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Harry's critics tied up on a shoestring

When Manchester City can shell out over £500,000 per week to players who aren't even playing for them, it's easy to see why several of their rivals like to moan about the Premier League not being a level playing field.

Carlos Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz and Wayne Bridge are all in varying forms of City purgatory -- a place that probably makes heaven look like a cesspit -- while Harry Redknapp revealed last week that Emmanuel Adebayor didn't take kindly to the suggestion that his City contract was only worth £200,000 a week.

"Don't insult me," said the striker after a Tottenham team-mate recently queried why he hadn't paid his £50 fine for being the worst player in Friday training. "It's £225,000."

In keeping with the rest of the league, Redknapp is painting his club as poor by comparison to City but, unlike almost everyone else, he is managing a side that is hanging onto City's coat-tails. Most gallingly of all for those who complain about City's financial doping, Redknapp is doing it with a group of players that were available to just about everybody.

Realistically, nobody can compete with City once they decide that they want players like Sergio Aguero or Yaya Toure, but Brad Friedel and Scott Parker cost £5m between them last summer.

Had they been signed by Stoke or QPR, most would have thought they had found their level. Instead, they're forming part of a Tottenham squad which has one defeat in 19 league games -- and a dodgy one at that -- and who are putting Redknapp into a lofty position in which few seem comfortable accepting him in.

Perhaps it's because his son can be tough (literally) to listen to as a football pundit or that Redknapp senior was always seen as a relegation scrapper, but for a manager who is changing a club's reputation that was many decades and embarrassing moments in the making, the praise for Redknapp among those outside his English media circle is hardly universal.

Many are irritated by his transfer window caricature of a wheeler-dealer in which a player is lauded as "a great professional" before being shoved out the exit door, or his tactic of playing dumb when potential signings are mentioned -- something which he was at again this weekend.

After the 1-1 draw with Wolves on Saturday, Redknapp reckoned: "I haven't got anybody in mind I'd like to sign" but by yesterday morning on BBC radio he had revealed he was heading for Marseille to watch Loic Remy play against Lille last night. "I'd be doubtful if anything happens but I've got to keep looking," he added, presumably with a straight face.

Redknapp works the media well and, with the England job up for grabs next summer, made sure to show just how disconsolate he was with the team's performance at the last World Cup by making his exit near the press box before the final whistle of their 4-1 defeat to Germany.

Yet just because he knows that a dictaphone never refused quotes, it doesn't mean that he is obliged to spill his every move to a group of people who, for the most part, don't care what he says so long as it's enough to fill a certain word count. What's often lost in the wheeler-dealer caricature, however, is just how good Redknapp is at either signing players or getting rid of the ones that aren't working out.

In 1997, after recognising his strengths didn't lie in his European scouting talent, Redknapp bought John Hartson and Paul Kitson, and the odd marriage of little and large strikers with reasonable talent proved enough to save West Ham from a seemingly certain relegation.

Fast-forward 11 years and while Tottenham weren't quite in the mire of West Ham, the two points they had taken from their first eight games left them four points adrift at the bottom of the league when he took over and, from that point on under Redknapp, they have finished eighth, fourth and fifth.

Those who minimise Redknapp's role in such a change are right that Tottenham were in a false position when he took over, but anybody who reckoned they would be contenders to qualify for the Champions League in each of his three full seasons in charge could have made a fortune by putting their money where their hindsight now rests. The same people might also reckon that they knew Gareth Bale -- who was sent off in Juande Ramos' final game in charge -- would turn out to be as good as he is.

Not all of Redknapp's signings have been successful, but at least with the likes of Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch on whom he spent plenty, he acted quickly in jettisoning them while generating funds for future business.

The arrival of someone like William Gallas has added league-winning experience and a demanding attitude that Arsenal decided to forsake, while keeping Luka Modric at the club and then cajoling him perform at his best is an achievement in an era when money doesn't so much talk as scream.

It's a measure of their progress that Saturday's draw with Wolves which leaves them six points clear of Chelsea in third was seen as such a disappointment, yet even that was achieved with players like Friedel, Parker, Younes Kaboul, Kyle Walker and Rafael van der Vaart, who weren't all cheap but didn't have Sheikh Mansour diving for his chequebook.

Redknapp's court case in which he denies a charge of tax evasion is due to begin next Monday -- a day after Spurs play Manchester City in a game Redknapp would like to paint as the Haves v Have-Nots.

Despite his words, he may never get a better chance to prove that, on the pitch at least, the gap between the two is closing.

Irish Independent