Armchair Pundit

Redknapp title talk a shrewd move

Alex Chick

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Can Tottenham Hotspur really win the Premier League? Harry
Redknapp wants us to believe they can.

In his post-match interview after last night's win against
Aston Villa, the Spurs boss claimed: "If we keep up the form we're in at
the moment we'll win the league."

This, of course, is rubbish. If everybody maintains their form
Spurs will come second behind City.

But it was a measure of the feelgood factor at White Hart
Lane, following eight wins from nine games, that the manager felt emboldened to
make such a claim.

Actually, he has done this before - in July 2010
then again several months later.

Of course, Spurs didn't win the title last season, and they
won't do it this time.

Yet I don't blame Redknapp for talking up his side's
prospects. It represents a refreshing blast of carefree positivity in a league
full of caution and backside-covering.

Too many modern managers indulge in 'expectation
management', to slip momentarily into loathsome business-speak.

To wit, if you predict a mid-table finish and actually
finish sixth, that can easily be painted as a success.

If you say you're going to win the league and only finish
fourth, you risk looking a bit silly.

Redknapp himself was a leading culprit in his first season at Spurs,
when he wouldn't shut up about relegation even as his side cruised towards
eighth place.

But the doom-and-gloom approach only works if your club's
board and fanbase is peopled exclusively by idiots.

You'll note the key word there is 'exclusively'. And, in
Daniel Levy, Redknapp appears to have a fairly sensible chairman with whom he
works well.

Even the supporters know a Tottenham league title is highly
unlikely. The bookies rate them at 40/1, and you won't find too many
punters snapping them up at those odds.

Manchester City continue to blast relentlessly to glory, and
should they slip up United are poised to take advantage. When you've won 12 league titles in 19 seasons, you
don't tend to get fazed by a five-point deficit around the back end of
November.

But whatever the table says, the point Redknapp wants to
make is that there is no glass ceiling for his side.

They might not have the money of City or Chelsea, or the
pedigree of United, but there is no reason why they should not finish above any
or all of them. All they have to do is keep winning football matches.

In recent years, outsiders have crept into the Premier
League title race before fading from contention.

Leeds in 1999/00, Newcastle in 2001/02, Aston Villa in
2008/09; you might even include Arsenal in 2009/10.

That, experience tells us, is what happens. Teams
overachieve, they force their way into the frame, then they step meekly aside
when the occasion demands it, allowing the big boys to take control.

When the title race reaches the final furlong, the real
quality shines through. Or so the theory goes.

But the whole notion of a 'title race' is, frankly, a load
of guff. You play 38 matches, and at the end you add up your points -
that's it. When and how they come is immaterial.

Redknapp wants to instil a sense at Tottenham that the upper
echelons of the table are their territory.

At some point you cross the Rubicon, gaining the self-belief
to feel like you belong here. City and Chelsea both have it, yet several years ago they
didn't.

For City, the end of last season was that moment - finishing
third, and more importantly winning the FA Cup, forcing United's fans to remove
the '35 years' banner from Old Trafford marking the time since City's last
trophy.

A small, parochial issue maybe, but it signified City's
arrival as a genuine force - still more so as they knocked United out en route
to the final.

Spurs are on the brink - they finished in the top four and
had a good Champions League run, but couldn't maintain their league position.

Now, with Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea all labouring,
Tottenham have the perfect opportunity not just to return to the top four, but to
make people feel like it wasn't a fluke.

Spurs have an excellent squad, particularly in a midfield
that outshines any in the division barring City's. They now have, in Scott Parker, a disciplined dynamo to
complement the lavish talents of Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart, Gareth Bale
and Aaron Lennon.

Redknapp loves to bleat about injuries reducing his
personnel to "the bare bones" but in reality Spurs have the squad
depth to cope with a spring injury crisis.

However, the biggest obstacle to the club's progress could
be Redknapp himself.

Happily, he has returned from heart surgery without his
absence affecting Tottenham's form, but another issue looms in the New Year.

On January 23, he and Milan Mandaric go on trial relating to
allegations of cheating the public revenue.

Redknapp denies any wrongdoing, but whatever the outcome it
surely counts as a major distraction.

Spurs face 'title rivals' Manchester City the day before the
trial begins, and it would take an extraordinary feat of mental strength for
Redknapp to have his attention focused entirely on the game.

Whatever the future holds, Redknapp's vibrant Tottenham side are a force
for good in the Premier League.

The club's motto states: 'To Dare Is To Do'. Reality is not
quite that simple, but by daring to tip his side for the title, Redknapp has at
least given them a chance of doing it.

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On Twitter - @alexchick81

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