Wednesday, 2 May 2012
One for the road
One of the defining features of the Tottenham Hotspur typecast of the last twenty years is our travel sickness. With no away wins in the calendar year, you'd be forgiven for thinking that we've reverted to type and that there is little point in sticking with Spurs for the last three games of the season beyond a morbid sense of habit or obligation. One possible home win on the last day of the season and a reluctant acceptance of sixth place wouldn't be much to shout about in a season that promised so much.
The meek performance at Loftus Road suggested that towels had already been thrown onto sun loungers, that transfer requests were already in and that Harry was busy planning a summer foray into eastern Europe rather than focussing on the job at hand. Some even went so far as to suggest that Harry was deliberately sabotaging the end of our season to achieve a dismissal that would save the F.A. a few bob in compensation money and improve his prospects of managing the English national team. A self-destruct to spite a Chairman who has fallen somewhat short of offering unequivocal support in the transfer window.
Apparently, Tevez was the blue sky thought, Saha the grim reality. The squad's too thin and it's everybody else's fault.I'd departed White City last week having reached what I'd thought was a point of no return in terms of my views on Harry. I'd lost patience with the lack of tactical nous, with the series of high profile defeats in really key games, with the short term signings, the less than sound bytes from our manager and a returning inability to beat lesser sides. It should not take 70 minutes of shouting "He plays on the left" to persuade a manager to play arguably the world's greatest left winger in his best position. Jol, Martinez, Rodgers and even Benitez all started to look shiny, new, possible and even plausible.
But this is not all Harry's fault. Some players have looked tired or beyond repair, some distracted, some ineffective and some like they're more important than the club. Whatever their angle, many of the players have simply let the side down with substandard performances. The transfers delivered in the winter window were delivered below our requirement and expectation because the Chairman anticipated a managerial departure. Sensible self-harming, there is no such thing Daniel and the lack of a plausible offer for top quality vertebrae to plug into the top and bottom end of the spine of the team has proved costly. The F.A. has continued the work of Mr Terry, Mr Atkinson and Mr Foy and royally shafted us. By allowing the speculation to rumble on and turn everybody's head, including all the key people at our club, the F.A. has cost us a certain third place.
Astonishingly though, it hasn't cost us third place altogether yet. The procession past Blackburn at the weekend means we could still finish there, we could still see Arsenal fail to make the Champions League. We could still finish the season as we'd spent much of it, as the top London club. It's a remote possibility, little more than a dream, but possible nonetheless.
So now is not the time to judge, we've fallen from a great height to a not so great height but we're still in with a chance of our highest league position since the early 90's. We might be sick of the denial, of the swing from 'we're going to win the league' to 'Fulham at home will be difficult' from 'best supporters in the world to 'idiots' but, if we're honest, we do this ourselves. We might not be running the show admittedly, but then why shouldn't the modern manager be as fickle as the modern player or the modern fan? Sometimes management isn't about knowing the direction of travel that will be taken to achieve an end goal, sometimes it's about finding the route to goal as a part of the journey. Yes, I've been at management event recently, but it's fair to say that, like all football people, Harry has to be reactive at times given the hand he's been dealt and we shouldn't be wholly unsympathetic to this.
I suspect Harry got a heads up courtesy call from Roy at half time on Sunday evening. The only reason for this suspicion being that Bale played on the left for the second half. (Was I alone in noticing that Bale didn't do his last man standing walk of applause to all four corners of the ground on Sunday? Come on Gareth, we've been following the game for years, we're a knowledgeable crowd, don't get petulant if you don't like the advice). I digress. A position of greater stability and authority for Harry in the dressing room could be a critical factor as we enter the last knockings of the season. The players will have to listen. Furthermore, will Levy really sack Harry and his back room boys and then take on compensation fees for someone else's manager in the summer when there's ground to break for a new stadium? Of course he won't.
Like it or not, I think we have another year of the Redknapp era to go, at the least, I know we have another three matches. So let's get behind him, at least for these last games, and see if he can restore some of the magic (it really was) that we saw in the first half of the season. If Harry achieves three wins in these last three games, it'll be his most significant personal triumph since February and will save our season, but first he has to make his travel sick side one for the road.