Redknapp sets his sights on 'big four'

Tottenham 1 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Football

Having succeeded in scheming their great escape with six games to spare, Harry Redknapp has now turned his attention to Tottenham Hotspur's push for a place in the Europa League next season and an assault on the Premier League's "big four". Given their pedigree, however, a ninth FA Cup triumph may be more likely for Spurs as he consolidates after performing the small miracle of transforming Juande Ramos's demoralised underachievers into serial points-grabbers.

This success, in a tight encounter on Saturday, demonstrated perfectly the progress that Spurs have made during Redknapp's shrewd stewardship, but it also offered hints of a more expansive future. This was signalled most obviously by the substitution of a blunt Darren Bent by a razor-sharp Roman Pavlyuchenko, the Russian striker settling the outcome with a fine 65th-minute goal.

Receiving from the mercurial Luka Modric, he controlled and turned James Collins before planting a low diagonal shot across and beyond Robert Green. As a statement of intent, it was deafening. West Ham United, their resistance broken, had no response. Spurs, defeated once in nine outings, marched on.

Redknapp, clearly impressed by the 27-year-old centre-forward's technical ability, seems ready to build around him, but first wants confirmation during the summer that he will learn English, build his strength and broaden his game to include a selfless work ethic. "His English is a problem, yes," said Redknapp. "We have his interpreter running around the training ground and, sometimes, when the ball is passed, he chases it and heads it into the back of the net. He runs alongside him all the time. I'm saying, 'who's that?' and 'what's he doing on the pitch?' "

The joke hides a truth, however, as so often with Redknapp, and he mixed his reservations with unbridled praise. "He's a home bird, he's a clean-cut lovely lad and he's settled all right here. It's the weather, isn't it, after Russia? And, technically, he is a top-class player.

"He can hold the ball, he can turn, make clever runs, make a pass and he is good in the air too. He scores good goals. We just need more work from him, winning the ball back and doing things under pressure. He has to play 'up top' as the front man because we have Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe, who play in the hole.

"But Pava likes to drop off and play around the box. He has a clever brain and he can play on the level and same wavelength as Modric. He is going to be some player."

Provided, of course, that he makes his English as eloquent as his football. Then, as Redknapp predicted, Spurs can join Everton and Aston Villa among the clubs seeking to break up the top quartet.

Goal: Pavlyuchenko (65) 1-0.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, King, Woodgate, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas (Zokora, h-t) , Huddlestone, Modric; Bent (Pavlyuchenko, 56), Keane. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk); Bale, Bentley, Dawson, Chimbonda.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Tomkins (Savio, 80), Collins, Upson, Ilunga; Boa-Morte (Dyer, 70), Neill, Noble, Stanislas; Di Michele, Tristan (Sears, 84). Substitutes not used: Lastuvka (gk), Lopez, Payne, N'Gala.

Referee: M Atkinson (Yorkshire).

Man of the match: King.

Attendance: 35,969.