LONDON, April 14 – Harry Redknapp has told his Tottenham stars to make amends for their Champions League quarter-final exit against Real Madrid by booking a return to Europe's elite club competition.
Redknapp’s side have enjoyed a memorable first campaign among Europe’s superpowers, but that fairytale run came to an end at White Hart Lane on Wednesday as Madrid won 1-0 to secure a 5-0 aggregate success.
Tottenham were already all but out after losing the first leg 4-0 in Spain and Cristiano Ronaldo confirmed their elimination early in the second half when his speculative effort squirmed through Heurelho Gomes’s woeful attempted save.
Even that disappointing finale couldn’t dampen Redknapp’s desire to get back in the Champions League next season.
Spurs face a tough battle to finish in the Premier League’s top four as they currently trail fourth placed Manchester City by three points and have fixtures against Roberto Mancini’s men as well as Chelsea and Arsenal to come.
But Redknapp is convinced they can do it and he said: "If we can make the top four again it would be a great achievement. It is even harder than last year because of the money Man City spent and the players they brought in.
"It’s not going to be easy. You only have to look at the other teams trying to qualify. Man City finished a couple of points behind us last year and spent about £150 million to finish above us.
"But we should be trying to finish in the top four every year. We have to keep working to do that.
"We have tough games against Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City but they are great games you want to play in.
"It is better than sitting in 12th with nothing to play for. It has the makings of a great end to the season."
Although Gomes’s latest high-profile error finished off Tottenham, Redknapp refused to blame his Brazilian goalkeeper. Instead he lamented a rejected penalty claim for a foul on Luka Modric and admitted the first leg had been decisive.
"The goal was disappointing but the goalkeeper has been great for us and made saves he had no right to make in the past," Redknapp said.
"He has been great for me since I’ve been here. He made a mistake but that is how it goes.
"I thought it was definitely a foul on Luka Modric for sure. It looked a penalty but sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t.
"I thought the referee was good. I sometimes wonder what the guy standing behind the goal is doing though!
"I don’t think there were five goals between the teams. It was an evenly balanced game.
"The first leg was the game that cost us badly. But they are a strong team and over the two legs they might have beaten us with 11 men, who knows."
A Gareth Bale-inspired 3-1 victory over Inter Milan in the group stage was the highlight of Tottenham’s first European Cup campaign since 1962, with the last 16 victory over AC Milan and a dramatic comeback against Young Boys in the qualifying round also sure to last long in the memory.
"It’s been a great experience. We’ve seen some great football home and away," Redknapp said.
"In our first season to come as far as we have and to play the way we have has been great for everyone. The players and myself have all enjoyed it very much."
Redknapp’s desire to get back in the Champions League is in part fuelled by the knowledge that top clubs will be preparing lucrative offers for the likes of Bale and Modric.
He was amused to hear Real boss Jose Mourinho, already a confirmed admirer of Bale, had been spotted in conversion with the Wales winger and joked: "Did he by Christ. I think we’d better report him! Have you got it on tape? That could come in handy!"