independent

Saturday 17 August 2019

Uncle 'Arry helps Spurs play ketchup

90 Minutes

YOU'VE got to love Harry Redknapp. The geezer. The wheeler dealer. The East Londoner has got what most people in modern sport haven't - personality.

He's flamboyant, he says interesting things, he makes jokes in press conferences. He actually looks like he enjoys his job. The same could not be said of his predecessor at Spurs Juande Ramos who stood on the side line with a hangdog expression, even when things were going well for his team, which to be fair wasn't very often since they won the Carling Cup early last year.

He was scientific, analytical and on the balance of probabilities one would have to assume not a whole lot of fun. His players played like a bunch of players who weren't having much fun, who weren't enjoying themselves. One of Ramos' first actions as Tottenham boss was to implement a strict diet on his players. Pasta was in, chips and ketchup were out.

It was on this very point the Redknapp decided to show his players what the new regime would be like. According to reports he met with his players, a bottle of ketchup hidden in his pocket. As he was beginning to speak the former Portsmouth boss took out the ketchup and placed it on the table for the players to see. The ketchup was back. Not only that the fun was back as well.

Since Redknapp took over Spurs went on to win four of their next five games – including putting two over on title chasing Liverpool, ending their unbeaten Premier League run in the process. To suggest that the only reason for Spurs' upturn in form is the return of ketchup to the canteen is more than a little unfair on Redknapp. He's a far better and more sophisticated manager than he's generally given credit for. Yes he's old school, but he's wise enough to embrace new methods and tactics.

Still though there's no doubt the re-introduction of fun to the Spurs set-up has gone down well with the players. They're playing now with far more joy evident i n their play than when they were managed by Ramos. They're playing with more fluency and instinctiveness. Over the last couple of months Spurs were a team direly lacking in confidence.

Redknapp's legendary skills as a motivator are someting of a cliche at this stage, but as usual with cliches there tends to be an element of truth to it. In this case it appears to be more than justified.

Just take David Bentley as an example. He was signed at great expense during the summer, but looked shorn of confidence under Ramos. In comes Uncle 'Arry, bottle of ketchup in his pocket, puts his arm around young Bentley and next thing you know the midfielder is scoring screamers from the halfway line against former club Arsenal in the North London derby.

Redknapp's revolution did take something of a dip at the weekend when they lost out to Fulham away from home, but there's no shame in that. Fulham are a decent side with a very good manager in Roy Hodgson. The loss does leave Tottenham in second last spot in the table, but they're on 12 points. That's only two points off twelfth spot and comfortable midtable. They're no longer in any danger of relegation, which the longer the Ramos regime went on looked an ever more likely possibility. There's no such thing as too big or good to go down afterall.

Ramos was probably unluckly in that he had to so many new players in his squad this season, some of it was his choice, most of it wasn't – the transfers of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov left him in a real bind. It was always going to take the news Spurs time to get aqquainted with one and other. Maybe Redknapp was lucky in that he came to the club just as they were about to do so.

More likely he was the catalyst. He has gotten Roman Pavlyuchenko and Darren Bent scoring goals, something that they weren't doing before now. When you're scoring goals you've got a chance. They've got ground to make up for sure, but Redknapp is ensuring they will ketchup ... erm sorry ..

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