By Ryan Benson at the Reebok Stadium
From the very beginning of the entire saga, the Football Association made a mess of the appointment of the new England manager, not because they necessarily chose the wrong man, but rather how they went about it.
Fabio Capello left at the beginning of February and Roy Hodgson was unveiled as his successor on May 1, leaving three speculation-laden months for the media to run wild with their suggestions, fantasies and theories regarding who would, or should, get the job.
One could not read anything England-related without seeing the name Harry Redknapp inked in the same sentence as “next England manager”, or something to that effect and all the while the FA insisted they would take their time.
That time appears to have had a telling effect on Tottenham, with Redknapp himself admitting that many of his backroom staff believe the players’ focus was damaged due to the constant speculating.
Before Wednesday evening’s 4-1 win at Bolton, Spurs had managed just three wins from their previous 12 matches in the Premier League, stretching all the way back until early February. Hardly the form of a team hoping to land themselves in the Champions League next season.
A dreadful performance at home to Norwich City saw the Canaries pick up a deserved win at White Hart Lane, while Spurs were not much better in the defeat to QPR, even if Redknapp insisted the Hoops were lucky to win.
|SPURS' RECORD SINCE CAPELLO QUIT
So much media attention had been centred on Redknapp regarding the England job that it was almost as if people had forgotten that there were other viable candidates, with Hodgson accumulating less column inches but more points than Redknapp, since Capello's departure.
Throughout the period of uncertainty, Spurs have appeared sluggish and under pressure in their performances, with their free-flowing and expansive football becoming more tame and less effective.
However, it was like a massive weight had been suddenly removed from their back on Wednesday night. Spurs looked free, confident and above all, determined, as they beat Bolton 4-1 at the Reebok Stadium.
In the first half they were completely dominant, with Aaron Lennon, Emmanuel Adebayor and Luka Modric all looking dangerous, while Gareth Bale had an aura of efficiency surrounding him.
The Welshman was far from at his best, but by the end of the night he had two assists, one less than the amount he had picked up since January 14.
Modric gave them the lead with an outrageous strike and it all looked to be plain sailing as they went in one up at the break, but a resurgent Bolton emerged after half time with Owen Coyle-induced ringing ears and eventually equalised.
For a little over 10 minutes Spurs were at the mercy of the Trotters and when Nigel Reo-Coker briefly awoke from anonymity to score, it was deserved and one would not have been in the least bit surprised if they had grabbed a second, but Tottenham dug their heels in.
Completely against the run of play Spurs hit back through Rafael van der Vaart, as he calmly swept home after a good run down the left from Bale, and less than a minute after the restart, the away side had a third as Lennon turned provider for Adebayor.
Admittedly Bolton are hardly one of the better sides in the league, but like the flick of a switch, Spurs went from cruise control, to full throttle. They gave Bolton a glimmer of hope, but once they extended their arm, Redknapp’s team snatched it back immediately.
The quick-fire double visibly affected a Bolton side already drained of confidence and belief as they looked like they had already lost, despite having almost half an hour to play. Inevitably Spurs grabbed a fourth.
|FAVOURITES FOR FOURTH
|1/5||Tottenham are 1/5 to finish in the top four of the Premier League with bet365|
Although the FA took so long to not approach Redknapp it at least allowed Spurs closure and three matches to effectively save their season and qualify for the Champions League.
With the first hurdle – Bolton – out of the way, they sit in pole position for fourth place, while only goal difference separates them from Arsenal in third.
If the win over Coyle’s side was indeed Spurs reasserting their focus for the run-in, then it is difficult to see them slipping up in their final two outings, as they travel to Aston Villa next, before finishing the season at home to Fulham.
The eventual timing of Redknapp’s snub may have saved Spurs’ season, but given their form earlier in the campaign, they could have secured a top-four place weeks ago had the FA not left them in limbo.