With the recent injury problems that have hit the Spurs squad, Harry Redknapp could be forgiven for thinking someone out there does not want his team to clinch fourth spot in the Premier League. Redknapp will need only have cast a glimpse on his former side’s plight to remember that things could be a lot worse. The Pompey squad has been as decimated as their bank balance of late and things got even worse on Saturday as more players fell at White Hart Lane. On a day that acted – by coincidence – as a dress rehearsal for both FA Cup Semi Finals, the headlines may have belonged to Chelsea but Spurs will be just as satisfied with a job well done. There was a bonus for Redknapp’s side in seeing their positional rivals Aston Villa completely destroyed 7-1 by the Blues, but they will have been most pleased at picking up their own three points against a team who had absolutely nothing left to lose.
The connections between Tottenham and Portsmouth are numerous, transcending just the involvement of Redknapp in the home dugout. With the amount of player movement between the two clubs in recent years, Pompey have almost become a feeder club to Spurs with regards to their best talents and something of a retirement home for players that did not make the White Hart Lane grade. It was almost predictable that the game would be settled by two players who have not long made the switch from Fratton Park to North London. It was one way traffic towards the away goal and it was Peter Crouch and Niko Kranjcar who profited on a day when half the Spurs team could have found the back of the net. For Crouch, it marked the end of a two-month goal drought at club level, punctuated only by his star turn for England against Egypt earlier in the month. Crouch has had to bide his time for a goal, selflessly offering his full efforts to the team while watching Jermain Defoe and then Roman Pavlyuchenko grab the headlines. Most recently, he has seen Eidur Gudjohnsen come in and find some scoring form, so it will have been a relief for the World Cup hopeful to break his duck. Everyone knows the qualities that Crouch possesses but a timely reminder will do him no harm and should benefit Spurs in the closing weeks of the season. Kranjcar has been one of the signings of the season in the Premier League and an absolute steal at just £2million. Pompey have needed every penny they could find this season but how they will wish they had the money they really ought to have received for the Croatian star.
It was another player to have joined from a South Coast club that Redknapp singled out for praise, with Gareth Bale putting in yet another sterling shift down the Tottenham left. Restored to his natural slot at left-back, Bale put in the kind of performance that young Kyle Walker on the other flank will do well to pay attention to. Walker is another talented Championship prospect to have been picked up by the club and he has had to wait patiently to be given his first taste of Premier League football. He acquitted himself well at right-back and was even involved in Kranjcar’s clinching goal, but will face a fight to establish himself with Vedran Corluka an automatic pick when fit and his former Sheffield United teammate Kyle Naughton also in the queue. If he can keep working on his game and has the patience to earn his opportunities, then he is at the right place to progress, as evidenced by another in a growing line of star turns by Bale. Redknapp was cooing after the game about his Welsh starlet, gushing praise about Bale’s pace and stamina, as well as the left foot that crossed expertly for Crouch’s opener. Spurs have not had it all their own way with young full-backs, with Chris Gunter’s move from Cardiff not working out, but if either Walker or Naughton can follow in Bale’s footsteps then the Spurs defence will be in good hands for years to come.
The FA Cup is the one thing Portsmouth have left to play for and they will look to offer more at Wembley than they managed at the Lane. Whether they have enough quality players left fit remains to be seen, but Spurs can only beat what is put in front of them and they got the job done in the league meeting with the minimum of fuss. Sterner tests await over the next few weeks but Redknapp will take a lot of heart from the professional way his team are going about their business at present.