Poor old Harry Redknapp. Despite saying all the right things in the aftermath of Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager, you can bet that he was gobsmacked by the chain of events which unfolded this week.
The man dubbed the ‘people’s choice’ to replace Fabio Capello had been waiting since February for a call from the FA’s four-man panel to discuss the possibility of replacing the Italian in the top job.
His work with Tottenham – hauling them off the foot of the Premier League table and steering them to the Champions League quarter-finals, beating the two Milan clubs along the way – entitled him to expect at least an interview.
However, the phone made famous for sending Sky Sports News presenter Jim White into a comical frenzy every transfer deadline day apparently never rang.
How ironic, then, that some of the Spurs fans who were mortified at the prospect of losing Redknapp when it looked as though their men would go toe-to-toe with the Manchester giants this term are now left cold by the news that he will remain at White Hart Lane.
The Londoners have collapsed from title contenders to top-four hopefuls, a slump which coincided almost exactly with Redknapp being held up by his chums in the media as a shoo-in for the England job.
In truth, their poor run can be explained, to some extent, by a handful of errors on the part of the former Bournemouth, West Ham, Portsmouth and Southampton manager.
I’ve said before on these pages that allowing Steven Pienaar to re-join Everton on loan was a bizarre decision, considering that most of the tactical tinkering Redknapp has undertaken in recent weeks can be attributed to the absence of Aaron Lennon.
Spurs’ best performances have come with Lennon on the right in their normal 4-4-1-1 system, but the England winger’s injury record is questionable (at best) and Redknapp has looked stumped whenever he has been unavailable.
His main response has been to change his system. Gareth Bale has been played on the right of a front three and in a free role, Rafael van der Vaart has been shunted out to the right on occasion (even in a four-man midfield) and Luka Modric has been treated more like a utility man at times than a precociously gifted playmaker.
Spurs have a shocking record at the Reebok, with just one win in their last 15 visits, and even that came in a Carling Cup tie back in 2004. On top of that, Redknapp’s men are suffering with a major dose of travel sickness, having not won on the road in the league yet in 2012.
All three have struggled in recent weeks as a result, with Redknapp’s use (or misuse in this case) of Bale proving particularly damaging – it’s surely no coincidence that the Welshman’s dazzling early-season form evaporated as soon as he was moved from the left wing.
Throw in an alleged bust-up with Emmanuel Adebayor, the peculiar signings of veterans Ryan Nelsen and Louis Saha in the transfer window, an over-reliance on 34-year-old William Gallas and Father Time finally appearing to catch up with Ledley King and it is easy to see why Redknapp is not universally popular at the Lane at present.
However, for all their troubles, Spurs are still in the box seat to finish fourth, even if the prospect of doing so and then being denied a Champions League spot by Chelsea beating Bayern Munich in this year’s final is unthinkable for their fans.
They were barely made to sweat in their 2-0 win over an incredibly spineless Blackburn side at the weekend, but they cannot expect such an easy ride this evening as they head to another team battling relegation, Bolton Wanderers.
Meetings between Bolton and Spurs will, of course, forever be intertwined with the name Fabrice Muamba, the Trotters midfielder who suffered a cardiac arrest on the White Hart Lane pitch during an FA Cup tie between the sides in February.
Muamba’s recovery is nothing short of a miracle – if you haven’t read the full story, I strongly advise you to do so – and he is said to be planning to attend the match at the Reebok.
The former England Under-21 star will no doubt be rapturously received by both sets of fans and his presence will again provide some perspective in a week when there has been plenty of hyperbole surrounding the Manchester derby and the appointment of Hodgson.
However, once they get down to business, I’m expecting it to be a tough night for Spurs, who have only managed two victories in their last ten Premier League games.
They have a shocking record at the Reebok, with just one win in their last 15 visits, and even that lone triumph came in a Carling Cup tie way back in 2004.
On top of that, Redknapp’s men are suffering with a major dose of travel sickness, having not won on the road in the league yet in 2012 – a run stretching back eight games.
So I’m probably not the only punter left scratching my head when I see Spurs as short as 39/50 in bwin’s 3Way football betting market to bring all three points back down to north London.
Consider as well that Bolton have won four and drawn two of their last eight in the league and the 16/5 about a home victory tonight suddenly looks like a cracking price, with the draw available at 27/10.
Yes, Younes Kaboul’s return should make the visitors tougher to break down, while Van der Vaart has looked far more threatening since being moved back to his favoured role playing just off Adebayor.
However, even if Bolton have lost 10 of their 11 games against the top six this season, I can’t be backing Spurs at odds-on with any real confidence considering their recent troubles.
Don’t get me wrong, it would be no surprise to see them return to winning ways on their travels. But if you’re determined to have a punt on the visitors, don’t take their 3Way price.
Instead, bet on them to win a game of over 2.5 goals at 33/20, seeing as 25 of Bolton’s 35 matches thus far have featured three or more goals and Spurs have not exactly been watertight of late.
The unpredictability of this fixture means I won’t be making a large outlay, but I’ll have a small play on Bolton at evens in the away no bet market, whereby the stake is returned if Spurs win.
In other words, you will only be down at the end of the evening if the game finishes in a draw, which appears unlikely considering Bolton have drawn just four games thus far – fewer than anyone else in the division.
Recommended bet: Bolton in away no bet market @ Evens Outside punt: Bolton to win @ 16/5
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