If ever proof was needed of the renaissance enjoyed by Tottenham Hotspur under the guidance of Harry Redknapp, it could be writ large in the English Premier League table on Saturday.
The north Londoners could move joint top with a home win over Stoke City, almost a year to the day since Redknapp assumed control of a club in freefall.
Their stay at the summit might be brief – Chelsea could overtake them with a victory over Blackburn later Saturday, while Manchester United do not play against Liverpool until Sunday – and given Stoke’s dogged reputation, it might not even happen at all.
But, either way, there can be no doubting the extraordinary effect Redknapp has had on Tottenham in the space of 12 short months.
The extent of Spurs’ woes in October 2008 can hardly be overstated.
Team morale was at an all-time low when Juande Ramos was sacked by chairman Daniel Levy following a meek Uefa Cup defeat to Udinese, a result which followed hard on the heels of a reverse at Stoke which set new standards in incompetence.
Spurs ended that game with nine men, a goalkeeper, Heurelho Gomes, in tears, and well beaten by a side whose sheer physicality overwhelmed a team with a well-deserved reputation for flakiness.
Tottenham were bottom of the table with just two points when Redknapp was parachuted in from Portsmouth to perform a rescue act; now, they are deservedly being mooted as possible contenders for a top four finish.
There is no great secret to Redknapp’s success. He has made a string of astute signings, beefing up his midfield with the addition of Wilson Palacios from Wigan and adding a cutting edge to his front-line by recruiting Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch from Pompey.
Other than that, his triumph appears to lie in having convinced his squad to enjoy their football once again, allowing Tottenham to regain their former reputation as one of English football’s great entertainers.
Aaron Lennon, previously a frustrating talent, is finding consistency and players such as Benoit Assou-Ekotto, once cowed by the expectations which hang heavy at White Hart Lane, are revelling in their surroundings.
The net result is that the club’s ambitions are beginning to mushroom, much to Redknapp’s pleasure. “We have to believe and we have to have a go,” he said. “That is the aim and I can’t keep saying we can’t do it.
“This is the year the top teams are getting beaten. In other years it’s been different but Chelsea and Liverpool were beaten last weekend.
“Liverpool only lost twice last year in the league. There are teams now who, on their better days, can knock the top sides over so I think the league is getting closer.
“Aston Villa got a great result against Chelsea and are going to be there, Manchester City can achieve anything with their squad. We can look to push on and be around that top group all season.”
Tottenham’s progress has earned admiring glances from Stoke manager Tony Pulis, who now believes the Premier League’s traditional ‘big four’ has been doubled in size.
“There is definitely a ‘Big Eight’ now,” he observed. “It is getting a lot more open and Spurs are now a team that can break into the top four, without a doubt.
“I would place them alongside Manchester City, Aston Villa and Everton as the teams with potential to unsettle the big boys,” Pulis added.
“They have just got a wealth of attacking options and it’s undoubtedly one of our toughest games of the season.”
That said, Stoke are no pushovers. Pulis has established the Potters as one of the top flight’s most rigorously disciplined and hard-working teams who like nothing better than upsetting the established elite.
Their visit will be a test of Spurs’ new-found credentials under Redknapp.
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