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Posted by John Brewin on 08/06/2010

Harry Redknapp will be giving the draw a thumbs up. ©Getty Images

Harry Redknapp is often keen to hang his team's state of affairs on a particular hook and then cling to it grimly. Tales of being down to the "bare bones" littered his time at West Ham and Portsmouth while his first season at Tottenham Hotspur saw him mantra on inheriting a team who had won just two points before his arrival.

It seems hugely likely that this season's repetitive beat will centre around his club's maiden Champions League campaign. That is, of course, should Spurs actually qualify for the promised land. The delight of that May evening at Eastlands, when Manchester City were dumped out of reach, will have been gradually tempered throughout the summer by the fear of falling at the final fence of the final qualifying round.

A trip to Switzerland's capital and the challenge of Young Boys, whose gauche name hides their conquering of Fenerbahce in the previous qualifying round, and a return at White Hart Lane for the Londoners' biggest European night since the UEFA Cup Final of 1984, represent 180 minutes of tension. A club who have made an art form of making things difficult for themselves when glory was within reach will surely not be taking anything as read, even when presented with a less-starred opponent.

Whatever happens against Young Boys, it is clear that the 2010-11 campaign will almost certainly be defined by that very fixture. The pain of a premature exit will likely hang heavy over matters domestic, even before the marathon undertaking that is the Europa League hoves into view. And qualification is likely to see sights adjusted, whether by design or not, on efforts in the Champions League group stages.

There are precedents to take heed of. David Moyes' Everton were the last team to break the "big four" but fell to Villarreal at this very stage. And further back, Newcastle United and Leeds United both made hay in the competition proper only to find that their season had been unbalanced by their continental adventures and that returning to the same levels was not possible. Indeed, both soon became acquainted with another level of football, having suffered relegation in short order, with financial crisis as an accompaniment.

So there is much to beware for Spurs. After so long trying to return to the top table of the English game, with some notable near-misses on the way, Redknapp's achievement of fourth place was undoubtedly the crowning triumph of his long managerial career, even allowing for his now-sullied FA Cup win with Portsmoth. Maintaining that high standard presents a still even greater challenge to him and his team. The club's ambitions are strong, with a new stadium among the goals set in place by chairman Daniel Levy. Filling a 65,000-70,000 megadome, at no-doubt eye-watering prices, would seem most probably dependent on the promise of club football's blue riband competition on a regular basis.

And so Tottenham must fight on a new frontier while keeping up the home front. A tall order for Redknapp, and that may well end up being his stock line for the season. He must embrace these new horizons with just about the same group of players he called on last time, a rather unfamiliar state of affairs for football's most prominent transfer wheeler-dealer.

Though it could also represent a satisfaction with his squad, and the belief that stability can further success, it also seems likely the lack of business has resulted from financial prudence and that any Redknapp additions must come through the trimming of his playing group. Only Brazilian defensive midfielder Sandro, grabbed from the clutches of many a suitor, swells the options but he will only join after current club Internacional finish their Copa Libertadores campaign.

Redknapp may be granted funds but only after having achieved Champions League football. That will allow him barely a week to sign reinforcements. In the meantime, those who took Tottenham to the precipice of the elite need to hit the ground running in what is surely the club's biggest game since, yes, that night in Manchester. The giant steps are coming thick and fast and Spurs cannot afford to falter now.


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