Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Europa League Is a Distraction at This Stage and Can Unsettle Players

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Europa League Is a Distraction at This Stage and Can Unsettle Players

Article excerpt

Byline: Harry Redknapp

ESPITE what has often been said about me, I never wanted to get knocked out of the Europa League.

DYou always want to finish as high as you can in the Premier League and if you can't break into the top four, the Europa League is the next best thing by definition.

Tottenham and Liverpool begin their campaigns in that competition this evening and they will genuinely want to win it. As did I. Spurs lost out in the group stage in 2011 because we were beaten at home by PAOK Salonika in freak circumstances. We gave two early goals away, got back into it and then battered them but couldn't get the result we needed. It wasn't a case of saying afterwards: "That's handy, we're out of that now."

Our performance that night didn't suggest that we had that attitude, even if I did rest one or two. I was absolutely distraught. You don't want to lose any game and I wanted to try and go all the way in the competition.

I took it deadly seriously. The first year I went into Spurs -- 2008 -- we were struggling in it but I did everything to get us through the group stage. It was never a case of not caring.

I was always desperate to have a run in it but, at the same time, you are trying to juggle your team around for Sunday. Managers always have to think one step ahead.

I had Ledley King who couldn't play a midweek game and then again at the weekend. I had to keep things fresh and protect one or two players like anyone else.

I'm sure most fans want to see their team win trophies regardless of the competition. It is unfair that teams can drop out of the Champions League into the Europa League but managers will still have the same hunger for a piece of silverware. That's what you are in the game for.

But you have only got to look at the record of the English teams that have been in it over the years to know that by having an extended run, you are taking a gamble with your Premier League form.

Nobody wants to lose but our teams will probably approach it by resting a few in the group stage and hope you get through anyway. If you do, then you can really go for it in the knockout rounds because winning it becomes more realistic. …

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