don't want to go to the last game because Rubin could rest players for last game and they will have already qualified.

"But that doesn't change what team I'd put out. I'd have made 11 changes to the team but Pavlyuchenko tweaked his knee yesterday quite badly, so Jermain Defoe might have to play."

Goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini has spent the vast majority of his time at Spurs on the bench, but he is likely to start tomorrow's game after starring in Kazan.

The Italian, who won two league titles at Chelsea, has been impressed with Spurs' recent league form, but has warned that the club must not lose their focus if they are to claim the top-four spot that escaped them last term.

"This team has everything to be special but there's still a long way to go," the 38-year-old said.

"Since I've been here the Christmas period is very important. You have many games in a short space and you have to try to get the most out of it.

"For this club it's very important to finish in top four. To be in the top four for this club is very important.

"We experienced what it meant to be part of Champions League campaign last year and we want to get it back again. That's the main target."

Spurs are expecting a crowd of between 25,000 and 30,000 for tomorrow's game despite stopping ticket sales yesterday evening.

The club stopped sales on the advice of safety advisors after it was feared PAOK fans had started to buy tickets in the home stands after selling out their away allocation.

Around 3,000 PAOK supporters without tickets are thought to have travelled to London.