Premier League: 5 Reasons Why Spurs Can Win The Title This Year
Tottenham Hotspur head into their trip to Birmingham this weekend riding on the crest of a wave, having assured their progression into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League and with a third consecutive league victory under their belt.
In fact, Harry Redknapp's team might just hold off Internazionale, the holders of the competition, to top Group A in Europe and Spurs are also just six points behind league leaders Manchester United, having come from behind again to beat a resurgent Liverpool side.
They can bolster their belief this weekend when they visit a team which is limited in its ambitions and capabilities and then increase the pressure on Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea with a win over the champions at White Hart Lane next weekend.
So just how good is Redknapp's team? Do Spurs have the belief, players, mentality and support to usurp the giants of modern English football to claim the Premier League title?
I believe so and will explain five reasons why for Spurs the sky should be the limit.
Reason 1: Sense and Stability
At the weekend, another great club was brought back from the brink of extinction by a wealthy benefactor as former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric agreed a rescue package with Sheffield Wednesday's debtors.
Before that, it had seemed that Portsmouth F.C. itself was on its knees after years of irresponsible spending and short-termism.
In the Premier League, revenue is higher but huge financial gambles are taken every day, with clubs continuing to pay wages and transfer fees which are not realistic within their business models. Foreign owners such as The Glazers at Manchester United have been drawn to the league by the opportunity to earn major bucks but have witnessed the backlash of fans who draw pride from their footballing culture and history and do not enjoy being put to ransom.
It seems that money won't buy happiness in this sporting sphere and Manchester City fans have now realised that it certainly can't buy success quite as quickly as they'd hoped.
ENIC (English National Investments Company) bought a controlling stake in Spurs back in 2001 and have overseen the club's most successful spell in decades, winning a trophy and playing regular European football. Initially, the club's success was financial but the growing income streams have fed through to the first team, training facilities and academy.
Chairman Daniel Levy, a Cambridge finance graduate, can take a huge deal of credit for laying the commercial foundations for Tottenham's on-field successes, which have been orchestrated by Martin Jol and, more recently, Harry Redknapp.
One of the only clubs in European football with really manageable debt levels, Spurs are confident that they will house their growing fan base in a new, 56,000-seat stadium before the end of 2014. In the shorter term, money remains available to further strengthen the squad—especially in light of the added revenue which the club will gain from their European triumphs.
Reason 2: Harry 'Houdini' Redknapp
Harry Redknapp reminded those Spurs fans who booed the team after its 1-1 draw against Sunderland last month that he became manager at a time when the team was bottom of the league and low on confidence.
Such is the impact Redknapp and his coaching staff have had on the quality of play and results of the first team that expectations have often exceeded reason.
Nevertheless, the veteran manager has never exerted such influence on the British media or commanded so much admiration and respect from fans, players and pundits alike. He has even become the bookmakers' favourite to replace under-achieving national manager Fabio Capello after Euro 2012.
Often accused of being a one-trick pony and of lacking the managerial intelligence and tactical nouse to achieve success beyond a certain level, Redknapp has surpassed his previous achievements with Portsmouth and West Ham and is now one of the most wanted men in world football.This success has diverted attention from tax evasion and other off-field anomalies which threatened to stall his managerial career.
And the players seem comfortable and excited to be a part of his revolution, thriving on his offensive psyche and taking heart from his effusive praise. The likes of Gareth Bale, Younes Kaboul and Michael Dawson, for example, are unrecognisably better players now than was the case in previous regimes.
Reason 3: ''Believe and Act As Though It Were Impossible To Fail''
FIVE times have Spurs conceded the opening goal in the league this season only to come back to win the game.
Last weekend, Aaron Lennon's 92nd-minute winner against Liverpool; the weekend before, it was Younes Kaboul (pictured) who scored an 88th-minute headed winner against rivals Arsenal to seal a 3-2 win.
In fact, in Redknapp's first game in charge of the White Hart Lane team he saw his players rescue a 4-2 deficit at The Emirates to dramatically win a point in one of the best matches ever seen. It seems that performance was not a one-off but rather a sign of things to come.
For these Spurs players now have a steely determination and unflappable belief that anything is possible, ''Audere Est Facere'' indeed!
'Anything you can do, we can do better' is the refreshing attitude of players who possess a naivety which is often advantageous and mostly outweighed by a high level of skill and endeavour.
In past times, the team would have gone into its shell if it had conceded a two-goal first-half deficit at Arsenal. It would have been torn further apart against Internazionale at the San Siro. In recent times, Redknapp has strived for better than that and his players have responded with panache and will.
Reason 4: ''They'll Never Win Anything With Kids''
Alan Hansen's famous faux pas came back to haunt him when, in 1995-96, Manchester United won the Premier League with a squad full of young and inexperienced but talented players.
More recently, football's Nostradamus reasoned that Spurs and their fans would have to ''get away from the philosophy of pretty football'' to achieve success.
So now Spurs have proven that they can pass and dribble their way to the dizzying heights of Champions League football, can they marry this with success back in England, where they will have to travel to Blackpool on a cold winter night or toughen up considerably for the visit of a Stoke City or Blackburn Rovers?
While they have not yet achieved anything in the league this year and their position is no stronger than it was this time last year, there have been recent encouraging signs: an ability to grind out results, a will to play and score, a determination to prove their doubters wrong.
Tottenham's five best performers this year, with the exception of Rafael Van der Vaart, are all 25 years old or younger.
Gareth Bale and Tom Huddlestone in particular have shown signs of maturity and still have a lot of room and time for improvement. Moreover, they have recently signed new long-term deals at White Hart Lane. Younes Kaboul has also found his feet defensively next to veteran international star William Gallas. Luka Modric has started to use his ability on the ball to retain possession and dictate the tempo of matches.
While Tottenham's reliance on pace and width leaves the team open to counter-attacks through the midfield, it also significantly increases their own number of goalscoring opportunities over the course of the match. And with Michael Dawson and Johnathan Woodgate soon to be available in central defence and Tom Huddlestone to return in front of the back four, the team is odds on to strengthen its position in the upper echelons of the league over the turn of the New Year.
No News Is Good News: ''The Times They Are A Changing''
Who would be a football manager?
Aside from the fame and fortune associated with managing a Premier League club, football has the nasty habit of throwing up difficult obstacles at inconvenient times.
Just as Arsene Wenger's young guns seem ready to take the next step towards winning the club a first trophy in six years, they make immature mistakes and lose their cool or their managers becomes embroiled in a distracting and needless war of words with a counterpart.
Just as Carlo Ancelotti and Ray Wilkins (pictured) had built a team capable of ripping apart any eleven players put in their way, so Chelsea owner Roman Abrahamovic decided it best to fix something that patently was not broken.
Just as Liverpool fans start to see light at the end of a dark tunnel, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher sustain notable injuries.
Just as Manchester City fans start to believe they have a player who has the determination and quality to lead their team to success, it appears Carlos Tevez is considering packing in life in England to concentrate on family matters.
Although Manchester United, unbeaten to date this season, have weathered the Wayne Rooney saga and the resentful nature of the club's ownership remarkably well to lead the league, their rivals have many problems which they are struggling to overcome.
At White Hart Lane, the only noticeable problems are a slight defensive frailty - inevitable because of the manager's gung-ho tactics - and an injury list which is slowly shortening.
Unlike Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, Tottenham have been able to fully concentrate on matters on the field and let their football do the talking.
Beware the underdog, especially one with a young, attacking triumvirate as talented as Bale, Modric and Van der Vaart, and a manager as wily as a fox.