The Four Phases of Harry – Can He Keep Spurs Going?

The frustration of the downturn in our form in the New Year should not obscure the progress Spurs have made this year and indeed since Harry Redknapp became our manager. However, we have entered another phase of his regime, one where his leadership skills will be tested severely.

Redknapp deserves full and unreserved praise for extracting us from the apparently bottomless trough of steaming putrid filth that was the Tottenham team in October 2008.  As he never stops reminding us, ‘Two points from 8 games’. The team set to and upped both their work ethic and ability to score. Then we entered 2009 and phase two, where just as the new manager bounce lost its elasticity, his heavy investment in new players gave the crazily unbalanced squad he inherited some much-needed equilibrium. In particular, the purchase of Wilson Palacios provided a midfield foundation upon which a team geared to the demands of Premier League football could be built, whilst the return of Keane and Defoe offered striking power and experience.

The dawn of phase three could be the beginning of this season but I would put it a little later. After a month or so, we were right up there, which I suspect surprised both the fans and Redknapp. We played good-looking attacking football and the rise of Aaron Lennon as a major force, much of which is down to coaching, ran parallel with our rise up the table. However, as the pressure of raised expectations increases, Harry needs to act to maintain this momentum and halt our gradual slide down the table. Phase four begins, and Harry’s acumen will be tested to the full.

A graphic of Spurs’ development under Redknapp would take the form of a steady upward curve but Harry has had to build three teams in his comparatively short time with us, not one. The first got us out of the relegation zone, the second targeted the top eight and the third is or will be to challenge for the top four. Those are three connected but separate tasks. Obviously there’s an overlap of players and some qualities in common but we had to build up from the bottom. Phase three demonstrated a potent attack, creative midfield and a mean defence. Unfortunately they’ve seldom been on display at the same time. We rejoiced as the goals flew in and the passes pinged around with pace and certainty, then were quietly satisfied in the midst of one of the longest periods of not conceding in the club’s entire history. But now we have a few problems. We’re stuttering rather than coming to a grinding halt so that in itself holds some grounds for continued optimism, implying that some running repairs are required rather than scrapping the whole model and starting afresh. It also gives Redknapp an asset more precious than a bulging transfer budget or supportive chairman – time. Not a massive amount but some. We’re doing OK but the remedial work needs to begin now.

The biggest issue is that basically we have been sussed. Work hard, close us down and we don’t know quite what to do. That can be worked on, but the most concerning aspect of the last two games, both away admittedly, is the players’ response, or more accurately the lack of it. Against Wolves and Bolton they weren’t ready for the struggle. Here are a few words from Jermaine Defoe after Sunday’s game, taken from the official club site:

Jermain Defoe revealed the lads were on the end of a rollicking at half-time at Bolton and admitted: “We deserved it.”

Players and management alike conceded that we were second best in the first half of Sunday’s FA Cup fifth round encounter at the Reebok Stadium….”We had a bit of a rollicking at half-time and we deserved it because we didn’t compete in the first half.”

Post-match comments from players and managers seldom carry much perspective or weight, so it’s a little unfair to attribute undue significance to these. However, it’s what has gone unsaid that it important. Why after failing so ignominiously against Wolves did we kick off with such a poor attitude at the Reebok? We failed totally in terms of application and motivation. Also, the rollicking was undoubtedly well-earned but there was no response whatsoever at the beginning of the second half. We carried on exactly where we left off and were lifted not by the manager’s words but by a Crouch header. In other words, here is some evidence that Redknapp’s motivational skills, legendary in the minds of a sycophantic media corps, are on the wane.

Another snippet from Sunday’s press coverage was Bale’s comment that we don’t practice penalties, to which could be heard the sound of Spurs fans up and down the land shouting as one, ‘Why not??!!’ Only Harry knows. There’s an old saying in sport that the great coaches pay attention to the details, to the little things, and here’s an example of us failing in that respect.

Now when things aren’t working on the pitch, all teams need a plan B, which brings me to another problem. There was a frightening stat that I saw last week about the team that plays the most long balls in the premier league. Know who it is? Tottenham Hotspur FC. Again it’s unfair to read too much into this. I assume the figures do not differentiate between a wild hoof from the back or an aimless whack from midfield, a precision 40 yard through ball or a cross from out wide. I expect those masterpieces that Glenn Hoddle came out with most matches would be consigned into this category. Other stats show we pass the ball more than any other team apart from the top four. But anyone who has seen us lately knows that we play the long ball to Crouch far too often and as the pressure builds up it is fast becoming our main offensive ploy. Some of us are finding it extremely offensive. Apart from the aesthetics, it does not work. Crouch is too easy to defend against even when he plays well.

Time then for plan C, time unfortunately for the last problem that can justifiably be laid at Redknapp’s door. We don’t have a plan C. Keane is gone, at least for the time being, so it should be time for Pavlyuchenko to step up. He’s mobile, wants the ball to feet, does not want to play with his back to the goal all the time and, when he’s on form, can take his chances. However, Redknapp has always neglected him. He’s not fit, has had little game time and has been on the receiving end of his manager’s scathing ‘wit’. In short, he’s not a ready-made alternative, largely because Redknapp has never handled him well. Whilst he’s not the saviour that some portray him as, I’ll like to see him play because we need a striker with precisely the above qualities, but it requires a big change in our current tactics. We should have been more prepared for this, or not presumptuously have disposed of  Keane.

I was not a huge admirer of Redknapp before he come to Spurs so I’m not an instinctive supporter of his. I judge him on his record and he has done well for us. Despite the problems I deserves more time because in terms of building a top four team, 18 months is not that long a stretch and the good he has brought to the club easily outweighs the bad . He’s taken us on from an awful place and has created a good squad of players. It’s hard not to link the tax and court case with our  recent tribulations, and he needs precisely the mental fortitude we are seeking desperately in our players to get us through this bad patch. He’s made some mistakes and phase four plus the High Court is a dual challenge he may not have been prepared for.

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16 thoughts on “The Four Phases of Harry – Can He Keep Spurs Going?

  1. Indeed it would be silly to start showing Harry the front door already, but my hunch is that the fans are becoming suspicious of his motives.
    The Pav situation smacks of something personal rather than tactical because there appears to be no other reason why he has’nt been given a run in the side.
    I hope I’m wrong.

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  2. Somehow Harry doesn’t carry the authority and international presence of a Top 4 manager. He’s a bit of a chancer when it comes to transfers and selections, and not up to it tactically. Given that he’s talked about retirement I think he’ll be around next season but if the club are serious about moving forward there will be a change after that.

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  3. What a good idea, play a player who is as ephemeal as Defoe and most of the midfield – and who doesn’t want to play!!!
    The trouble with spurs is that there are too mant’artistic’ players and not enough grafters ( unlike Wolves and Bolton). When the going gets tough the tough get going – in our case we just capitulate and take the easy option and boot it up to Crouchie. Its an easy copout to blame Crouch – he’s not the one who hits the long ball. he does have good feet you know – as Liverpool will tell you. No wonder Spurs never meet the dream – all fur coat and no knickers

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  4. Harry is good at taking a team that is bad place and resurrecting it. He will never lead a team to a title. This has been his MO. Some coaches are good at building teams into contenders while other can take them to the next level. Harry can’t. What titles have harry coached teams won? http://defutebol.net

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  5. I’m sick to death of reading blogs asking which player is responsible for the “long ball” tactic we seem to employ ever more increasingly. Come on guys, tactics are given by the management team and the buck stops there.
    ‘arry, whilst his track record for recovery cannot be questioned, always leaves me with a nasty taste in my mouth when I consider his motives for doing things. We now boast almost half of the Portsmouth first team from his days as coach there. Whilst it is not strange for a manager to bring a player along with him – 4!! WHY!?! Some may argue that he was picking up bargains but it’s not like he was bringing Champions League quality along. If they could only achieve mid table status under him at Portsmouth, why will it be different at spurs.
    ……and for a man boasting his famous motivational skills, he seems to have disillusioned or publicly lambasted an awful lot of highly rated or at least high costing players very quickly – Bent, Pav, Hutton, Dos Santos, Keane, Bentley, Dervite, Bostock. They don’t overnight all become bad, we’ve been screaming for some of these to get their chance at times. These guys being around give the appearance of competition for places, reality is that it is only harrys favourites that are chosen regardless of form. This makes them become complacent and puts us in the position we are in now.
    I’m happy that we seem to have more hope that we have had for a long time. It’s just, as the author suggests, we are coming into a very testing period and Harry will need to pull on all the resources available to him.
    I do think he should be given more time to prove himself. He’s never before had the resources available to him that he has now to build a team that will challenge, he’s shown some great progress, but I fear, unless we minimum qualify for Europe next year, the squad will once again fall apart. COYS

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    • Thanks dazza. Agree re the ‘motivational skills’ – I wrote about this earlier in the season in respect of Bent and the Sandra comment.

      Regards,

      Al

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  6. I completely disagree with most of the above comments. The ‘problem’- if it is one – is more of early over achievement (3/4 position) which is now slipping into a more realistic place (5/6/7) because that’s who we are. We are not the equals of Man U, Chelsea or the Arse – because we have had a mediocre track record for 10+ years – you can’t get rid of that over night. The team needs strengthening and to build a winning mentality – we’ve given away a lot of games which we could easily won … if we had then you would be singing Harry’s praises – we didn’t mostly as far as I can see because of 1) player inexperience 2) lack of a proper captain on the field (should have been Keane) 3) bad luck.

    I’m not saying Harry is perfect and he is probably still learning but he needs time.

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    • Thanks for these and all your other comments, gilly. Have you seen that a new book is coming out about the great man?

      I didn’t write this piece to necessarily open up the big Harry debate that is raging elsewhere but what you called ‘over achievement’ is a factor. I have said that we never really looked to me like a top four team even when we were in the top four – whatever a top four team looks like. But there we were, there was our chance, and we’re not taking it. Player inexperience and the lack of a leader on the field are two really important reasons why, but so I’m afraid is the lack of leadership from Harry in the tactical and motivational factors that I’ve mentioned. He could put it right.

      Regards,

      Al

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      • Great blog Al.

        Being top four made me nervous anyway … which direction is 10th place??? I feel comfortable there (ha!) We don’t have to fear a relegation battle anyway … now we haven’t got that other ****.

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  7. He’s 63 in two weeks. He needs time? He’s had 25 years of learning and all he’s done is average. It’s what he was, what he is, what he will be. Do we really want that for Spurs? Honestly, decades of average is enough. We need and deserve better. COYS

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  8. Gilzean, I do not agree with you, as we have more than enough talent in the squad.Its Harrys tactics that are at fault,how is it we out play teams then loose or draw, when a simple tweak is all that is needed, like taking crouch of for pav ,or playing a 4-5-1 formation when needed against defensive teams. I bet you any money the likes of Jose or Hiddink would be fighting for 1st place, within the 1st season.

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    • This same stuff was being said about Martin Jol and look what happened when we got rid of him … and replaced him with a real winner … !!!! (ha) I don’t think Harry is perfect, I mean he doesn’t spend much time on his Tax Return does he … but I do think he’s a good manager and generally makes decent decisions. If you told me Jose Mourinho was coming I wouldn’t complain though cos I think there are some people who are more naturally gifted – but they are few and far between.

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  9. I think the blog post is pretty good but some of the comments remind me why people often laugh at Spurs.

    We are about where we should be with the players we have. If we were looking to crack the top 4 we would have spent some money in the past two windows instead of basically breaking even as we did.

    The club seems happy enough aiming for the Europa League and we are well on course for that.

    If you want Spurs to win the title you better start hoping for some man city style cash injection – otherwise you are daydreaming imo.

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  10. gilzean :

    Great blog Al.

    Being top four made me nervous anyway … which direction is 10th place??? I feel comfortable there (ha!) We don’t have to fear a relegation battle anyway … now we haven’t got that other ****.

    Ah yes, oh for the joys of midtable mediocrity. Those were the days..

    That gilzean book has a site: http://www.backpagepress.co.uk

    Regards, Al

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