After employing four different foreign managers and two directors of football in the past decade, Tottenham have gone back to basics by putting East Londoner Harry Redknapp in charge after sacking Juande Ramos, his coaching staff and the much criticised Damien Comolli, who had been expected to be made the scapegoat for the worst start to a season in the club's history. Redknapp confirmed early this morning that he has accepted the job after Spurs paid Portsmouth £5 million compensation for his services. He will be at White Hart Lane this afternoon as they attempt to gain a first victory of the campaign against Bolton Wanderers.
"It's a great opportunity for me to take a big job before I retire," Redknapp said. "And a fantastic deal for Portsmouth. I think they need the money."
After managing West Ham United, Portsmouth and Southampton, Redknapp has always been tempted by one shot at a club with some real financial muscle. He came close to joining Newcastle United before Sam Allardyce took over there, but that deal fell through. What he will not want is a director of football, a role he once held himself at Portsmouth, in which he admitted to becoming bored, and eventually succeeded Graham Rix as manager.
He also has the credentials for a relegation fight, having saved the south coast club from relegation after returning from an ill-judged sojourn at Southampton. Ironically, Portsmouth's success in winning the FA Cup and finishing eighth in the Premier League, their best position since 1955, included important contributions from Spurs old boys like Sol Campbell and Jermain Defoe.
"They've got a decent squad on paper," Redknapp said. "But it's not a well balanced squad and maybe has a soft centre. We need a little bit more strength and aggression if we're going to survive. You don't pick up only two points if you're that good."
That hints at the mess that was made in the transfer window, when Spurs played hard-ball with Manchester United over Dimitar Berbatov, keeping him until the last minute and not leaving time to sign adequate replacements. Having already lost Robbie Keane, who shared 46 goals with Berbatov last season, as well as Defoe, they have managed only five goalsin eight League games, and onlytwo in the last five matches in all competitions.
It is the sacking season at White Hart Lane. Christian Gross, in 1998, Glenn Hoddle (2003), Jacques Santini (2004) and Martin Jol exactly a year ago were all dismissed at this time of year after a poor start to the season. Until last week, the feeling was nevertheless that Ramos and his assistant Gus Poyet would be given more time, if only because they had won the club's first trophy fornine years, the Carling Cup last spring, within five months of taking charge of the team.
The writing was on the wall, however, once players started speaking out publicly over the past week. The trouble with a goalkeeper offering criticism of his team is that it tends to look as if he is excluding himself. When Tottenham's Heurelho Gomes suggested in the light of Thursday's defeat by Udinese that "we have to score more goals" and "we are not scoring the first goal in a game, this is the problem," it made him appear happy to be casting the first stone.
David Bentley and Jonathan Woodgate may have done their share of rock-slinging, too, but at least they were sharing the blame. Furthermore, once Gomes said: "We did not keep the ball enough, we have to take more possession of the ball", it was only too easy to point a finger at the man who lost possession of it to cost Spurs the first goal and change the course of the game.
The Brazilian goalkeeper was that man. He seems unlikely to pay for his gaffe and some erratic handling with demotion against Bolton today, largely because in line with Tottenham's failed transfer strategy, the only other option is a 36-year-old Spaniard who has had little time working with an ever-changing defence. "Paul Robinson would have been fine," the former Spurs manager and director of football David Pleat (who signed him) said on Friday. But Robinson is now playing for Blackburn, one of more than 20 one-time Tottenham players currently appearing for teams higher in the Premier League than their old club.
Having started so badly, Spurs cannot even fall back on the cliché that one win is all they need to kickstart the campaign. Anyone tempted to suggest that is the case should check the League table – they would still be stuck at the bottom after taking three points from Bolton – and also the fixture-list: next up, Arsenal away and Liverpool.
What they will hope now is that Redknapp will be able to steady the listing ship until the winter transfer window, when funds will be available for some of his famous wheeler-dealing, this time at a higher level than he has ever been allowed to operate.Reuse content