HUNTINGTON BEACH, California (Reuters) - Juergen Klinsmann remains an unabashed Tottenham Hotspur fan more than a decade after leaving the north London club and the new United States coach even has his cell phone programmed to sound an alert every time a Spurs result is published.
Klinsmann told Reuters in an interview he is delighted his former team are challenging near the top of the Premier League because the right ingredients have come together - a strong squad, stability, consistency and patience.
“They’re a club that really deserves to be in the top four and this year there might even be a little bit more possible with a bit of luck,” said the ex-Germany striker after Spurs ended 2011 as London’s leading side in third place in the table.
Klinsmann is still revered at White Hart Lane where he spent the 1994-95 season and the second half of 1997-98.
“I’ll always carry that club in my heart because it’s a really special place,” he said.
“The squad is now strong enough to compete in the Champions League. It has been a process. The owners had patience. They knew it would take time and they gave (manager) Harry Redknapp the time. They built this and worked on it together.”
Klinsmann had an exceptional time at Spurs, scoring 29 goals in his first spell when they reached the FA Cup semi-finals, and became the first German to be named England’s Footballer of the Year since Manchester City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann in 1956.
He returned on loan in 1998, helping Tottenham avoid relegation with another nine goals including four in a memorable 6-2 win at Wimbledon that ensured Spurs’ top flight survival.
Turning to the current squad, Klinsmann said Redknapp and chairman Daniel Levy have done a superb job.
”They’ve developed a lot of stability and consistency over the last few years with Harry and now you see that coming through,“ he said. ”Their squad is very, very good, especially the bench.
”Redknapp has a lot of authority and the owners let him do the job.
“From the stability a team has developed that can really compete. It’s fun to watch because they’re an entertaining side. Tottenham is and always was about entertainment. They want to have a blast, they want to move forward. It’s just fun to see.”
Klinsmann, who is often on scouting missions in Europe, said he watched Tottenham’s match at Fulham in November with Levy.
“Tottenham is a way of life and I didn’t know that until I got there,” Klinsmann said. “I signed my first contract and thought, ‘It’s cool to be in London’. And then after two weeks I said to myself ‘Oh my gosh, what is this here?'”
Klinsmann said a pre-season friendly against a lower division side in Dublin made him realise what he had bought into when 11,500 Tottenham fans made the journey to watch the match.
”I said, ‘Hold on, we just flew to Ireland’. I asked the other players and they said ‘You’re at Tottenham’. Tottenham is just so much more than a club.
“The supporters are very special. They live and breathe for that club. You go to White Hart Lane and there are 36,000 people singing. It’s not just one section. It’s the whole stadium singing. You go there and think ‘Wow’.”
Klinsmann keeps closely in touch with developments in the Premier League with former France striker Thierry Henry about to follow his example by going back to play for a former club with a return to Tottenham’s local rivals Arsenal.
He said Henry’s imminent return on a two-month loan deal from New York Red Bulls could have a positive impact on and off the pitch.
“Absolutely he would make a valuable contribution no matter if he’s on the field or not because his experience will help a lot of players,” Klinsmann said, adding that only Henry and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will know exactly what his role would be.
”It’s possible that he might be more viable to him off the field than on the field,“ Klinsmann added. ”Maybe he doesn’t want to have him as the front man to score the goals.
“Maybe he’ll say he wants him to calm down the team, to read the pace of the game, or maybe educate some of the younger players off the field. Henry has so much in his portfolio. Maybe he can make a difference without even being on the field.”
Henry, who is now 34, scored a club record 226 goals in his eight years at Arsenal from 1999 to 2007 winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups. He then spent three seasons at Barcelona before joining the Red Bulls last year.
Klinsmann said he was curious to see how Henry’s loan move would work out adding: ”The MLS is completely different from the Premier League, obviously. It’s really down to Arsene Wenger to say, ‘Okay this is what I want from him’.
“Even if, theoretically, he wouldn’t play a game, he might still be the difference behind the scenes to help whatever striker talent they have or whatever player they have who is lacking something - he might add that piece to that player and then he’s suddenly kind of chest out and says ‘I can do it because Thierry Henry said I can.'”
Editing by Mike Collett and Ken Ferris; To comment on this story email email@example.com