Redknapp's miracle work begins

October 26, 2008
By The Insider
(Archive)

TOTTENHAM 2-0 BOLTON

It didn't take long for Harry Redknapp to begin the healing process at Tottenham Hostpur.

With his cheeky chirp and warm charm few have ever bothered trying to resist Redknapp, and after Sunday's debut what few doubters he may have had at White Hart Lane will be re-evaluating their position.

GettyImagesHarry Redknapp applauds the Spurs fans at the final whistle.

Just a few hours after he replaced Juande Ramos as Spurs manager, Redknapp led his new club to their belated first win of the season and he was at his jovial best as he toasted the victory that went a long way to reviving a club that had apparently been in terminal decline until Saturday night.

''I looked out on that field today and had to wonder how those players are bottom of the league,'' said the media maestro Redknapp in his first appearance as Tottenham boss. ''Bolton couldn't get the ball for long periods and with that kind of quality in the team, we should find a way of getting out of trouble.

''This is an opportunity I had to take. If I had turned this chance down, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. I have been promised total control of the transfer policy at the club and with the backing of a good chairman in Daniel Levy, I couldn't say no to Spurs.

''People said I didn't have the bottle for a big club when I turned down Newcastle a while back, but people don't realise I could have come to Tottenham 18 months ago when Martin Jol was in charge. When the chance came again, I had to throw myself into it.''

It was 12.04am when the Tottenham website announced the dramatic developments heralding the exit of boss Ramos and his assistant Gus Poyet, yet confirmation that discredited Sporting Director Damien Comolli was being swept aside simultaneously confirmed this club was determined to find its voice again.

Tottenham were among the first clubs in England to champion the Director of Football nonsense, yet it has caused them nothing but trouble with a succession of managers from Glenn Hoddle to Martin Jol and now Ramos.

The fact that they wanted to employ a middle man between the dugout and the boardroom was never the problem, yet the all-encompassing brief he was given proved to be destructive.

In truth, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy would have been wise to dispense with Comolli's services rather than Jol's a year ago as by allowing his master of misjudgement to spend another disastrous twelve months in position, the squad Redknapp now inherits is more unbalanced than it should have been.

With just two senior strikers to select from, a total lack of midfield bite and barely a leader in sight, the fitting epitaph for this misfit would not get past the ESPNsoccernet legal team. Suffice to say, Tottenham are a hell of a lot better off without the man who has been the chief architect of their alarming demise.

As it is impossible not to have some affinity for the relentlessly affable Redknapp, his mere presence at White Hart Lane was a relief for many and he received a rapturous welcome when he was presented to his new public 15 minutes before kick-off. Indeed, it took those previously battered supporters less than a minute to break into a chorus of 'Harry Redknapp's Blue and White Army', confirming few in the stadium were lamenting the hasty departures of Messrs Ramos, Poyet and the hapless Comolli.

Yet even the most optimistic of souls require something to cling onto and after their team turned in an opening burst of football that saw them hungrier into tackles and bursting with desire, the goal they needed to lift the roof arrived after 16 minutes. David Bentley's cross was given a finishing touch by Roman Pavlyuchenko's downward header.

One of Redknapp's first decisions as Tottenham boss was to restore the British spirit this team has been lacking of late. Six home grown players started this game and with three more sat a row in front of us in the press box, he could increase that number for the trip to Arsenal on Wednesday. Jonathan Woodgate, Michael Dawson and Gareth Bale all missed this game, while Englishman Darren Bent and Aaron Lennon were on the bench.

While this was to be a winning first day at the office for Redknapp in the end, he will have been alerted to the most obvious and startling weak spot in this Tottenham team after comedy keeper Heurelho Gomes confirmed once again that he is incapable of catching a cold, never mind a cross.

The £7.8m Comolli-inspired capture from PSV Eindhoven is lacking in any form of confidence, yet his inability to catch the ball is not a flaw that will be corrected any time soon. On a day when Bolton must have felt they were gate crashers to a party they would rather have avoided, Gomes continued to fill them with hope as he flapped at everything that came in his direction.

Confirmation that Tottenham's luck may have changed simultaneously with the arrival of their new manager arrived as Gavin McCann was sent off for a second bookable offence 11 minutes after the restart. Dawson, Bale and Jamie O'Hara have all seen red for Tottenham in the last couple of games, but they were the beneficiaries of the extra man this time.

Instead of asserting control of the game from that point, nerves came into Tottenham's play and they were not helped by a display from keeper Gomes that got worse by the minute. The ironic cheers every time he touched the ball were coming from his own supporters, who have already concluded this is one Comolli dud who cannot be revived.

GettyImagesGetting the most of Modric will be one of Harry's main aims.

Then came the goal that killed off Bolton as a moment of magic from the impressive Luka Modric forced a fine save out of Jussi Jaaskelainen, before the Bolton keeper hauled down Darren Bent as he picked up the loose ball. Bent picked himself off the floor to convert the penalty to the delight Redknapp, who leapt from his seat in delight.

''Clive Allen picked the team today, so he deserves plenty of credit,'' added Redknapp. ''I was very impressed with the performance and players like Luka Modric and David Bentley are quality performers who we have to try and get the best out of. It's an exciting challenge for me.''

Bolton boss Gary Megson screamed and shouted for all he was worth on the touchline, but he was quick to confirm his side were second best in this game. ''We never got going and gave them all the encouragement they needed by giving away a terrible first goal,'' he said.

''The atmosphere around the ground was more upbeat than it might have been without Harry's arrival, but we never got to grips with the situation and have to make sure we are on our game for the two massive matches we have coming up at the Reebok Stadium.''

A huge dark cloud has lifted above White Hart Lane and the chorus of anthems as the game concluded confirmed Tottenham fans no longer feel ashamed to announce themselves as such. Harry Redknapp has already made quite an impact.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Luka Modric
The little Croatian has struggled to adapt to life in England since his high profile arrival in the summer, but he showed glimpses of what he is capable of with an all-action display against Bolton. ''Luka needs to be played in a free role and he can be a magical player,'' enthused Redknapp.

BENTLEY BOUNCE: Tottenham spent £15m to sign David Bentley last summer, yet he has spent most of his time since talking himself up as a superstar in the making rather than proving as much on the pitch. Today, he turned in the sort of hard working display to win over a few of his doubters, though he is still a little selfish at times.

LACKING DIRECTION: Tottenham skipper Ledley King was a little confused as he led his team out for the second half and promptly ran towards the wrong end of the pitch. He needed stewards to direct correct his mistake.

COACHING POSITIONS: Redknapp will bring in old pal Kevin Bond to assist him at Tottenham and will approach a couple of ex-Spurs players to join him as well.

HARRY QUIP: 'I'm not going to say this is my last job in football because I say that everywhere I go and then turn up somewhere else a few weeks later!'

REDKNAPP VERDICT: It should not be hard for a coach of Redknapp's quality to find a winning formula at Tottenham. His new players are already look ready to give an extra 10% in terms of effort and they have the ability to shine if they are moulded correctly. Keeper Gomes has to go with haste, but the man brought in to revive Spurs will already be feeling optimistic.