Spurs Review of The Year Part V: Record-Breakers
The Lilywhites prepared to face soon-to-be-relegated West Brom at White Hart Lane – and with the chance to break an 89-year-old defensive record. Before kick-off, Tottenham had conceded just nine goals in N17, two less than Spurs all-time best...
The Lilywhites prepared to face soon-to-be-relegated West Brom at White Hart Lane - and with the chance to break an 89-year-old defensive record.
Before kick-off, Tottenham had conceded just nine goals in N17, two less than Spurs' all-time best from the 1919/20 season in the old Second Division, and with just two games to go - West Brom and Manchester City.
"The lads have been fantastic throughout the team," said Jermaine Jenas before the match. "Obviously when Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate are fit they're the best in the business, and it's been a tribute to us all to be honest, considering the position we were in, that we've managed to turn White Hart Lane into the fortress that it has been."
Tottenham won 1-0 at home for the fourth time in a row, having previously seen off Chelsea, West Ham and Newcastle by the same scoreline.
Jenas was the matchwinner after his low 25-yard curling effort skipped past Scott Carson and into bottom corner in the first half.
However, the result was harsh on the Baggies, and Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes was unquestionably the man of the match. This latest clean sheet meant that Spurs had gone six league games without conceding at home - since a 3-1 win over Stoke in January.
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The victory over the Baggies was a particularly momentous day for Tottenham because Jermain Defoe made his long-awaited return from injury, coming on in the 65th minute to partner Robbie Keane.
It was the first time the pair had linked up in Spurs colours since January 2007, as Keane had returned after Defoe broke his foot.
Previous Lilywhites managers had been sceptical about the pair's ability to play together, suggesting that they were too small to create an effective partnership - a major factor in Defoe's decision to leave the Lane for Portsmouth.
And, as Redknapp prepared to start with his 'new' forward line, he was immediately quizzed on the subject.
"The way we're playing now, with the ability of people like Luka Modric as well to supply the passes, I think the pair of them would be a very good pairing," said the boss.
"You don't necessarily have to have a giant of a striker. I think it's about movement and passing nowadays rather than just lumping it up there. I wouldn't want to get a big forward and then start lumping the ball forward."
Three months later Redknapp signed 6ft 7ins forward Peter Crouch, the tallest striker in the Premier League.
Keane and Defoe did start together at Everton's Goodison Park, but they were unable to find the net in a 0-0 draw.
The result was a blow to Tottenham's chances of qualifying for the Europa League - although it was highly debatable whether Redknapp actually wanted a place in the revamped Uefa Cup.
Many fans and pundits suggested that the Tottenham boss was hoping to miss out on Europe's second-rate competition, giving his side a better chance of breaking into the top four and qualifying for the Champions League in 2009/10.
Redknapp's team selection against Everton certainly supported that theory, as the boss suddenly experimented with playing wing-backs in Merseyside - Alan Hutton and Gareth Bale were handed rare starts on the flanks.
Bale's selection certainly seemed to be a sign that his manager was desperate to avoid the Europa League - despite 23 appearances, the Welshman had never been involved in a Premier League win.
Regrettably, Tottenham's headlines were stolen by Ledley King that weekend, as the club captain was arrested for an alleged drunken assault in London on Saturday night - just hours after he had faced Everton.
With the summer transfer window fast approaching, Redknapp talked up Tottenham's chances of competing with the Big Four in the fight for the world's best players.
"I think Tottenham is the sort of club that can always attract top players," he said. "It's a big club, it's in London, it's got all the right things going for it. We're building a new stadium, building a fantastic new training ground, it's all in place. We just need to move the team up another notch now."
Spurs ended their home campaign in style, beating mega-rich Manchester City 2-1 to complete a remarkable season in front of their own fans.
Redknapp's side were unbeaten in 15 home games in all competitions, and had lost just once in N17 under their new boss. During that spell they had held Manchester United to a 0-0 draw and beaten Chelsea.
Spurs also broke their all-time defensive record at home by one goal, having conceded just 10 times.
Defoe put Spurs ahead and, although Valeri Bojinov equalised in the second half, Keane's 86th-minute penalty kick sent the home fans happy.
That was more than could be said for Roman Pavlyuchenko, who ran straight down the tunnel after being substituted for Fraizer Campbell with 15 minutes remaining.
"I don't like that," Redknapp fumed after the match. "The fans are here and paying their money to watch and I think when a player runs down the tunnel without sitting down and watching and getting behind the team, I think that is disrespectful to his team-mates."
Redknapp also had 'encouraging' words for David Bentley, who had been an unused substitute against Everton and Man City - despite Aaron Lennon being ruled out of both games through injury.
The manager said: "David is going to be a player thinking 'hang on a minute, I'm not getting in the team even when Aaron Lennon is not fit. Maybe it's time I moved on."
Spurs finished their campaign at Anfield, losing 3-1 with an injury-hit side. Keane scored on his return to Merseyside, but Tottenham still missed out on European qualification by two points. Jenas tried to hide his glee after the final whistle.
"Obviously the Champions League is where most players want to be," he said. "I don't want to take anything away from the Uefa Cup or Europa League but it's a lot of games to win the competition and that can play on your season.
"The teams that are going to be involved in Europe next year are exactly the teams that we need to overhaul in the league. It's hard to tell now, we're speaking about the future, but I think if we're having the same conversation next year, hopefully it will be the right one.