David Moyes spurs Everton on for Redknapp tester
DAVID MOYES had a first-hand view of Harry Redknapp's legacy on Thursday night - just in time to prepare him for his next meeting with the Spurs manager tomorrow.
Portsmouth's hosting of AC Milan was the showpiece occasion that Fratton Park has longed for for many years. Excitement, glamour, high drama - the only thing missing was the man who made it all possible.
Redknapp, whose Pompey side secured the FA Cup success that made the European dream a reality, switched to Spurs last month in an attempt to restore more glory to a chronically underachieving outfit.
But Moyes was in attendance, witnessing Portsmouth's 2-2 draw with AC Milan from the Channel Five pundit's seat. And he will have sat and watched that far more comfortably than he did when he saw the same club, then still under Redknapp's guidance, take his Everton team apart in a 3-0 romp at Goodison Park in August.
All of which means the Scot can have absolutely no doubt about the impact tomorrow's opposite number has either as a motivator and, on occasion, miracle-worker.
But Moyes is also quick to point out ahead of tomorrow's trip to north London that Tottenham's turnaround can't just be put down to the introduction of their new manager, who swiftly replaced struggling Spaniard Juande Ramos following his winless first two months of the campaign.
His theory is that, with the quality of the squad Redknapp inherited, it was always only going to be a matter of time before they strung together the recent run - seven wins in nine games since he took over - that has helped take them out of the relegation zone and just four points off Everton in seventh.
Considering that in Redknapp's first game, a 2-0 win over Bolton, he was able to leave ÃÂ£21million worth of striking talent on the bench, it's understandable that Moyes, even at the start of the season, has always been wary of their ambition to wrestle back the fifth place they surrendered to Everton last season.
"You would have expected Spurs to pick up with the squad they have got," said Moyes.
"Harry has made a real difference in that he has gone in during a really difficult period when they had to play Arsenal and Liverpool. Some really hard games.
"You need to play well at any time to get results in those games and they have.
"But they have a squad that wasn't set up to finish just outside the relegation zone. They are built to finish maybe just outside the Champions League spots."
Everton's hopes of doing likewise, however, suffered a setback on Monday night when they lost 1-0 at Wigan.
It was their first defeat in games but represented a missed opportunity to go into sixth place, just one point behind Arsenal.
And defeat also left Everton just five points outside the bottom three to underline the fine margins everyone outside the top three is currently vulnerable to - tables at chimps' tea parties have been less crowded and chaotic.
Blowing a chance to ease their way out of that congestion and get some breathing space wasn't the only concern for Moyes, however, following Henri Camara's winner at the JJB Stadium.
The level of performance left him looking at a group of players almost unrecognisable from the intense, focused unit that has underpinned his success of the past two seasons.
But one trait he is sure hasn't deserted the team is the determination and single-mindedness to knuckle down and put things right in pursuit of their third successive victory at White Hart Lane.
"I cannot hide how disappointed I was with Monday, but when you have good players they realise that," Moyes said.
"I cannot bury my head in the sand and not think about it or the reasons why but we have spoken about it and moved on.
"People spoke really well about the team last year because of their performances and how they played, it was entertaining football and that is what we want to get back to. At this present time we want to find that."
He added: "Sometimes I say to the players, 'Come on, if you have got big reputations stand up and be counted'.
"It is something I have to do as a manager. You have to take responsibility. I am picking the team, I am putting them out there, and at times you want the players to do the same.
"The one thing I do have here I have got a group who do feel that way and will do that. I am really fortunate in that I have good players who know they have dipped under where they should be.
"I would expect to see a reaction from the group of players I have because I think that is probably what I would do. Hopefully, they will follow my lead and do that too.
"We take our defeats quite badly here. I don't let them go unaddressed. Hopefully now they will get themselves ready for a big game at Tottenham."
One individual suffering form the inevitable scrutiny that goes with being such an influential member of the squad is Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard, who was the club's player of the year in 2006 and 2007, has only shown glimpses of that kind of form this season and struggled to make an impression at Wigan.
And his free-kick against Blackburn Rovers on the opening day of the season is the only goal he has scored this season that didn't come from the penalty spot.
But his manager is confident that the 26-year-old will soon get back to his creative peak - and that the player is well aware of how much his form has dipped.
Moyes said: "Mikel knows himself, he is very conscientious. He is always keen to improve and he is a big influence.
"His talent is unquestionable and it is always noticeable when someone with that talent isn't playing to that max.
"I have no doubts it will return when you are that good with that ability.
"Mikel more than anyone would like to get back to the standards he has set and that would be good for us as well.
"I hope White Hart Lane is the stage for him to do it.
"I hope it is the stage for all of us because we are looking for improvement generally."