How apt that in this most chaotic of Premier League seasons even the conclusion of the campaign does not end the intrigue. This victory against Fulham ensured that Tottenham Hotspur finished fourth in the table but that will only secure Spurs' passage to next season's Champions League if Chelsea do not usurp their slot by winning the final next Saturday. Chants from the White Hart Lane crowd of "There's only one Bayern Munich …" heralded the beginning of a torturous week-long wait for Harry Redknapp.
Redknapp is travelling to watch the match in Munich and, even though his nephew, Frank Lampard, is likely to play for Chelsea, the Tottenham manager left no doubt as to which team he wants to prevail. "I want Tottenham to play in the Champions League, that's where my allegiance lies," he said. "There's no love lost in professional football. When I was manager of West Ham I always wanted us to beat Liverpool even though Jamie was playing for them."
His team's destiny may not yet be decided but Redknapp declared himself "delighted" with Tottenham's season, insisting that finishing fourth is an admirable achievement. A couple of months ago Spurs were challenging for the title before injuries mounted and form dipped, but the manager maintains that any quibbles about that are unjustified. "At the start of the year you couldn't have asked for more than fourth" he said. "If people are getting carried away with what they think Tottenham should be doing, they need a reality check."
Before the visit of Fulham there was still the risk that Tottenham would finish fifth and have nothing riding on Saturday's showdown in Munich. The inability to adequately address the lack of squad depth during the January transfer window was one of the contributory factors to Tottenham's slide from title contention.
Their resources were set to be tested by Fulham, as the lack of regular left-backs forced a rejig, and injuries during the game to Kyle Walker and Younès Kaboul triggered further reshuffles. Gareth Bale started in the left-back position previously occupied by Benoît Assou-Ekotto or Danny Rose, Luka Modric shifted to left midfield and the 22-year-old Jake Livermore was introduced to midfield to make his first start since last month's home defeat by Norwich City.
If the White Hart Lane faithful feared a repeat of such a shock, their nerves were quickly soothed. Just over a minute after kick-off, Rafael van der Vaart dissected a static visiting defence with a low pass to Emmanuel Adebayor, who steered the ball into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
Spurs were rampant and should have extended their lead in the 33rd minute when Aaron Lennon darted behind the visiting defence and pulled the ball back to Adebayor, who teed up Van der Vaart. The Dutchman fired wide from 10 yards. The more prolonged Tottenham's profligacy, the greater the risk of them being pegged back, a recurring problem over the last two seasons. A reminder of that danger came in the 35th minute when Brad Friedel was called into action to repel shots first by Jon Arne Riise and then by the excellent Moussa Dembélé.
Sandro and Adebayor both squandered chances early in the second half before Dembélé threatened again, firing inches wide from the edge of the area. In a bid to increase Spurs' margin of comfort, Redknapp introduced Jermain Defoe for Van der Vaart. Dividends were paid quickly, as, within two minutes, the striker made it 2-0, poking into the net from eight yards after a Lennon shot was deflected into his path. Arsenal's comeback to win at the Hawthorns, however, meant that third place was beyond Spurs.
Although he is eager to play in the Champions League, Redknapp claimed that being denied that lucrative pleasure would not affect Tottenham's summer recruitment, nor their ability to retain the likes of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric. "It shouldn't matter because if we want to be challenging for Champions League qualification again, then we have to improve and keep hanging on to the coat tails of the big clubs."
Fulham face a similar fight to prevent an exodus of their top talent. Dembélé is highly sought-after but Martin Jol warned "he would be very expensive" and said he hopes the player will remain at Craven Cottage next season.
"He needs one more year with me and then he will be one of the best players in the Premier League," said Jol, who is equally eager to hang on to Clint Dempsey. "The chairman says we don't want to sell and we don't have to sell so we are in a healthy position."