Harry Redknapp has tipped Gareth Bale to shine for the remainder of the season after claiming he has already seen a difference in the Wales forward since the departure of Jose Mourinho from Tottenham this week.
Bale made a long-awaited return to north London last September on a season-long loan from Real Madrid but he was often on the periphery under Mourinho, who was sacked on Monday with Tottenham seventh in the Premier League.
After being handed his first start in more than a month and just his seventh in the top-flight this season on Wednesday, Bale rewarded interim head coach Ryan Mason’s decision with a goal in Spurs’ 2-1 win over Southampton.
The finish and his overall display impressed Redknapp, who managed Bale for much of his first stint at Tottenham, where he went from being regarded as a jinx after taking 25 attempts to win his first game to a genuine superstar.
Redknapp told the PA news agency: “I think for Gareth going forward now, if he’s made to feel important we’ll see the best of him between now and the end of the season. He could do great for the rest of the year.
“He’s not the most confident boy even though he’s been a world-class player. When he came back and joined the club from Real Madrid he needed to be made to feel important. He’s played a bit of a bit-part role, really.
“When I went to Tottenham he’d gone God knows how many games without being on the winning team. I used to just tell the team ‘give the ball to Gareth, he’ll murder them’ and tell Gareth ‘go and win the game for us’.
“He responds to that, someone believing in him. For whatever reason he wasn’t in Jose’s plans. But against Southampton he started and he looked a different boy, he looked like the Gareth that I know. He was fantastic.”
Next up for Tottenham is the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley, where the decision to dispense with Mourinho means Mason, 29, can end the club’s 13-year trophy drought in his second game in charge on Sunday.
The ex-midfielder, who has been recently working with the club’s academy after retiring from playing three years ago because of a serious head injury, has been appointed caretaker of the senior side until the end of the season.
Redknapp, who gave Mason his Tottenham debut in November 2008, said: “It’s a free hit. If he wins it it will be fantastic. I’d love to see him do well, it’s a great chance for him. I’m sure he never saw this coming.
“He’s got an opportunity he never expected. He’s a very quiet lad but it’s a great chance for him and I’m sure he’ll be very proud walking out at Wembley on Sunday.
“It hasn’t been a good season for Tottenham but they’ve still got a chance of making the top-four and they’ve still got a chance of winning the Carabao Cup, so it could end up a very good season.”
Redknapp, who was talking ahead of Sunday’s cinch Drive-in Final event which is showcasing the League Cup final for Spurs fans, believes the Tottenham hierarchy will choose a more high-profile permanent successor to Mourinho.
Whoever is appointed, one of their more immediate tasks will be to convince Harry Kane to remain at the club, with the England captain’s future the subject of much speculation.
Redknapp said: “If Harry believes he can win trophies with Tottenham with whoever they bring in as manager – and I’m sure they’ll bring a big-hitter in again – he’ll convince Harry to stay there and win things.
“He’s in a good place at Tottenham. I’d love to see him be a one-club man. Tottenham have been good to him and he’s been great for Tottenham, I think they’re a good partnership and hopefully he sticks around.”
Asked who he would choose as permanent Tottenham boss, Redknapp, who managed the club between October 2008 and June 2012, added: “If I had to give two names I would say Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez.”
:: cinch are hosting a drive-in screening of the Carabao Cup final for Spurs fans this Sunday. cinch are the official shirt sleeve partner of Tottenham Hotspur. For more information visit www.cinch.co.uk.