Friday 24 November 2017

Redknapp recovery tested to the limit

FULHAM 1, TOTTENHAM 3, Rory Smith, at Craven Cottage

Bullish as ever, Harry Redknapp might be straining at the leash to return to the touchline at the earliest possible opportunity, but the Tottenham manager's doctors feel rather differently.

And, if they witnessed, at Fulham yesterday, the stresses and strains which even victory can bring, they might be minded to recommend an even longer period of convalescence.

As it is, Redknapp, 64, is unlikely to return to work until mid-December.

"The doctor is telling me I shouldn't even think about returnin) for at least four or five weeks," Redknapp said.

"I hope to be back before then but I've got to take my time really and listen to what the doctors tell me.

"I'm not one for sitting about. It's difficult but I've got to do it. I think stress is what causes most of your problems anyway so I'm going to try and relax as best I can. I will try and watch the games without getting too stressed -- it's not going to be easy I'm sure -- but I'll be fine."

This should have been straightforward for Spurs. They were two goals ahead at half-time, thanks to Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, and faced only with a pliant, perfunctory Fulham: just what the doctor ordered. No drama, no tension, nothing to disturb Redknapp's repose, nothing to exercise his recovering heart.

Even seated in the comfort of his home, though, he would have struggled to watch the second half. Even the healthiest of managers would have found it difficult to endure without palpitations.

Fulham roared forward, Spurs fell back and only at the last was a seventh victory in eight Premier League games secured. Not exactly the ideal start to Redknapp's recovery.

"That last 30 minutes would have been a tester for him," said Joe Jordan, his appointed lieutenant. "In the first half we treated him nicely. We punished him in the second. I'll let him have a deep breath and settle down a bit before I speak to him."

Redknapp would have every right to question quite how Spurs contrived to jeopardise the position of complete dominance they enjoyed during the opening 45 minutes.

surrender

They did not particularly deserve the lead Bale secured for them after 10 minutes, his shot deflecting in off Chris Baird after Mark Schwarzer had parried Lennon's strike, but they did not look for a moment like they expected to surrender it.

Even the occasional aberrations of the ever-unpredictable Younes Kaboul did not look like derailing Spurs' charge into the top four, the Frenchman's rashness allowing Fulham's Clint Dempsey the best chance of the opening period, only for the American to be denied by the excellent Brad Friedel.

By the time the 40-year-old 'keeper was next called into action, though, Spurs looked safe.

Indeed, as his players trudged in for the break, Redknapp's only worry -- along with Scott Parker's broken nose and how serious the wince-inducing knee injury suffered by Fulham's Zdenek Grygera might be -- would have been quite how effective his team can be without him. Jordan, assisted by Kevin Bond, encouraged Lennon to switch flanks and was rewarded with what looked like the clinching goal, the winger exchanging passes with Bale, haring towards goal, shimmying Baird aside and beating Schwarzer at his far post.

Fulham emerged straining at the leash after the interval and went close several times before Ledley King headed John Arne Riise's corner against Kaboul's back and the ball trickled over the line.

As Fulham swarmed forward, Moussa Dembele and Baird stung Friedel's palms. Dempsey rounded his countryman but could not beat King, the Spurs captain denying him on the line.

And then, at the last, Dickson Etuhu and Dempsey were foiled on the line -- the American, seemingly, by the hand of Kyle Walker -- before Friedel denied Brede Hangeland and Dempsey, again, hit the woodwork.

Fulham could scarcely believe it; Spurs could hardly breathe. Only once Jermain Defoe had volleyed home on the counter-attack, five minutes into stoppage-time, could their manager relax. No joy, no jubilation, just relief.

That is what awaits Redknapp upon his return. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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