IT’S been a strange few months for Harry Redknapp. He is, surely, the only man ever to receive the freedom of Portsmouth to the sound of booing. And he is, certainly, the first 60-something ever to become a poster boy for Nintendo.
Then, of course, there is the continuing wait for the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether to bring charges in the football corruption inquiry being conducted by the City of London Police. (A decision is expected in February. Redknapp has always denied any wrongdoing. The High Court ruled in May that a police raid on his home in November 2007 was unlawful.)
And amid all of that, Redknapp has the job of trying to drag Tottenham away from the Premier League’s relegation zone. He made a good start after taking charge in October, winning three and drawing the other of the first four games following his appointment (although he wasn’t, strictly speaking, in charge for the first of those games, a 2-0 victory over Bolton).
Since then, progress has been a little slower. Spurs are outside the relegation zone only on goal difference, and Redknapp is talking of bringing in a striker once the transfer window opens. The loss of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov cannot, it seems, be repaired simply with a few inspirational team talks.
Last night’s final match: Tottenham 0 Fulham 0
Commentator: Dan O’Hagan
It was disorientating to see Redknapp make a Christmas TV appearance that didn’t involve him playing Mario Kart with his son and daughter-in-law. But there will be no time for any of that nonsense in January – not while there’s a striker to find.
And in any case, thanks to the credit crunch, no one can afford expensive, frivolous toys such as the Nintendo Wii any more. We’ll all have to make our own such toys out of tin cans and bits of string from now on. (Coincidentally, that may also end up being the only way for Redknapp to magic up a new striker.)
When he arrived at Tottenham, Redknapp inherited a squad of frontmen consisting of Darren Bent, Fraizer Campbell (who is on loan from Manchester United) and Roman Pavlyuchenko (who is cup-tied in Europe). Tottenham have scored fewer Premier League goals at home – seven – that anyone else.
Along with around half of the clubs in the Premier League, his hopes seem to rest on making a successful bid for West Ham’s Craig Bellamy.
“I think there are teams interested in Bellamy, we’ll have to wait and see on that one,” he told Sky Sports News ahead of yesterday’s draw with Fulham.
It’s a sign of just how desperate the chase for a striker is that Bellamy (who was brilliant at Portsmouth yesterday, but has still only scored four league goals all season) is set to become one of the top flight’s most sought-after players next month.
Spurs do lack a cutting edge. Or, as their official website put it: “Fulham held us to a 0-0 draw in the Boxing Day fixture at White Hart Lane, although we had the better of the game overall.”
Actually, Fulham had two very good chances to score, with Heurelho Gomes making an acrobatic save to keep out Clint Dempsey’s volley, and a smart stop to deny Andy Johnson near the end. Gomes has seemed less of a liability and more of a saviour for Spurs in recent weeks. While a striker is a priority for Tottenham, Redknapp no longer has to worry about whether he needs to sign a goalkeeper too.
As Spurs continue to ride a rollercoaster which might (but really shouldn’t) take them into the Championship, Fulham are floating along so serenely that the world has stopped noticing them. This was the fourth time on the trot that they have appeared last on Match of the Day, which I suspect is a record for the programme. (Unless their home game against Chelsea is extraordinarily dull, that run will come to an end tomorrow.) It was also their fourth successive 0-0 draw away from home. (I’ve looked at the fixture list, and that run could go on for months.)
Four goalless away draws on the run may not sound a lot to shout about. But when your travelling record is as ropey as Fulham’s (five wins out of the last 66 Premier League away matches – and that run includes three successive away victories at the end of last season), it all counts as progress.
For Redknapp, progress means scoring a few more at home in 2009. And perhaps beating Jamie to win the odd Mushroom Cup.
1. Fulham: 6 (GD: +1; CD: +1)
2. Middlesbrough: 5 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
3. Capello: 4 (GD: +1; CD: +4)
4. Wigan: 4 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
5=. Blackburn: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
5=. West Brom: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
7. Stoke: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
8. West Ham: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
9=. Bolton: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
9=. Newcastle: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
11=. Gubba: 1 (GD: +1; CD: +1)
11=. Manchester City: 1 (GD: +1; CD +1)
13. Portsmouth: 1 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
14=. Everton: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14=. Hull: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14=. Sunderland: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14=. Tottenham: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
18=. Arsenal: 0
18=. Aston Villa: 0
18=. Chelsea: 0
18=. Liverpool: 0
18=. Manchester United: 0
(NB: Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference: the number of times a team is last on Match of the Day with Tony Gubba commentating. If they are still level, they will be separated by Capello difference: the number of times a team is last on MOTD with Fabio Capello present.)