THERE is still life in this season for Tottenham Hotspur, yet given the traumas both he and his club have endured it was hardly surprising to hear Robbie Keane counting down the days to next term.
A managerial sacking, the departure of a clutch of senior players and a flirtation with relegation have made 2008-09 a campaign to forget in this corner of north London, even if Harry Redknapp could yet enhance his Houdini reputation by taking the club into the Europa League.
Victory over West Ham at White Hart Lane, courtesy of Roman Pavlyuchenko’s smart goal, moved Spurs within sight of the seventh-placed finish that should seal a spot in the revamped UEFA Cup, although Redknapp preferred to focus on the achievement of easing past the 40-point mark to avoid relegation. Keane — whose wretched four-month spell at Liverpool still hangs heavy on his conscience — prefers to look upwards, even if the full benefits of Redknapp’s appointment will not be felt until next season.
“There is no reason why we can’t get into Europe again,” he said. “There is such a slim margin between relegation and seventh.”
Redknapp feels matching the likes of Villa is possible with a few additions to the squad, although he has plenty of options in attack.
Bent started against West Ham alongside Keane, with Jermain Defoe returning from a foot injury this month to add to the competition.
Pavlyuchenko came off the bench to replace Bent against Gianfranco Zola’s men and it took him nine minutes to score the only goal of the match. No wonder Redknapp reiterated his desire to keep the Russian this summer.
Zola, meanwhile, has problems in attack following the loss of Carlton Cole.
The Italian remains confident of holding on to seventh place and he has been encouraged by Kieron Dyer’s gradual return to full fitness.
“It is just a matter of physical condition — he is getting better and better,” Zola said.
TOTTENHAM (4-4-2): Gomes 7, Corluka 6, Woodgate 7, King 7, Assou-Ekotto 6, Lennon 6, Huddlestone 6, Jenas 5 (Zokora 46, 6), Modric 8, Bent 6 (Pavlyuchenko 56, 7), Keane 6.
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Bale, Bentley, Dawson, Chimbonda.
WEST HAM (4-4-2): Green 7, Collins 7, Tomkins 6 (Nsereko 81, 5), Upson 6, Ilunga 6, Stanislas 6, Neill 6, Noble 6, Boa Morte 6 (Dyer 71, 5), Tristan 5 (Sears 85, 5), Di Michele 5.
Subs Not Used: Lastuvka, Lopez, Payne, N’Gala.
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire) 5: Too many bookings — six — for a pretty pedestrian game.
MATCH RATING: ** Never threatened to live up to its billing as a fiery derby.
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