Harry Redknapp: Tottenham have added steel to style
Published 00:18 29/08/09 By By Mike Walters
Harry Redknapp has revealed the rant which turned Tottenham from soft targets for Bash Street bullies into rough and ready Premier League leaders.
Spurs take on Birmingham today looking for the win which would crown their best start for half a century - a far cry from the sinking, shrinking violets Redknapp inherited at White Hart Lane 10 months ago.
King ’Arry, who expects his defensive rock Ledley King to win an England recall this weekend despite a chronic knee injury, pinpointed the arrival of midfielder Wilson Palacios as the sea change in a team which always had bags of talent but the backbone of jellyfish.
Spurs messiah Redknapp said: “You create your own atmosphere at a football club - when I was at West Ham, I used to let the fans in to watch training because that was my way of doing it.
"After I left they banned everyone from training, but it didn’t stop them getting relegated.
“I treat the players like grown-ups and I’m not a sergeant major, but one or two players like Wilson Palacios have made a massive difference here. He gets on with it, he’s strong, aggressive and he’s what Tottenham haven’t had.
“When I was at Portsmouth, I always felt we could bash Tottenham up and get after them, but now I don’t think it applies to this team. We’ve added a bit of steel to our game and it’s made a difference.
“You get a little group who have seen Palacios come in, work his socks off and close down opponents, and it rubs off on people. He walks round as if he’s really pleased to be here and he appreciates everything about the place - he’s not a big-time Charlie and you need people like that to be successful.”
Redknapp marched in last October to find a dispirited squad struggling to crack the language barrier under Juande Ramos and he set about lifting morale by concentrating on his players’ strengths instead of nit-picking about their weaknesses.
But after a turgid defeat at Wigan, he showed there was a steely side to his chirpy Cockney facade, and he added: “In any walk of life, if you have no confidence, you've got no chance.
“If the crowd are on your case, or the manager drags you off every time you make a mistake, any footballer is going to find it hard.
“But at the same time, it’s not just about saying ’Well done, you’re lovely lads’ and patting everyone on the back - I’ve had team meetings where I’ve caned the backsides off them.
“After we lost at Wigan last season, I had them in this room and I went through them one by one, telling them what I thought of them and what they had done for the club and where we were because of what they had done.
“I don’t want to be doing that all the time, and that was a one-off. I know what they can do, but there came a stage last year where they gave a poor performance and I decided to sort it out, but in the main they have been terrific.”
Asked how his players reacted to an unfamiliar broadside, Redknapp said: “They accepted it because they had to - what else can they do? If they didn’t like it, unlucky. Basically, all I did was to give them some home truths about the way they had been playing.
“But I’ve not had many reasons to have a go at them like that and, from that time onwards, we picked up and went on a good run.”
One player not yet out of Redknapp’s bad books yet, however, is out-of-favour England winger David Bentley, who will be clobbered with a maximum fine of two weeks’ wages - around £100,000 - after his conviction for drink-driving yesterday.
Bentley was banned for a year and fined £600 by St Albans magistrates after crashing into a lamp-post on his way home from a gig earlier this month, and Redknapp said: “It sounds like he’s been very lucky to get away with only a year for drink driving.
“And the fine is peanuts, isn’t it, in terms of what players earn these days. What he has to do now is to learn his lesson from that and make sure he never does it again because he has been let off very lightly in my opinion.
“We will fine him the maximum we can fine him.”