As Tottenham's first-team squad trooped off the training pitch Friday lunchtime, the coaches looked as if they might outnumber the players. Here in front of Harry Redknapp were Joe Jordan, Kevin Bond and Tim Sherwood – newly added to the party – and Clive Allen with a bag of footballs over his shoulder. Tony Parks, once a Uefa Cup final hero with his saves in the penalty shoot-out, has joined Perry Suckling as a goalkeeping coach, and Les Ferdinand has been signed up to work with the forwards. The staff five-a-side team will have substitutes to spare.
One thing links every one of them: Britishness. "You need your own people round you," is Redknapp's explanation after dispensing with the Austrian goalkeeping coach who had been brought in by the previous Spanish-Uruguayan regime to work with a Dutch-speaking Brazilian keeper whose howlers have been costing vital points. Communication breakdown? The voluble Redknapp has been berating a lack of "talkers" at the club, but there can be little doubt that since his arrival the banter among players and staff – much of it Cockney chirping – has increased.
For players like Darren Bent, the striker reinvented under new management, it is all for the good. Redknapp's predecessor, Juande Ramos, Bent claimed last week, "said about four words to me in a year" (in which language he did not specify).
Martin Jol, though more fluent, was equally reluctant to use a player who was brought in for £16.5 million apparently on the recommendation of the discredited director of football, Daniel Comolli; Jol's selection priorities being more understandable in that for much of the time he also had Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe to choose from.
"Certainly in my career I seem to have performed better with English managers," Bent said. "Juande and Martin I didn't play too much under." The one exception that may emerge is the important figure of Fabio Capello, who welcomed Bent back into the England fold last week for the first time in a year and told him exactly what he wanted. Capello would have been rewarded with a goal from his half-time substitute in Germany had Bent's foot not slipped on the greasy turf just as he shot, after producing the outstanding movement behind a defence that is his trademark.
"I was wearing the right footwear and there's not a lot you can do," he said on Friday. "Afterwards the manager said I'd done well, looked lively and held up the ball well, and he said to keep going for Tottenham."
He will need to, starting at home to Blackburn this afternoon, since the previous night Redknapp had watched his team-mate Fraizer Campbell score an excellent goal for England's Under-21s. Then there is the accomplished Russian Roman Pavlyuchenko, whose undoubted quality should shine through once he settles in.
Bent admits his confidence did take a knock in that first season at White Hart Lane, although he neither came close to leaving nor doubted the ability that has brought 112 goals in 271 games for largely unsuccessful teams. Seven of those came in the first five matches under Redknapp, including the epic 4-4 draw at Arsenal in which he detected some of the tensions that William Gallas unwisely sounded off about in public last week: "It's not like Arsenal to have that tension between them, but you could definitely feel something was down. You could hear players arguing between themselves."
Wins over Liverpool, twice, Dinamo Zagreb and Manchester City followed, yet defeat at Fulham last weekend sank Spurs back into the bottom three. Redknapp's reaction was unambiguous – in any language – and offered every incentive to avoid a repeat.
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