Well, well, well, this is interesting, isn’t it? Queens Park Rangers host Tottenham Hotspur in the opening game of the Premier League weekend and what would have been a normal, run-of-the-mill London derby now has quite an edge to it.
For the first time since being sacked by the club in the summer, Harry Redknapp faces his former employers and if there is still some uneasy feeling between ‘Arry, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and, it is fair to say, some of the old playing staff he left behind, then it is nothing compared to how the former West Ham boss feels about his successor.
Whether he has been in or out of employment, Redknapp has taken any opportunity he can to take none-too-subtle sideswipes at Andre Villas-Boas, his replacement, bemoaning that “bullsh*t” like dossiers on players and technical language “can baffle brains”, while saying last week that “only a dope could fail at Chelsea”. I do wonder who you were referring to there, ‘Arry?
It hasn’t occurred to Redknapp that Villas-Boas won three times as many trophies in one season at Porto than he has in over 30 years of club management, but let’s not little things like facts get in the way of a grudge, because that looks like what this is now.
Redknapp obviously feels hard done by about his departure from Spurs and I’m not going to pretend that he didn’t do a good job at White Hart Lane, because he did.
Even if his old adage “we only had two points from eight games when I came here” deliberately hid that Tottenham were massively underperforming under Juande Ramos, to take Spurs into the Champions League, as he did in 2010, was a fine feat.
But the reality is he would probably still be Tottenham manager if he hadn’t pursued the England job so vigorously, or if he didn’t oversee a collapse in the final third of last season that saw Arsenal claw back a ten-point and one-game deficit to finish third, allowing Chelsea’s Champions League win to deny Spurs a chance to play in this year’s competition.
And as things stand now, you can’t say it is a bad decision. Tottenham are currently third in the Premier League, three points clear of fifth position in the race for the top four, and looking good to cement that place.
Redknapp, on the flip side, has a job on his hands with QPR bottom of the table and that job is going to get that bit harder when his old club go to Loftus Road and beat his new one.
Spurs are 4/5 to do that and this is as close as I ever get to saying lump on an odds-on away shot. Rangers are priced at 31/10, with the draw at 27/10, but Tottenham are winning this one all day long.
I am not getting hoodwinked into thinking that QPR’s 1-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is the start of a revival. It was a great result, yes, but it was the perfect time to play a tired and rotated Chelsea team and you must remember they have only won two games out of 21 this season for a reason – they aren’t very good.
Spurs, on the other hand, are a good side and they are in form, too. Only Manchester United have taken more points than AVB’s men over the last six matches and Tottenham have won nine of their last 11 games in all competitions, losing only in the last minute to Everton.
And Tottenham have been excellent at beating the lesser sides this season. The north London outfit have won nine and drawn one of the 12 matches they have played against teams in the bottom half of the table, winning five of their six away fixtures against those teams.
The way they swatted Aston Villa and Sunderland aside away from home before Christmas was deeply impressive and they have too much for this limited Rangers team.
Odds-on away pokes aren’t normally my thing, but the 4/5 on AVB having the last laugh against ‘Arry has to be taken, because I can’t see any other outcome.
Top bet: Tottenham to beat QPR @ 4/5