Burnley, Redknapp, FletcherJanuary 21, 2009
I have just watched Spurs lose 3-2 to Burnley, but make it through to the Carling Cup final on aggregate. The scoreline is deceptive. Spurs were leading 4-1 from the home leg, meaning that Burnley needed to score at least 3 goals to make it to the final. And they did. After 90 minutes they were leading 3-0, having comprehensively outplayed Spurs. I had assumed before the game that a 3-0 scoreline would mean that Spurs would be eliminated on the away-goals rule, but it turns out that rule only comes into effect after 120 minutes. Which is lucky for Spurs, because having failed to create any chances for the entirety of the match, they scored after 118 minutes. Burnley’s heads dropped and we got another goal.
The result should not mask the fact that we were appalling. It was a performance as bad as anything under Ramos in the first 10 games of this season but was sadly not much worse than recent performances in the league against Portsmouth, Wigan, West Brom and Fulham. At the moment Spurs are fifth from bottom in the league, with all the teams below on the same number of points.
I am a fan of Harry Redknapp’s and was pleased when he was appointed. He has experience fighting relegation (mostly successfully), has an eye for a bargain (a pleasant change from our policy of big money marquee signings) and his teams generally play good football. When he was first appointmented, I marvelled at his man-management and his ability to boost the confidence of struggling players. He boasted about how this was the best squad he had ever inherited, with quality throughout the ranks. Suddenly, a collection of strangers looked like a team.
In the last six weeks, however, we have seen the other side to Harry’s character. The shrugging, hangdog, nothing-is-my-fault Harry. As results fell away, he has ridiculed the strength of the squad, saying we are lacking in most areas (we aren’t), he has singled out players for criticism (Bent, who thrives on confidence) and has generally acted as though the events on the pitch are nothing to do with him. Let’s be honest: Spurs have a very good, expensively assembled squad. Not good enough for the Champions League, but good enough to finish in the top ten. We are lacking a decent defensive midfielder, a striker who can hold up the ball (someone like Heskey was more of a priority than a poacher like Defoe, much as I like him) and goalkeeping cover. We could also do with a left-winger, but I don’t want to be greedy.
What is most galling about our current performances is our refusal to play football. We are hoofing the ball. I’ve seen more long balls in the last month than in the whole of last season. The long-ball has its place, but when you have the players Spurs have, you should be keeping the ball on the ground and letting the quality on the pitch do the talking. Tonight, Burnley outplayed us. They didn’t bully us or foul us, they just passed us off the pitch, moving the ball quickly and decisively. Harry can whine all he likes about the depth of the squad, but he cannot pretend that he is not responsible for the team he puts out on the pitch and the tactics they employ.
I haven’t given up on Harry. His job was to keep us up, and if he acheives that, he will have been successful. But if we do go down, he will have to accept that the blame lies squarely at his feet. So let’s see if he can stop blaming everyone else, and start getting Spurs playing some decent football and winning some games.
For those of you more interested in rubbish celebrities than football, I spotted a porky Dexter Fletcher on Oxford Street today.