Redknapp takes England hot-seat... for Cup semi
Published 21:31 13/04/12 By Mike Walters
Harry Redknapp will get his feet under the table at Wembley on Sunday - in the ENGLAND dugout.
Tottenham have been allocated the national stadium's west dressing room - the one traditionally used by England - for their FA Cup semi-final clash with Chelsea.
Redknapp gets the hump at any suggestion his Spurs side’s recent slump - it's now one win in eight league games, turning what was a comfortable third place and a 10-point lead over Arsenal into a five-point deficit - has anything to do with the bookies making him overwhelming favourite to replace Fabio Capello as the Three Lions' gaffer.
But on his first visit to Wembley since Don Fabio walked out two months ago, there will an inescapable sense of Redknapp settling into his natural habitat as he takes his seat on the touchline.
He will certainly be looking for a happier ending than his last experience of a major semi-final, when Spurs came unstuck against his former club Portsmouth in this competition two seasons ago.
Poor old ‘Arry was so restless after Tottenham’s shock 2-0 defeat in April 2010 that he asked a taxi driver to go in search of an all-night chemist to find him some sleeping tablets.
And if the nation’s chosen one is short of kip again now, he insists it has more to do with a lack of fit central defenders in his squad than radio silence from the Football Association tailors standing by to measure him up for an England blazer.
Redknapp said: “I’m still here. And who knows where you’re going to be tomorrow?
“I never think about it (the England job). Honestly. I swear I never think about anything other than Tottenham.
"I’m just trying to finish the season in that top four and get to the Cup final - other than that, there is nothing to occupy my mind at all.
“As for our recent results, we had a bad end to last season as well, to be fair. You lose one or two key players, and maybe one or two have played an awful lot of games, and we are not in a position where we can pull one or two out.
“Everyone says what a strong squad we’ve got, but at the moment I’m struggling to find seven subs to fill the bench.
"There is every chance David Bentley could be back - he is in the running, even though he hasn’t played a game for us this year.”
Former England winger Bentley, the first man to score at Wembley after its £750million facelift, has not played since a serious knee injury ended a loan spell at West Ham six months ago.
He has been on the fringes at White Hart Lane ever since he tipped a bucket of water over Redknapp after Tottenham clinched Champions League football with a 1-0 win at Manchester City in 2010 - just three weeks after their Wembley heartbreak against Pompey.
Whether or not deliverance of the FA Cup turns out to be the grand gesture of a manager signing off to answer his country’s call, Redknapp is desperate to bring the old pot back to his corner of north London for the first time in 21 years.
He said: “Since 1991, Tottenham have only won the League Cup twice. It’s time we won another trophy. It would be great for the fans to look back and say they were there when Tottenham won the FA Cup.
“I’m very proud of my winner’s medal with Portsmouth - although I couldn’t tell you where it is, I’ve no idea where I’ve put it.
“People say you remember who won the Cup more than who finished fourth, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to remember anything in 10 years - I’ll probably have forgotten my own name by then!
“I’ve experienced both sides of the coin at Wembley, and I know which one I prefer.
“I remember having to get a couple of sleeping tablets that night because I couldn’t switch off. I remember sending my mate, a London taxi driver, out into the West End to try to find me a chemist that was open.
“I was so low, so fed-up, that night. The pitch was diabolical, horrendous, although that wasn’t an excuse for us getting beat by Portsmouth. But it’s all in the past now.
“It’s always great playing at Wembley - it’s got that tradition, although the Cup final will never be the same as it was when we were growing up and that main in the white suit used to lead the singing of Abide With Me.
“In those days, the country used to come to a standstill for the FA Cup final. The streets were deserted because we didn’t have football on TV every week and you didn’t have Sky showing every goal from every division.
“The Cup final was our big day of the year - you would get a bit of extra food in and we would crowd round our 9in black-and-white TV with a magnifying glass hung over the front to make it 12in. That’s why we all wear glasses now!”
Defender Younes Kaboul and midfielder Niko Kranjcar are both out of the game with knee injuries - the latter’s is so severe he is already doubtful for Croatia’s Euro 2012 campaign.
However, Redknapp will give skipper and centre-half Ledley King, who was given a torrid time by Norwich battering-ram Grant Holt on Easter Monday, every chance to declare himself fit.