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What a difference a year makes

Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This time last season, Tottenham had one point from its first three games and was struggling to hit its stride under manager Juande Ramos.

Spurs would start the campaign on an eight-game winless streak, sinking to the bottom of the league table, and Ramos would be gone before November.

The club had also sold prolific strikers Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane to Manchester United and Liverpool, respectively, and they were struggling badly to replace the departed duo.

It looked like the team was headed for a real relegation battle, but the appointment of Harry Redknapp as manager served as the turning point, and he led the team to a respectable eighth-place finish.

There is an entirely
different feel around White
Hart Lane this season.
Flip the calendar ahead 12 months and there is an entirely different feel around White Hart Lane.

Tottenham has just won its third successive game to start the season, the first time that has happened in 49 years, and they sit on top of the Premiership table.

Spurs opened a few eyes in the first weekend of the season as they knocked off last season's runners-up, Liverpool, 2-1.

They then thrashed Hull City, 5-1, and showed a bit of heart in rallying from a goal down in the second half at West Ham to win 2-1 on Sunday.

Striker Jermain Defoe is flourishing under Redknapp since he was reunited with his former coach in January, leading the league with four goals in three games, while Keane was also brought back by Spurs in January and has formed a nice partnership with the former Portsmouth frontman.

Summer signing Sebastien Bassong scored the winner against Liverpool in the opener, while another former Pompey striker, Peter Crouch, seems to be adjusting just fine to his role as a substitute.

Last season's big-money signing, midfielder Luka Modric, appears ready for a breakout season after he scored three goals and assisted on six more in his first season in London, while defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto has given the team some strong play at left-back after finally shaking injury issues.

With so much going right these days, it would be hard to blame Tottenham fans for starting to dream of a serious run at a top-four spot, and even the manager sees no reason why his side can't become the first team since Everton in 2005 to break the top-four stranglehold that is currently enjoyed by Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.

"Manchester City will certainly be pushing to be a top four team, and there's no reason we can't push," Redknapp said.

"We've got good players and there's no reason why we can't be up there having a go at it.

"We only lost one home game last season after I joined, including all the cup games. We've won two away games already this year. If our home form stands up, we'll be right up there."

Indeed, the two away wins picked up by the team already this season should serve as a source of encouragement, considering the club won only four times in 19 away matches last season.

Talent was not the issue with this team last season, and they once again have plenty of it this year, but an important sign of change took place on Sunday as the team battled back to beat West Ham despite going down a goal in the second half.

Too many times last season, Tottenham would fall behind and show little interest in really digging in and attempting to fight back.

Sunday's effort, however, showed a different side of the club as Defoe capitalized on a mistake by West Ham's Carlton Cole to level the match, and Aaron Lennon won it 11 minutes from time with a well-struck shot from the top of the box.

"We never lost faith or confidence, but that is the way we are playing at the moment," Lennon said of team's performance on Sunday.

"The lads are working hard, that was our third match in a week, it has been difficult but we kept going and we got our reward.

"We will take it a game at a time. We have started well so hopefully we can keep it going."

The team plays promoted-side Birmingham at home next week, but it faces a major litmus test in September with back-to-back games against Manchester United and Chelsea.

We will find out a lot more about the team after those two games, but one thing already appears to be certain - one year can make quite a difference.



Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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