Harry Redknapp believes that his current Tottenham Hotspur team would beat even the 1989-90 vintage, the last Spurs side to finish third in the league.
That team, starring Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker, went on to win the FA Cup in 1991. But the current side, which might tonight be level on points with the league leaders, is stronger, claimed Redknapp.
"They had a few special players: Gazza, Lineker, and Gary Mabbutt was a good player," said Redknapp yesterday of the '89-90 side. "But you'd fancy this team would be stronger than that now." In the light of the trend of returning legends at Manchester United and Arsenal, he laughed about doing the same with that old Spurs generation: "They had a couple of big match winners in Gazza and Lineker, obviously you wouldn't mind those two. They would be two good January signings."
Joking aside, Redknapp again stressed his gratitude for the technical quality at his disposal. "We have got some outstanding players," he said. "Gareth Bale is up there with the best; there aren't too many Bales around and there is quality throughout the team."
The Spurs manager does believe, though, that there is less leadership and commitment from players than there used to be. "Where do you find the Tony Adams of this world?" Redknapp asked, after saying that not many clubs have players in the mould of Bobby Moore. "There are not many around. The Steven Gerrards, the [Jamie] Carraghers, John Terrys – they are very difficult to find. Footballers in general are a lot quieter than they used to be."
In this era of diminished loyalties, Redknapp admitted that Tottenham would need to come close to offering Luka Modric the wages he could earn at Chelsea, as money, rather than football, would be the decisive factor in the player's preference. "Players play for a football club and they enjoy being there, but if someone comes along and offers them a contract that could blow their current one out of the water, it's very difficult," he conceded. "They are not going to say, 'I was born in Croatia but I have always wanted to play for Tottenham.' If someone offers to treble a player's wages, you've got a problem, haven't you?"
Accordingly, Redknapp urged the club to be generous in contract discussions with Modric. "I'd be talking rubbish if I said people wanted to stay at Tottenham just because we're playing good football," he said. "If you want to keep the best players, we have to find a way of doing a deal that's near to what they can earn elsewhere."
The sheer volume of money in the game clearly surprises Redknapp. "The other week," he recounted, "one of the lads said to Emmanuel Adebayor that he had not paid his £50 fine for being the worst player in training on a Friday morning. One of the lads said to him: 'Bloody hell Ade, you're on 200 grand a week and you can't afford to pay a £50 fine!' He replied: 'Don't insult me: it's 225!' He certainly isn't getting that here."
Redknapp insisted that Jermain Defoe, whom he said had "every chance" of starting against Wolverhampton Wanderers at home today, would be staying at Spurs. "He is not moving anywhere. He is on contract here and is a big player for us and is going to be an important player. I would not consider letting him out on loan." Redknapp is also keen to keep Steven Pienaar, subject of an offer yesterday from Queen's Park Rangers.