Right to aim high

Harry Redknapp believes Tottenham can win the EPL.-AP

The most important asset of Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp is his ability to man-manage. It is his triumph in keeping the non-playing members of a big squad focused and ambitious and prepared to give everything for the cause when called upon infrequently.

With each week that passes there is growing conviction in the tone and demeanour of Harry Redknapp that Tottenham could soon be depositing their first league title for more than half a century in the trophy cabinet at White Hart Lane.

Of course, with almost half of the season still to negotiate and Manchester City in the lead and Manchester United a notch above on goal difference, Redknapp is too savvy to get carried away with overly bullish predictions.

But as win after win stacks up the question keeps coming: Can Tottenham win the Barclays English Premier League?

Redknapp answers it as honestly as he can. “It's not impossible for us to win the league,” he said after the victory against Everton. “We have a chance. The players believe we have a good chance.”

So do an increasing number of fans with no allegiance to Tottenham other than that they recognise what Redknapp has achieved at White Hart Lane so far is good for football.

For a start, if it wasn't for Tottenham we would now be looking at a two-horse title race centred on parochial tribal rivalry in Manchester, a rivalry which has been rekindled by team building to the tune of GBP350 million by one of the world's richest men in Sheikh Mansour.

No one's saying Redknapp has not had cash to spend either, but the Tottenham transformation appears to have been done with regard to a more traditional route, including recapturing the entertaining ideals laid down in the club's glory years of the 1960s.

Not by throwing cash willy-nilly and buying players to keep them away from other clubs, which has appeared to be one strategy at the Etihad Stadium, but by sensible, intuitive purchases.

Such as Rafael van der Vaart for GBP8 million from Real Madrid, surely one of the bargains of the decade, and GBP5 million Scott Parker, who has given the midfield balance.

Yet while Redknapp's acumen in the transfer market is one of his undeniable talents, it is not the most significant detail which has taken Tottenham past Liverpool and Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for a UEFA Champions League spot.

The most important asset at White Hart Lane is Redknapp's ability to man-manage. It is his triumph in keeping the non-playing members of a big squad focused and ambitious and prepared to give everything for the cause when called upon infrequently.

Yes, there have been rumblings of discontent from striker Roman Pavlyuchenko and Luka Modric's head was turned in the summer by an offer from Chelsea which would have trebled his wages. But no one would accuse them of selling Redknapp short on the field.

That is Redknapp's skill and the one which makes him favourite to take over from England manager Fabio Capello when the European Championships are done this summer.

Harmony and momentum. Those are the twin thrusts at the heart of a Tottenham surge which has seen just one defeat in their last 19 matches.

It is the thrilling football at White Hart Lane, however, the sweeping runs of Gareth Bale and the guile of Modric, which is drawing comparison with Bill Nicholson's side which became the first English club to win the League and FA Cup double in 1961 and the first to win a European trophy, the Cup Winners' Cup in 1963.

Could Redknapp emulate the legendary Nicholson? Could he deliver Tottenham's first league trophy for 51 years?

It is more than a dream. It is becoming distinctly possible as, with each press conference, Redknapp appears to echo the most famous quote of Nicholson. “It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low,” Nicholson said.

Redknapp believes Tottenham can win the league all right. What's more, it is becoming increasingly plain that he deserves to do so.

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Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was right. Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson's two-footed tackle on City defender Joleon Lescott, for which there was no sanction, was worse than the one for which City's Vincent Kompany received a red card against Manchester United.

It is easy to understand why refereeing inconsistencies infuriate football managers, but that should not be the debate. The simple fact is that two-footed tackles are uncontrollable and dangerous. They are potential leg-breakers.

It does not matter whether the player gets the ball. There should be zero tolerance and red cards issued until they are eradicated from the game.

* * *

Liverpool are not going to win the EPL this season, but they might win a record eighth League Cup. Admittedly, it is not the most illustrious prize for a club with 18 league titles and five European Cups to their name.

However, when Steven Gerrard scored the penalty which defeated Manchester City in the first leg of their semifinal, the grin on Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish's face told the real story.

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