HARRY PLAYS IT COOL
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