Darren Bent called it "silly" that Juande Ramos had believed that he could not play alongside Roman Pavlyuchenko and in the extraordinary, out-your-seat finale to Tottenham's victory over Liverpool on Saturday you had to agree. Harry Redknapp is breaking up the old preconceptions of the previous Spurs regime one by one and it has prompted a stunning revival at White Hart Lane.
Just a few minutes after Pavlyuchenko's winning goal had grabbed Spurs their second thrilling comeback in five days, Bent became the latest player breathlessly to acclaim Redknapp's revival of the club. All the problems and grievances of Ramos's Spurs regime are now coming to the surface, although few were more damaging than his belief – voiced by his assistant Gus Poyet after the defeat to Portsmouth in September – that Bent and Pavlyuchenko could not play together.
Having slotted the ball back into the area for Pavlyuchenko's goal, Bent offered a damning verdict on Ramos's view on the non-compatibility of his two strikers – combined transfer spend in excess of £30m. "It is a bit of a silly thing to say, considering they have obviously gone and bought him with me already there," he said. "As you could see tonight I set him up for the winner. With time the partnership will blossom. Harry seems to be able to work these miracles and at the moment he has us playing and knowing we can win games."
This was another thriller after Wednesday's comeback against Arsenal, which gives Redknapp seven points from three games, and, while the run will have to end somewhere, it is worth considering what the Spurs manager achieved on Saturday. Against a supremely well organised Liverpool team, who took the lead in the third minute through Dirk Kuyt, he made some bold changes at half-time that showed Redknapp can cut it with the best coaches in the country.
He bolstered his left-side by substituting Benoït Assou-Ekotto and moving Vedran Corluka to take care of Kuyt, he brought on Alan Hutton on the right and, by introducing Pavlyuchenko, went from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2. Brave but simple stuff and, after Liverpool hit the frame of the Spurs goal three times, the home side came back into it. By the end it was Redknapp who looked the more astute tactician rather than his acclaimed opposite number, Rafael Benitez.
But, this being Redknapp, there was a story to tell too. What did he say to Pavlyuchenko at half-time? "Not a lot," said Redknapp, "he doesn't speak English, he's got an interpreter." What did he tell the interpreter? "I just told him to tell Pavlyuchenko to fucking run around a bit. The boy himself just kept nodding his head. He might be thinking inside: 'What's this tosser saying to me?'"
It worked beautifully, however, after Jamie Carragher had scored an own goal with a misdirected header from a corner on 69 minutes to get Spurs back in the game. David Bentley's shot in injury time was well saved by Pepe Reina, but Bent cut it back across the goal and Pavlyuchenko flicked it beautifully into the far corner.
The mood at Spurs has changed considerably in the space of one mad week, as Bent pointed out. "At one stage at the training ground it was a horrible place to be," he said. "The undercurrent was that everyone was just really down and there was no team morale. Since Harry's come in everyone's just shown a new lease of life and you've seen that in the performances.
"It wasn't nice when Ramos banished a lot of players to the reserves because he didn't want them. Harry's come in and made everyone welcome and I think that's the respect you've got to show. If you show them respect they do what's been done against Liverpool and they get a result."
Liverpool's first league defeat this season means that they conceded first place to Chelsea on goal difference and they know now that their performance against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League tomorrow and, more pertinently, West Bromwich in the league on Saturday will be scrutinised for signs that they are cracking. It is now, Carragher said, after their first setback, that they have to show they have the stomach for the fight.
"Look how Chelsea have reacted since we beat them and how Manchester United reacted when they lost to us," Carragher said. "They've been on a great run since. It's how you come back from your setbacks. This will be a test for us now. If you want to show you're a championship contender, it's how you bounce back.
"Before Jose Mourinho came to Chelsea you could get away with losing five or six but now it seems to be three or four. The standards are so high. You can't afford to lose too many."
It was, Carragher said, "the effect Harry Redknapp has had" which inspired Spurs to hang in there when they might have collapsed. Tottenham are still in the relegation places but they are only six points behind Everton in seventh place. They are still in the gutter, so to speak, but at least, for the first time in a while, they can see the stars.
Goals: Kuyt (3) 0-1; Carragher og (71) 1-1; Pavlyuchenko (90) 2-1.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-1-1): Gomes; Corluka, King, Woodgate, Assou-Ekotto (Hutton, h-t); Bentley, Huddlestone, Zokora, O'Hara (Pavlyuchenko, h-t); Modric (Lennon, 75); Bent. Substitutes not used: Sanchez (gk), Bale, Gunter, Campbell.
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Dossena; Alonso, Mascherano; Kuyt, Gerrard, Riera (Benayoun, 78); Keane (Babel, 66). Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Hyypia, Aurelio, Lucas, El Zhar.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Tottenham Hotspur King; Liverpool Gerrard, Carragher.
Man of the match: King.
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