HARRY PLAYS IT COOL

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

TH­ESE are heady times for Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur. Top of the fledg­ling Premier League ta­ble, de­mol­ish­ing op­po­nents amid a flurry of goals and boast­ing their strong­est squad in years, op­ti­mism is mush­room­ing at a stag­ger­ing rate.

Yet Harry Red­knapp, the club’s canny man­ager, will do his best to sti­fle ex­pec­ta­tions ahead of to­day’s meet­ing with Birm­ing­ham.

He has held to his well-es­tab­lished line that achiev­ing Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion will be a vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble task, but he might strug­gle to keep ex­pec­ta­tions un­der con­trol if Spurs con­tinue their cur­rent im­pres­sive form for much longer. Spurs have al­ready beaten Liver­pool, run­ners-up in the top flight last sea­son, and chalked up im­pres­sive away wins at Hull and West Ham, be­fore de­mol­ish­ing Don­caster in the League Cup.

The whis­pers at White Hart Lane are of a chal­lenge to the es­tab­lished top four and maybe suc­cess in a cup com­pe­ti­tion as well. Those aims may not be out­landish.

For the first time since Martin Jol led Tot­ten­ham to within a whisker of fourth place in 2006, Spurs have a squad which boasts both depth and ver­sa­til­ity.

In mid­field, there is a pleas­ing blend of steel and silk, with the ex­cel­lent form of Wil­son Pala­cios fi­nally end­ing the club’s search for a gen­uine en­forcer in the mid­dle, while few top flight teams can boast four strik­ers of the cal­i­bre of Jer­main De­foe, Peter Crouch, Ro­man Pav­lyuchenko and Rob­bie Keane.

“I’ve a strong for­ward line and it’s a great prob­lem to have,” Red­knapp said. “Guys like Crouchy have been un­lucky be­cause I’ve started the sea­son with Jer­main and Rob­bie and they’ve been great for us. Crouchy and Pav have just been un­lucky not to get a game.

“We’re lucky in that we can ro­tate the strik­ers oc­ca­sion­ally and we can do dif­fer­ent things against dif­fer­ent teams,” Red­knapp said. “It’s a long sea­son and we’ll need four strik­ers and it’s great to have those op­tions.”

If there is a chink in Tot­ten­ham’s ar­mour, it could be in de- fence, where too many of the club’s pre­ferred choices are prone to se­ri­ous in­juries. Jonathan Woodgate and Led­ley King have been be­dev­illed by fit­ness con­cerns in re­cent sea­son and can­not be re­lied upon to fea­ture ev­ery week and ques­tion­marks linger over their re­place­ments. Ve­dran Cor­luka prefers to play at right-back and Michael Daw­son was jit­tery for much of last sea­son, while Se­bastien Bas­song might need longer to set­tle in on the ba­sis of his dis­plays so far.

Nev­er­the­less, it is easy to un­der­stand the bur­geon­ing hopes of Tot­ten­ham fans ahead of Birm­ing­ham’s visit.

The newly pro­moted west mid­lands club com­pleted the dou­ble over Spurs in their last so­journ into the top flight in 2007-08 and have be­gun the sea­son im­pres­sively, col­lect­ing four points in their first three games, but an­other victory to­day would rep­re­sent a ma­jor shock.

“Spurs have had a bril­liant start,” said man­ager Alex McLeish.

“We know what we face there, they have cap­ti­vated the coun­try with their imag­i­na­tive foot­ball and we know we are in for a game.” – Sapa-AFP

EN­FORCER: Spurs mid­fielder Wil­son Pala­cios

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