Redknapp serves notice of Spurs' intent to stay capital's top dogs
Saturday 25 February 2012
Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, has issued a three-pronged directive to Arsenal fans ahead of tomorrow's north London derby at the Emirates Stadium.
The first message was simple enough: that his current club intended to maintain their status as London's top club to the end of the season and beyond. Indeed, victory would extend their current points advantage over Arsenal to 13.
"We are sitting in front of them at the moment, it's a healthy lead for sure," he said. "We would have all taken a 10-point lead with 13 games to go, wouldn't we? I want to finish above Arsenal and Chelsea [who also trail by 10 points ahead of today's game against Bolton] this year, that's really important. If we can finish above the Manchester clubs then that would be even better. That is very difficult but we are still there, it is not impossible."
Arsenal will go into the game reeling from setbacks at home and abroad as patchy form in the Premier League has been accompanied by an FA Cup exit at Sunderland and a 4-0 loss at Milan in the first leg of a Champions League tie that is surely beyond redemption.
Arsène Wenger, the manager, finds himself under increasing pressure as supporters who believed he could do no wrong just a few months ago are now coming to the conclusion that the Frenchman's time must soon be up.
Redknapp, a childhood Arsenal fan himself, was clear over his second message to the Emirates faithful, which amounted to "be careful what you wish for". "They can't do any better than what they've got, can they?" he said. "They can't replace Wenger. He has been amazing the job he has done there. They have had fantastic times. Fifteen years of Champions League football. It's incredible."
Redknapp, who has seen Rafael van der Vaart, Luka Modric, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Emmanuel Adebayor all passed fit, backed Wenger to come through his current woes, just as Sir Alex Ferguson came through his in the 1990s when the likes of Conservative MP turned radio pundit David Mellor were stirring up dissent.
"We've seen Fergie get it haven't we?" Redknapp mused. "I heard people say a few years ago after they got beat somewhere – I remember them getting beat six at Southampton – that he had lost the plot. David Mellor was on saying: 'It's about time Fergie went, ring us up and tell us.' He is still going strong."
Redknapp's final message also had a nostalgic theme – a wish to return to the days when opposition supporters did not direct offensive chants at each other. Redknapp knows he will be a target himself, especially after his recent Crown Court tax evasion case.
Inevitably it will be former Arsenal forward Adebayor who will be on the end of most of the vitriol, with the game at White Hart Lane earlier in the season featuring chants from the away end about the player's survival of the gun attack on the Togo team coach in 2010.
"Why do people have to chant abuse and filth?" he asked. "I don't understand it, I don't know what it's about. We never used to do it when I was a kid. Last week we went to Stevenage, there was only a small crowd but people enjoyed the game and got behind the teams. There was no filthy chanting."
Redknapp will also have a word with the combustible Adebayor and remind him of his responsibilities. "I'm sure it will be OK," he said.
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