Last night, Harry Redknapp‘s gung-ho Tottenham side defied all expectations by securing a table-topping finish to their maiden Champions League group campaign by means of a pulsating 3-3 draw with Dutch also-rans FC Twente.
On their way through to the knock-out stages, Spurs have filed some ebullient performances, scoring a record number of goals (18) for a tournament debutant in the process – a total only two short of the overall record which was set by Manchester United during their victorious 1998/99 season.
United’s 98/99 vintage are also the only team in Champions League history to see more goals (for and against) scored in their six group games than Tottenham’s current line-up – with the former witnessing 31 strikes compared to the latter’s total of 29.
Speaking after the Twente game, Redknapp said:
“People look at us, especially our home record. We’re always dangerous at White Hart Lane and we’ve got players that can cause people problems.
With people like Rafael van der Vaart getting fit and coming back in as well and one or two others coming back from injury hopefully in the near future, we’ve got a good squad of players.
We can cause anybody problems and we’d give anybody a game, for sure. I’m not saying we’re going to win the Champions League but I think that whoever we draw, it’ll be an interesting game.
“Y’know, we’ve got every chance. It’s a great achievement to finish top of what for me was the toughest group of the lot. Werder Bremen are a good team, Twente are tough and Inter Milan as well.”
And you could hardly argue with him on that count. At the time of the draw, Group A looked potentially insurmountable from a Tottenham perspective though, four months later, here we all stand.
All-in-all, it’s been a pretty eventful few months for Redknapp and his rag-tag band of have-a-go-heroes (continentally speaking at least), but the Spurs manager sees no reason to temper his attacking tendencies in the ‘last 16’ phase of the tournament – insisting that he will stick with the formula that has served him so well so far and merely ‘have a go’.
Having finished up on top of Group A, Spurs are now certain to avoid big boys Barcelona and Real Madrid in the draw for the last 16, but Redknapp insists that he will not alter his ‘balls-to-the-wall’ approach whomever his side are eventually pitted against:
“It was important to win it because the teams that are going to finish top – the Barcelonas, the Real Madrids – they’ve won their groups.
We attack, we score goals, we go for it in every game. We play with two wide men and look to attack teams at every opportunity. We are open and we look to win. It’s just how we are.”
After seeing their group campaign culminate in yet another high-scoring affair, Spurs have ended the preliminary round having scored an average of three goals in every game.
However, they have also conceded an average of almost two goals per tie, though the statistical lapse doesn’t seem to phase Redknapp, who continued to defend his ‘Hollywood’ style:
“You can’t have it all ways. You either play [attacking football] or you play with one striker. We’ve gone for it, we have a go.
I feel we’ve got to play people who can score and people who can hurt teams and that’s how we’ve approached the games. And, at the end of the day, we’ve finished top of the group.
You can’t say, ‘Well they’ve conceded goals’ as we’ve scored more goals than anybody.
If you want us to shut up shop, we can do that and come away and be difficult to beat and stick five across midfield. But we don’t, we come away and have a go.”
And long may it continue. Nowhere in the current footballing sphere do you get more bang for your buck than at White Hart Lane.
I’m not suggesting for a split-second that Spurs are in any way primed to win this season’s Champions League – far from it – but if, by some freakish miracle they do make it through to Wembley on May 28th, you can rest assured that they’ll have made it through sheer, exhilarating gusto – and to that, I’ll doff my cap.