Monday 18 December 2017

Redknapp's loyalty to Kaboul now paying off

The Frenchman is a key figure for Spurs, writes Duncan White

There will have been few Tottenham players more relieved that Harry Redknapp was overlooked for the England job than Younes Kaboul. Redknapp has signed Kaboul twice and believed in refining his raw talent when others dismissed him. This season Kaboul has begun to repay Redknapp's faith, becoming one of Tottenham's most improved players.

Tottenham's dramatic upturn in their last two games has not just coincided with Redknapp missing out on England -- it has also come with Kaboul's return to the side. He was injured for the dispiriting FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea and the loss to QPR that put Spurs in peril of missing out on Champions League football.

Kaboul thinks fatigue was the main cause of Tottenham's slump in form but conceded that the public expectation about Redknapp's future may have "indirectly" affected the team. However much or little it has distracted the players, it is now out of the way and Tottenham have it in their hands to hold on to their top-four place, starting with today's game against Aston Villa.

"Of course I think it is good that he is staying," Kaboul said. "Harry has done a great job since being Spurs manager, we had Champions League football and we are on course to be back in that competition. I think things will be like they were before. Nothing's going to change, we don't need to change anything. Okay, there was speculation about him becoming England manager but that didn't happen so now everything will be like before. We will finish the season stronger and be ready for the next one."

Keeping Redknapp and getting into the top four will give Spurs stability. It will make it easier to keep their best players and attract better new ones. But Champions League football is paramount.

"The dream is to play Champions League football every season. We have the players to play at that level. I would be gutted if we do not achieve that. But I think we will. When you have had a taste of the Champions League you have to make sure that you are playing in it every year," he said.

"In these last two games we just have to be ready, to concentrate. I think we played amazing against Blackburn and at Bolton, very good football. We had bad times since the Arsenal game but it happens."

Kaboul's return from a knee injury has been important. He has emerged as Tottenham's most consistent and impressive central defender. How things change: even Kaboul concedes he used to have problems keeping his concentration. "I am more mature and understand my game more."

In those early days, after he had signed in the summer of 2007, fans joked about him being a 'Kaboul in a china shop' for the reckless way he approached his position.

When Juande Ramos arrived, Kaboul's Tottenham career appeared over. Ramos thought so little of him that he once left him out of his 18-man UEFA Cup squad despite only having one other match-fit centre-back.

Redknapp took him to Portsmouth in 2008 and began to restore Kaboul's self-belief. "He gets into your head," Kaboul said. "When you have a manager that gives you confidence you are a different player straight away. My quality was always there but when you have a manager saying that he believes in you, you want to give that back."

Redknapp certainly believed in him, persuading Daniel Levy the club needed to re-sign him in January 2010, paying £9.5m (he had cost £8m from Auxerre the first time round and been sold to Portsmouth for roughly £6m). He argued that Kaboul was a late developer in his understanding of the game, an argument vindicated by the player's progress in the last two years. At 26, he is still on an upward curve of development and has broken into the France team.

It is a measure of Kaboul's respect for Redknapp that he thinks he shares qualities with the great Guy Roux -- the other manager in his life. It was Roux, manager of Auxerre for an incredible 44 years, who promoted Kaboul from the academy to the first team and set his career in train.

"I had Guy Roux for one year as a professional. It's because of him I became a professional footballer. Redknapp and he are very similar."

Chelsea's European adventures have raised the stakes -- fourth may no longer be enough -- but for Tottenham the priority is not slipping again. And Kaboul will help them keep their balance.


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