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Russian praises Spurs 'family'

Pavlyuchenko is relishing being back in favour again at White Hart Lane

Jim van Wijk
Friday 02 April 2010 00:00 BST

Roman Pavlyuchenko feels Tottenham Hotspur's sense of family can help drive the squad on towards Champions League qualification and FA Cup glory.

Harry Redknapp's side are on course for a memorable campaign. They currently occupy the coveted fourth place in the Premier League ahead of big-spending Manchester City and Liverpool, and head to Wembley on 11 April for a Cup semi-final date with Portsmouth.

Pavlyuchenko, 28, looked to be on his way out of White Hart Lane and back to Russia before, with Robbie Keane loaned out to Celtic, suddenly finding himself once more in Redknapp's plans – and he has responded with nine goals in as many games.

The former Spartak Moscow frontman is enjoying life on the pitch again, and has paid tribute to the tight-knit team unit Redknapp has woven together.

"My goals should be credited to the whole team and not just myself," he said. "I am presented with the chances and all I am trying to do is capitalise on them. The team itself has progressed immensely and we are a much better team compared to last year.

"In terms of the spirit we are almost like one family and that definitely contributes to the success we are enjoying at the moment."

Pavlyuchenko sees no reason why Spurs – who have won each of their last five league games – cannot earn themselves a crack at Europe's elite club competition.

"We are trying to become the number four team in the table this year, which opens the road to the Champions League," he said. "There are only two months left and we have to keep winning to finish the job.

"We still have to play the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. These are difficult teams. But in football anything can happen, and any team can be a surprise."

Pavlyuchenko was signed from Spartak in a £13.8m deal during the summer of 2008 following a successful European Championships.

However, the Russian's future looked bleak after featuring in just eight of Spurs' first 34 games, and only starting twice – both of those coming in the Carling Cup.

Indeed, Pavlyuchenko accused Redknapp of "just making fun of me" and jeopardising his career by refusing to allow him to leave during the January transfer window when Lokomotiv Moscow looked to be ready to offer a way out.

That, though, is now all very much water under the bridge, even if both Moscow clubs are monitoring his situation closely with a view to a possible summer move.

"Anyone in my place would feel difficult in a similar situation – being a footballer who was not able to play," Pavlyuchenko said.

"Footballers do not have a long professional career, so you want to enjoy those years playing with a team and being on the pitch. But my situation was a normal one that probably every player has found themselves in at least once in their career."

He added: "Football is such a game that sometimes you are down and have to raise yourself and look forward. I am a Russian and we never give up. It all comes down to hard work in the end – that is how you achieve your goals.

"I took my chance and I wanted to capitalise on it as much as I could, but it is important to keep playing at this level for the rest of the season."

Spurs continue their quest for Champions League qualification tomorrow at Sunderland, where their top scorer, Jermain Defoe, could return to action following a hamstring injury.

Steve Bruce will concentrate on formally securing Sunderland's Premier League status before he starts planning for the future.

Bruce is already engaged in the process of identifying where he might need to strengthen his squad and drawing up a list of potential targets, and will head for the World Cup finals in South Africa as part of his recruitment mission. Full-back Alan Hutton has impressed during his loan spell from Saturday's opponents and is likely to be on the manager's summer wish-list, while Phil Bardsley, the man the Scot has replaced in recent weeks, has hinted he might have to look elsewhere for regular football.

But Bruce is currently thinking no further ahead than the three points he believes will be enough to guarantee the Black Cats a fourth successive season in the top flight. He said: "I haven't had any conversation with the owner or the chairman yet about next year. I am sure once we are safe, we will have those conversations."

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