when Hull City made it back-to-back wins in north London courtesy of a sublime free-kick by Geovanni at White Hart Lane just two-and-a-half years ago, Tottenham Hotspur had hit rock bottom in the Premier League.
The visit of the Tigers may have only been the seventh game of the season but it seemed that Juande Ramos’s mis-firing Spurs side, with just two points to their name, were in for a long, hard season.
An international break for the World Cup qualifiers brought temporary respite for the Spaniard the following weekend but normal service was resumed in Tottenham’s next outing when Stoke City inflicted a sixth league defeat of the season on the Londoners.
The Spurs board, mindful of the devastating impact relegation would have on a club who, the previous summer, had spent £50m in the transfer market, acted by sacking Ramos and turning to Harry Redknapp.
Compensation of £5m was quickly agreed with Portsmouth and Spurs had their new manager in time for the visit of Bolton Wanderers on October 26. Three days later, a last-minute equaliser by Aaron Lennon rescued a point from a thrilling 4-4 draw at Arsenal and the Redknapp era was up and running.
Any lingering fears about being dragged into relegation trouble had been firmly dispelled by early 2009 as Spurs continued their recovery from such an awful start to claim an eighth place finish – something that had seemed impossible following Hull’s deserved victory at the Lane.
Since then, of course, Redknapp has steered his side to fourth place in the Premier League and, now, to within touching distance of the Champions League quarter-finals.
It is a remarkable turnaround in fortune and one that has, understandably, led to the plaudits raining down on the Spurs manager. Every single one of them is deserved, not least because by modern-day standards the transformation has been achieved for a relative pittance – as proved by a quick glance at the 14 players who helped Spurs to this week’s stunning Champions League win over AC Milan in the San Siro.
Of those, just Wilson Palacios, Peter Crouch and Rafel Van der Vaart of Redknapp’s signings arrived for fees that can be described as anything like ‘substantial’. William Gallas, for instance, signed on a free transfer after being released by Arsenal last summer, while Steven Pienaar came in from Everton last month for a cut-price £3m due to having just six months remaining on his contract at Everton.
Otherwise, the team that performed so magnificently on Tuesday night was largely made up of players who were already at the club when Redknapp arrived.
As if to underline this, five of the players who performed so admirably in the San Siro – Heurelho Gomes, Jonathan Woodgate, Vedran Corluka, Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon – were in the team beaten by Hull, while Gareth Bale and Jermaine Jenas – who but for injury and suspension, respectively, would have faced Milan – were also in the starting XI against Phil Brown’s men and Michael Dawson was on the bench.
Clearly, Redknapp has been able to motivate and organise Spurs in a way that was totally beyond Ramos and it is this column’s view that, for that very reason, the Football Association must look no further than the Lane for Fabio Capello’s successor when the Italian, as planned, steps down after Euro 2012.