2009 at Tottenham: Review Part One
TOTTENHAM kicked off 2009 at the wrong end of the Premier League, still battling to recover from their worst ever start to a league season. Despite that, Harry Redknapp's side were still fighting on all four fronts in the new year...
Review by Ben Pearce
TOTTENHAM kicked off 2009 at the wrong end of the Premier League, still battling to recover from their worst ever start to a league season. Despite that, Harry Redknapp's side were still fighting on all four fronts in the new year.
An FA Cup third-round tie with Wigan Athletic beckoned on Friday 2 while the following Tuesday the Lilywhites were scheduled to host Burnley in the home leg of their Carling Cup semi-final.
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Spurs ended up playing EIGHT times in January, while they were also eyeing a two-legged Uefa Cup clash with Shakhtar Donestsk in February.
One of the stranger quotes of the season came from Didier Zokora: "Of course I am happy that people are talking about Didier Zokora and Real Madrid because they are the best team in the world," he said at the turn of the year.
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Yes, the midfielder really had been the subject of interest from the Galacticos, who were then managed by the recently-departed ex-Spurs boss Juande Ramos.
It capped a bizarre sequence of events, as the man who led Spurs to their dismal tally of two points from eight games was suddenly handed the helm at the Bernabeu.
As if that wasn't enough he had apparently decided that the way to win La Liga and the Champions League would be to recruit one of his recent Tottenham charges - naturally, the one who had failed to score a single goal in 133 appearances for Spurs.
For some reason the move failed to materialise and, having weighed up their options in the summer, Real Madrid - having sacked Ramos - opted for Xabi Alonso instead.
Spurs began 2009 in style, advancing past Wigan 3-1 at White Hart Lane in the FA Cup before drawing Manchester United away - with the predictable result.
Sitting just two places outside the relegation zone, and out of the bottom three on goal difference alone, a dark cloud continued to sit ominously over the Lane.
But spirits were lifted by the return of club hero Jermain Defoe, who re-signed for Spurs after a 12-month sabbatical at Portsmouth.
It was the third time the striker had joined Redknapp, having previously worked with his favourite boss at West Ham and on the south coast at Fratton Park. The striker was to be the first of three Pompey players to follow Redknapp north to N17.
Defoe was paraded on the pitch before Tottenham's Carling Cup clash with Burnley. The Clarets initially looked like they might cause an upset, and the Championship side led 1-0 at half-time thanks to a 15th-minute goal from Martin Paterson.
Redknapp introduced Jamie O'Hara at the interval, and the England Under-21 international turned the game with a goal and two assists as Spurs responded with four goals in 22 minutes. Job done, surely...
Having been cup-tied for that clash, Defoe made his debut against Wigan, who faced Spurs for the second time in 10 days - this time in the league, and this time at the JJB Stadium.
The diminutive frontman started alongside Roman Pavlyuchenko, but his return to Tottenham action was unmemorable to say the least.
After a drab affair, the Latics stole the points in injury-time as Maynor Figueroa headed in from a corner. It was Spurs' third last-minute defeat in quick succession, following similar heartbreak at Newcastle and West Brom.
Having identified a lack of power and physicality in his inherited team, Redknapp moved to sign Wilson Palacios from Wigan for �14million.
Tottenham faced competition from mega-rich Manchester City but Redknapp agreed to drop his interest in West Ham striker Craig Bellamy (who was also a target for City) provided Mark Hughes allowed Palacios to sign for Spurs.
The Spurs boss said at the time: "Manchester City did come for him [Palacios], they came in for him on Friday. I think they were interested. They were in for Bellamy and Palacios. We dropped out of Bellamy..."
Unfortunately, Palacios' suspension ruled him out of the grudge match of the season, as Portsmouth travelled to the Lane in the league.
Having left Fratton Park in late October, Redknapp had quickly taken first team coach Joe Jordan with him, before going back again to pilfer Defoe.
Meanwhile, Pompey were managed by former Arsenal captain Tony Adams, and had a certain Sol Campbell in central defence. Campbell had endured a torrent of abuse from Spurs fans when the two sides had met earlier in the season.
When the match finally got underway, Spurs threw away a golden opportunity to jump a massive eight places up the table and into the 12th spot.
Spurs had 23 shots in the 1-1 draw, while the visitors had nine. David Nugent even put Pompey ahead, but Defoe netted against his former club to level the scores.
And, with the goal at his mercy, Darren Bent somehow contrived to plant a header wide of David James' post from less than six yards.
"You will never get a better chance to win a match than that," said a sympathetic Redknapp. "My missus could have scored that one!"
Spurs stumbled into the Carling Cup final after a near-disaster in Burnley in the second leg of the semi-final.
Young Ben Alnwick, who was deputising in goal for the injured Gomes, had a night to forget as the Clarets overturned their three-goal deficit at Turf Moor.
Leading 3-0 on the night, Burnley's away goal gave them the advantage as extra-time commenced, and a goalless 30 minutes would have booked their place at Wembley.
However, Tottenham woke up from the nightmare with seconds to spare, as Pavlyuchenko - who had scored in every match in the competition - and Defoe netted last-gasp goals.
There was to be no such recovery three days later as Spurs were predictably knocked out of the FA Cup by United. Villainous ex-Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov scored the second goal in his second appearance against his former side.
Having seen Alnwick concede five goals in two games, Redknapp moved to sign Chelsea keeper Carlo Cudicini on a free transfer, pitting him against Heurelho Gomes for the No1 jersey.
The Italian became the third keeper bought by Spurs inside eight months, following the acquisitions of Gomes and Cesar Sanchez.
Sanchez had played for a total of 16 minutes as a sub in the 4-2 Carling Cup win against Liverpool, and was unceremonially released from his contract.
Upon joining the Lilywhites, Cudicini said: "I haven't been given any assurances in terms of how often I will get to play. But of course I hope I will be playing more than I was at Chelsea."
He has started just 11 games in 2010, and will be out of action until the end of the season - when his contract expires - after a motorbike accident.
One of them came immediately against Stoke, but Cudicini was a spectator for most the match as Spurs battered their relegation rivals, going 3-0 up inside 25 minutes and triumphing 3-1.
Pascal Chimbonda surprisingly became the second recently-sold Tottenham player to return to the club, six months to the day after he had left the Lane for Sunderland.
"He was in the Premier League's Team of the Year a couple of years back," remarked Redknapp. He rarely got into Harry's in 2009. Remarkably, having made just one league start, Chimbonda was sold again in the summer.
Disaster struck as Defoe broke his foot in training the day before the trip to Bolton's Reebok Stadium.
Worse was to follow on the field as the home side triumphed 3-2, again through a last-minute header from a corner.
This time Kevin Davies did the damage, as David Bentley failed to keep the ball out of the net despite seeming to be perfectly placed.
There was hardly any time to dwell on the defeat as the next big story hit - Robbie Keane became the third Spurs player to re-sign in January, having left Liverpool the previous summer.
"I know some fans will feel I let them down by leaving, but I can assure them I shall be giving my all for this club," he said. "Coming back to Spurs was an easy decision to make because this is my home.