Redknapp calls for patience as Spurs' Euro trail begins
HISTORY has weighed heavily on Tottenham over the years but chairman Daniel Levy said last night that it also dictated that the club deserved to be in the Champions League.
After almost half a century, Spurs are back at Europe's top table. Little wonder that boss Harry Redknapp said it was time for the players to "seize the opportunity" even if he admitted that it would be "very difficult" to emulate the achievements of Bill Nicholson and the boys of 1961-'62, who reached the semi-finals of the European Cup. "The key for me was getting this far," he said. "My dread was going out in the qualifier."
It was Levy's dread also. He felt "sick but calm" as Spurs trailed 3-0 to Young Boys of Berne after half an hour of the first leg of last month's play-off -- before turning the tie around to reach the group stages. No longer did Spurs stall at amber. Finally they had the green light.
Not that Levy likes the limelight. He speaks publicly under duress. While he paid tribute to Redknapp, the coaching staff, players and supporters, Levy himself can take credit at a club which he estimated was "one of the smallest in terms of stadium" but which had 30,000 fans on a waiting list for a season ticket.
"We have a huge following around the globe, everyone, in a way, expects us to be in the top four or certainly contending to be in the top four," Levy said. "We have a great player base and a fan base that is the size of a top-four club. Yet we haven't been here for such a long time, let's hope we stay there."
At the same time, Levy is taking little for granted. "There are only four Champions League places in England and there are seven or eight clubs competing," he said. "There are probably two clubs who you could say are guaranteed to be in that top four. You then have two places for six clubs."
Redknapp agreed that if "managing expectations" was one of his tasks then fans should recall how quickly the team had progressed in recent times. "They must have bad memories about where we have been for the last 50 years," Redknapp said.
"I must be missing a trick somewhere. It's different if you are Manchester United. They would have expectations. They have been there and won championships. But we haven't been there at all. I think the people realise where we have come from two years ago to where we are now. They have got to be patient."
Success, he said, would be to make it through a group that also contains holders Inter Milan and FC Twente. Redknapp has key players missing tonight and yesterday all but ruled out Luka Modric, whose left leg is still sore, and is likely to rest William Gallas with Ledley King returning.
Bremen also are suffering and are without their first-choice central defensive partnership.
But Redknapp does not feel the urge to play 4-4-2 against such seasoned Champions League performers. "They will certainly play with at least four narrow midfield players," he said, identifying playmaker Marko Marin as the danger man. Instead, Spurs are likely to match up in formation with Redknapp hoping that Rafael van der Vaart is not too tired to play his part. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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