With Harry Redknapp recently describing the Europa League as “one of those competitions that teams get in and they try to get out of,” there is mischievous chatter that Spurs will endeavour to avoid this tedious continental oke-koke at all costs.
Delivering a dismal performance against fellow 5th place contenders Liverpool this Sunday provides a timely ejector-seat to do so – but should ‘Arry be pulling the lever?
From Redknapp’s point of view – having been kissed by the sweet, sweet lips of classy Champions League football – the incentive to be seduced by sloppy-seconds is somewhat lacking. It’s clear Harry ‘they only had two points when I joined this club’ Redknapp doesn’t like the idea of going from glamour ties against Real Madrid to playing a series of East European minnows; teams who have names that have seemingly been chosen by the outcome of bowling a grenade into the alphabet.
The fact Stoke City are turning up to the orgy of far-flung fixtures doesn’t really help increase the glamour stakes either –it’s a bit like turning up to a nightclub with your bow-tied Uncle Derek.
How times change. This time last year David Bentley was skipping around in small pants as he dunked a barrel of lukewarm Lucozade over Redknapp’s head. As much as I’d love Bentley to travel from Birmingham to re-enact the scantily-clad isotonic-christening, I just don’t think it will have the same euphoric edge this year.
Spurs have won just one of their last 13 games in competitions, thereby falling into an even bigger slump than Sam Allardyce sitting down in his favourite armchair after a few pints. According to Redknapp, absence from the Europa League will provide a ‘big advantage’ for Spurs’ hunt to resurrect Champions League football at White Hart Lane next season.
Under that simplistic assumption, Tottenham could conceivably rescue this season and defibrillate the next campaign into life with a loss at Anfield.
Obviously such a nefarious, shady act couldn’t possibly be part of Redknapp’s make-up. But if OTP were to offer up any advice, it would simply be: play Huerelho Gomes.
Gomes – or ‘poppadom wrists’ as he is known to team-mates – is scientifically certain to cock-up and his confidence is currently more shriveled up than a dried apricot on a Kalahari desert sand dune.
He holds the accolade of giving away more penalties than any other player over the past two seasons – commonly clutching at ankles as if they were escapee chickens. To boot, he seems to have created more assists than Lionel Messi this season and is well on his way to ammassing enough bloopers to release a ‘Gomes Gaffes’ DVD in time for Christmas.
To be precise he has made four mistakes that have directly led to goals in the Premier League this season – a stat he shares with Rob Green.
Despite showing the cutting edge of a sharpened sausage against Manchester City on Tuesday, Redknapp still declared: “I’m delighted with the players, I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Notably – with Redknapp failing to bring in a potent striker in January and perennially marooning bad-feet-for-a-big man Peter Crouch up front to compensate for a visibly flagging Van Der Vaart, it’s quite likely that for many Spurs fans the feeling is not mutual. They could certainly have asked for more this season given their electric start.
One theory, of course, is that the recent stuttering performances are not aberrations but Tottenham, and indeed Redknapp, bottoming out at their true level. Like Gareth Bale this season – a handful of blistering performances in the Champions League may have deceived us of their true stock. Perhaps adventurous, exciting but lacking consistency, inspiration and key decision making is nearer to reality.
Given that Manchester City will be spending the GDP of Africa this summer and Liverpool have fully come round from their Hodgson-induced coma, picking and choosing when they dip in and out of Europe is misplaced confidence, bordering on arrogance from the England manager elect.
This time net year a place in the Europa League, however ripe for ridicule it may be, might not be the very worst Tottenham could hope for. It’s quite likely it will be the very best.