After years of threatening to break the top four, Spurs have at last secured Champions League football for the first time – Peter Crouch’s late header ending both the seasons of frustration for the white side of North London and the season of hope for the blue side of Manchester.
It would be hard to argue that Spurs didn’t deserve it either – these last few seasons their football has been, on the whole, a joy to watch as Harry Redknapp builds a Tottenham side packed with pace and swashbuckling attacking flair that has left many older fans drawing comparisons between this current line-up and the great Spurs sides of the early 70’s and 80’s. Indeed, this week could herald a new, similarly golden era for the Lilywhites which would be warmly welcomed by the White Hart Lane faithful after so many false dawns and years of underachievement. After the final day heartbreak and stomach-ache of 2006 and the three seasons of league and managerial inconsistency that followed, this season’s achievements mean Redknapp has not only finally righted the Tottenham ship, but also steered it into exciting new waters, less than a year and a half after taking charge of the club, who at the time of his appointment were bottom of the Premier League and in complete disarray both on and off the pitch.
Not that this success has come cheap. For all the talk of Manchester City’s extravagant spending (£223m since Sheik Mansour took charge at Eastlands in September 2008), Spurs were next in line in the expenditure stakes and have forked out an impressive £150m in the 17 months since Redknapp arrived at White Hart Lane. Not that this should worry their accountant – even without their imminent Champions League payout, which should initially be worth at least £20m, Tottenham are one of a small handful of Premier League clubs not in debt, announcing a pre-tax profit of £33.4m and a record player trading profit of £56.5m back in November 2009. With the loaded Lilywhites looking at moving to a new 56 000 seat stadium and with 23 000 members on the waiting list for a season ticket, Spurs are clearly being managed as well from the boardroom as they are the dugout.
As if this wasn’t enough, Spurs could even yet finish above Arsenal, although the Gunner’s superior goal difference means just a point against Hamburg-bound Fulham (who will no doubt have one-and-a-half eyes on the Europa League Cup Final) will almost certainly be enough to secure the St Totteringham’s Day celebrations at the Emirates, although this year’s festivities may be somewhat muted as the Gunners nervously observe the ongoing Redknapp revolution. For Spurs, fourth place will be enough for now; that and the sight of Danny Rose nonchalantly swatting that 30-yard volley past Manuel Almunia as Tottenham revelled in their first league win over Arsenal in over ten years.
So where do Spurs go from here? How can they build on this season’s achievements? Well for one thing they could win something. Champions League qualification is all very well and good (don’t forget they still have to get past a tough qualifying round which includes the likes of Zenit St Petersburg, Sevilla, Ajax and Celtic) but if Tottenham are to successfully turn the big four into a big five, they desperately need to start winning trophies. Their last major honour (their only one of the last decade) was the League Cup back in 2008 (they were beaten finalists the following year) and for a club like Tottenham that is simply not good enough. For all the celebrating and manager-soaking, the Tottenham fans and players will watch Portsmouth line up at Wembley on the May 15 and know deep down it should have been them.
Given their strong financial position, Redknapp should also now ensure that Spurs never again give up one of their star players without a damned good fight. They won’t become a title-challenging Premier League side by being a selling club and the sales of Michael Carrick, Dimitar Berbatov and more recently Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane (albeit temporarily) whilst financially lucrative, did absolutely nothing to help the cause on the pitch. Tottenham may ‘do an Everton’ – sink without trace in the Champions League and return to battling it out for a Europa League spot, but if they can at least make it through to the group stages, plug the few gaps in their squad and maybe pick up a trophy along the way, whilst at the same time consolidating their top four status, then the Spurs could well go marching on to even greater things. That might sound like a tall order to some, but then this is Harry Redknapp we’re talking about.