If Harry Redknapp was to leave tomorrow for the England job, I don’t think a single Spurs fan would begrudge him for it. If he leaves now, or in the summer, or even next summer, he will be a hero in my books. He’s given me my first good memories of Spurs, bar the rare exception, and for that I could not thank him enough.
It started in October 2008 with two of the best memories I have as a Spurs fan – the last minute winner by Super Pav vs Liverpool and that 4-4 at the Emirates. These two games were a sign of great things to come. I still have that 4-4 game recorded on my Sky Plus and if I fancy cheering up I just watch Lennon’s equaliser, Harry’s reaction, the full time celebrations, and David Bentley’s interview. That’s the happiest I ever have been and I’m sure ever will be, after a draw.
In the space of 5 months, Redknapp took us from the laughing stock of English football, to just four points off Europe, missing out on the last day of the season. After a solid 7th place finish in 2008/09, who could have known what magic Harry was going to produce the following year. What we thought was a thoroughly uninspiring summer transfer window has since turned out to be yet another moment of genius from Redknapp. Kyle and Kyle were signed from Sheff Utd and the reaction was something to the tune of “why oh why have we signed two more right backs”. I think we now know. One was in the Championship team of the year last year, and the other is one of the best young defenders in the PL, and is pushing for a place at Euro 2012. All for £9m. This season will live long in my memory for so many reasons. Scoring 9 against Wigan. Beating Woolwich in the league for the first time since I could remember (I was 6 the last time it happened), beating Chelsea straight after, and of course getting Champions League football. In the summer the only other major signing was Peter Crouch. We all thought Redknapp had only bought him because he was his mate, because they have a past together, but it turned out to be the signing which provided one of the best memories ever. 82nd minute at the City of Manchester Stadium, 5th May 2010. Younes Kaboul (himself signed by Redknapp in January that year) runs through Bellamy as if he’s not there, crosses into Crouch, who scored one of the worst goals I’ve ever seen. Did any of us care? You bet we didn’t. For the first time ever, the Champions League theme tune was going to be blasted out at White Hart Lane, and I couldn’t quite believe it. We’d gone from “2 points in 8 games” (™ Redknapp) to Champions League football, all in 18 months. On top of this, he took us to Wembley again, in our own show-stopping style. Two minutes from being embarrassingly knocked out by lower league opposition after winning the first leg 4-1, up popped Pavlyuchenko, then Defoe, and suddenly it looked comfortable. We should know better though, it’s never comfortable with Spurs, but we got the job done. We carried on playing in our own, unique style in the final, losing out on penalties (naturally) to Man Utd (naturally).
The 2010/2011 season was another one to remember, provided to us by Harry. Let us not forget, it started off a bit crap. 3-0 down in half an hour to a bunch of kids (Young Boys to be precise), and suddenly it was back to Thursday nights on Channel Five. After all the months of anticipation through the summer wondering who we would welcome to the Lane – would it be Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and it looked like the only team we would welcome in the Champions League would be Young Boys of Bern. I was gutted. I was nearly in tears. But Bassong (another Redknapp signing) and Pavlychenko gave us hope, and suddenly the dream was back on. In true Spurs fashion, we got through, but we made it hard for ourselves, but most profoundly – in the Redknapp reign at least – it was exciting. We were playing the best football in the land – with Bale and Lennon charging down the wings, with Modric controlling the whole game, and with Van Der Vaart finishing anything that came near him with consummate ease, we were beginning to look like the team of the 1960s that we’ve all heard so much about from our Dads and Grandads, and maybe some of you were lucky enough to see it first hand. I’ve heard the stories about our European and domestic triumphs, but until then, these seemed a million miles off. Thanks to our manager, maybe, just maybe, we were going to be able to tell our children and grandchildren about the history making Spurs team of the 2010s. Harry Redknapp had turned us from a team where signing the likes of Gilberto and Mido was big news, into a team signing Van Der Vaart and if rumours are true this season, perhaps even Eden Hazard. All in three and a half years.
[typography font=”PT Sans” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#222222[/linequote]After a solid 7th place finish in 2008/09, who could have known what magic Harry was going to produce the following year.[/typography]
With the excitement of the Champions League play-off round over with, and at least six more Champions League games assured, we got on with the domestic campaign – in true Spurs style. Losses to West Ham and Woolwich and dropped points vs West Brom, showed the inconsistency with which we had become famed. But throughout Redknapp’s reign, this tag has gradually been removed (some may say it’s been shipped across North London to our biggest rivals). Two league losses in the last five months – to Manchester City and Chris Foy – prove just this. We were told we wouldn’t qualify for the Champions League, then we were told we wouldn’t get past the play-off round, then we were certainties to finish bottom of the group, then we had no chance against AC Milan. Redknapp and his team proved all his doubters wrong, and we did it in style. We were top scorers in the whole Champions League after the group stages, scoring at least 2 goals in every one of our 8 games – scoring at least 3 in 5 of them. The two games against Inter Milan will never be forgotten for two very different reasons. 4-0 down in half an hour in the San Siro, and down to ten men, twitter and facebook was full of other fans mocking us, wondering if Inter would reach double figures. Ultimately, we still lost, but boy did we have the last laugh. This was the night when a certain welsh winger announced his arrival on the world stage with one of the most famous hat-tricks in Spurs’ history. I’ve never been so proud to lose a game. I wanted to wear my Spurs shirt to school the next day, and that never happens when we lose! Who knows, if the referee played more than the miserly two minutes of stoppage time, if we passed the ball to Bale again, we may have snatched the most famous of draws.
Had we given up and lost that game 4-0, or even worse, then I am sure we would not have won at White Hart Lane. Momentum is huge in football, and we had every inch of it. I was gutted to be in Florida for this game, but we found an Apple store, and I stood for two whole hours on a live stream watching the whole game, and by full time there were at least 10 people crowded round the screen. If Bale hadn’t made a point in the San Siro, he wanted to make one tonight. “Taxi for Maicon” was sung throughout that evening. Every five minutes Bale was at the byline delivering delicious crosses for Crouch, Pavlyuchenko or Rafa to get on the end of. This was the best individual performance I’ve seen in a Spurs shirt – forget Defoe’s 5 goals against Wigan, or Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov scoring 4 against Burnley and Reading, this was the best, and he didn’t even score. That night was so special.
When Redknapp took over, wins against the Sky 4 were unheard of. Since then, we have beaten Woolwich three times, Chelsea twice and Liverpool more times than I can remember. But some things never change. We still haven’t beaten Man Utd. And we still haven’t won a penalty shoot-out. If Redknapp can manage either of these, he really is a genius. He’d find it easier to win the World Cup with England than to beat Man Utd with Spurs.
As the 2010/11 season went on, it became clear that it was going to be very similar to the previous year. In previous years, finishing 5th would have meant an open top bus parade with a huge banner telling the world we were going on a European tour. This year, 5th was ultimately a disappointment. It’s a sign of how things have changed that we were disappointed with this. In this season we couldn’t quite finish off the job and moneybags City got 4th. A cruel twist of fate with Peter Crouch again scoring the deciding goal – this time in his own net. A few years ago, these bad memories were what filled up most of my Spurs brain, but since 2008 they have been pushed out by the good. Finishing 4th. The Champions League run. Danny Rose and the wins over the scum. Real Madrid playing at the Lane. Benoit Assou-Ekotto scoring. All of these were beyond our wildest dreams when Redknapp took over. Finishing 4th only seemed a possibility if we got relegated and came 4th in the Championship. Our only cup runs were in the Carling Cup. The only time we’d beat Woolwich or play against Real Madrid was on FIFA, and Benoit Assou-Ekotto couldn’t kick a ball. How times change.
[typography font=”PT Sans” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#222222[/linequote]Finishing 4th. The Champions League run. Danny Rose and the wins over the scum. Real Madrid playing at the Lane. Benoit Assou-Ekotto scoring. All of these were beyond our wildest dreams when Redknapp took over.[/typography]
Before this season Redknapp was my hero. This year he has cemented a place in my heart forever. As seems a bit familiar by now, it all started off a bit crap. Two games, no points, 8 goals conceded, one entirely pointless goal scored. Bottom of the table. To add to the misery, our town was burning, and our only permanent signings on transfer deadline day were Scott Parker and Grandad Brad Friedel.. Completely pointless signings – what is Redknapp thinking, the senile old git. Five months down the line, I guess we can admit we were wrong. For every Gareth Bale, you need a Scott Parker. I’ve never grown to love someone as quick as Scotty. He gives 100% in every single game, no matter who it’s against, whatever the conditions, whatever the score. Another piece of Harry magic in the transfer market. And Brad Friedel. What a goalkeeper. There’s a renewed air of calm which just didn’t exist with Gomes. Sure, we will concede the odd goal that the Octupus Gomes might have saved with his ridiculously long arms, but the overall effect has been overwhelmingly positive. Brad Friedel, Ledley King, Scott Parker, Emmanuel Adebayor. The spine of the team which is sitting 10 points clear of 4th, and a combined cost of £5m. Genius.
Never in my lifetime have we had such a prolonged period of actually being good, and I will be forever thankful to Redknapp for that. At one point this year, even going through just two losses in 23 league games. Playing the best football a Spurs team has played in decades. Some of the biggest names in British football playing for our club. I’m always proud, but I’ve never been as proud as I am right now to be a Yiddo.
And that’s down largely to 1 man – Thank you Harry Redknapp.