IF continuing speculation over the England job is affecting Harry Redknapp or his squad at Spurs – then is this the ideal time for Wanderers to spring a cup shock at White Hart Lane?
Facing the Match of the Day cameras on Saturday after defeat to Everton, there was no sign of the genial, chirpy, “Appy Arry”, who up until this week at least, was viewed as the only viable candidate to replace Fabio Capello.
Signs of strain were etched on Redknapp’s face as he snapped back at the interviewer, just as clearly as they have been on his side’s results since early February.
Capello parted company with England on February 8, after which Redknapp’s billing as the only man in line for the job seemed full justified as Spurs tore Newcastle United apart in what some thought could be his last game in the dugout.
Since that 5-0 win, however, Redknapp’s side have been humbled by rivals Arsenal, held by Stevenage, and beaten – albeit fortuitously – by Manchester United and Everton.
League One Stevenage were eventually toppled, to book a quarter-final clash with the Whites, but not without considerable difficulty.
Redknapp himself described the England post as a poisoned chalice but unless he is very careful, he may go down as the first manager whose reputation started to unravel because of the Three Lions before he even walked through the main doors FA headquarters.
Wanderers fans collectively groaned when they drew Spurs away in the cup, a matter of minutes after they had been held at Broadhall Way. This is a ground, after all, at which the Whites have never won in knockout football.
League football hasn’t been kind either and, since Dennis Stevens and Ray Parry scored in a 2-0 victory back in 1959, Bolton have taken three points from N17 just twice, in back-to-back seasons in 2003 and 2004 under Sam Allardyce.
But Spurs’ recent form has given some cause for optimism. Back in February they had been mentioned as potential title challengers to Manchester United and Manchester City, yet a month later they find themselves looking anxiously over their shoulders at Chelsea and Arsenal with a Champions League spot looking less than secure.
Redknapp’s coronation once looked imminent but, since the Football Association – rightly or wrongly – decided to widen their search, possibly to include foreign coaches, doubts have even been cast as to whether the “people’s choice” is completely sure about leading his country.
Asked when an appointment would be made, Wanderers chairman and FA board member Phil Gartside had his tongue in his cheek when he quipped “don’t hold your breath” last weekend – but, at present, there seems only one sure-fire loser as the whole affair gets dragged out towards this summer’s European Championships.
And any destabilising effect should come as great encouragement to Wanderers, who are searching out a second successive season at Wembley.
Redknapp could not have been more blunt when he rejected a suggestion that Tottenham’s star has faded since he was put in the England frame.
“Absolute rubbish, absolute rubbish, absolute rubbish,” he snapped. “You saw the effort. How can it destabilise the team when they come out and play like they did and keep on going?
“The players ain’t just gone: ‘The manager is leaving we ain’t bothered any more’. We have had three very, very difficult games.”