Harry Redknapp admits he dreads the moment when, each morning, the Tottenham physio comes in with his latest fitness bulletin on Spurs' injury-hit squad – and with good reason. Already deprived of his two first-choice centre-backs, Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate, and shorn of options in midfield with Aaron Lennon, Jermaine Jenas, David Bentley and Tom Huddlestone all out, Redknapp was dealt a further blow on Thursday when Jermain Defoe sustained a hamstring tear in training.
Defoe, who has suffered a grade two tear, should only miss the next three weeks – meaning England manager Fabio Capello will not be too concerned with the World Cup still more than two months away – but Redknapp is refusing to set a return date for the striker.
Lennon, the England winger who picked up a groin injury in December, was initially expected to be back by the end of January but is still on the sidelines and Redknapp, without wishing to scaremonger, is not discounting a lengthy lay-off for his top scorer.
"Hopefully it could be three weeks but I don't know – you never know with hamstrings and those injuries, do you?" Redknapp said. "You can never tell. It's like with Lennon – I could sit here and say, 'Well, he's going to be back in 3-4 weeks'. I could have said that 14 weeks ago. It's a massive loss for us. A massive loss. But that is the way it seems to be going for us at the moment.
"I dread the physio ringing me. Every time he rings up or he walks in the office in the morning, I fear the worst. It's every day. It's just one [injury] after the other."
The best-case scenario is that Defoe, who despite his injury was able to jog during Spurs training yesterday, will miss four matches – Premier League games against Stoke, at the Britannia Stadium today, Portsmouth and Sunderland, as well as next Wednesday's FA Cup quarter-final replay against Fulham. He could therefore return for a possible cup semi against Portsmouth on 11 April.
The worst-case scenario? Redknapp does not even want to think about that. "I don't know what it is, we just keep getting injuries," he said. "We're short. There will probably be five kids on the bench against Stoke."
Redknapp is down to the bare bones as he surveys the wreckage of his squad. David Bentley was expected to return today but he is a doubt after being struck with a virus.
Redknapp attempted to put a brave face on things, however, as his side try to maintain their grip on fourth place and the final Champions League place. "We've had injuries for weeks and weeks and weeks but we've coped well. We coped when Aaron went. We missed him but other players have come in and done well," he said.
"We've got to keep it going until the end of the season and not make excuses about injuries."