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Emmanuel Adebayor: 'I'll score against Arsenal if I get the chance'

For Emmanuel Adebayor, the fallout was almost as grisly as the abuse he took from the travelling Arsenal supporters, who had watched him slide in front of them in one of the most inflammatory goal celebrations of the Premier League era.

The critics lined up to pan the striker, then at Manchester City, for his petulance and disrespect, yet a somewhat unlikely voice piped up in support.

Perhaps Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, was playing the long game. After all, he has now taken Adebayor on loan to White Hart Lane for the season. Yet the Togolese appreciated Redknapp's backing in September 2009 to such an extent that he picked up the phone to tell him in person.

"I just said, OK, he shouldn't have run to the fans," Redknapp recalled, "but they are giving him almighty abuse. We'd all like to stick it up opposing teams and that's what he's done. He rang me at the time and said he appreciated that I'd defended him."

In many ways, it was classic Redknapp yet it was also classic Adebayor. He holds dear people who are prepared to stick their necks out for him yet the guillotine can come down if things turn sour. An intensely proud and competitive man, he thrives when he feels that there is love for him. In Redknapp, he may have found the ideal man-manager.

The former Arsenal player will be granted the opportunity to make another repayment on the faith that Redknapp has invested in him when he takes centre stage in Sunday's north London derby at White Hart Lane. It is doubtful that any player has ever polarised opinion in these parts quite so much.

Initially adored at Arsenal, particularly when he scored 30 goals in 2007-08 to advertise his colossal talent, Adebayor endured a difficult final season with them, having openly flirted with rival clubs. All the while, he was despised at Tottenham, chiefly because of his scoring record against them – he scored eight in nine derbies.

If his gloating on only his fifth appearance for City confirmed him as a villain in Arsenal eyes, there was some levity last season when, on loan at Real Madrid, he scored twice against Tottenham to knock them out of the Champions League. "Adebayor, Adebayor," sang the Arsenal fans. "We still hate you. But not as much as before." His move to Tottenham has prompted a reappraisal in N17. "Abebayor, Adebayor. We used to hate you. But not any more."

The 27-year-old will face plenty of hostility from the visiting enclosure but it will not bother him. After his brush with death during the armed ambush of the Togo team bus in January 2010, he is happy merely to be alive – "People got shot two seats in front of me; it could have been me" – and Adebayor will aim to continue his encouraging start in Tottenham colours.

He scored on his debut at Wolves – he usually does; he did so for Arsenal, City and Real – and his two goals set the seal on an impressive individual performance in the victory against Liverpool. It is now three wins in three Premier League games for him and, as Arsenal grope for form, Tottenham enter, somewhat unusually, as the firm favourites. Adebayor plans to show no mercy.

"When I signed for Tottenham, Alex Song [the Arsenal midfielder] said: 'Adebayor, are you doing this on purpose because it's Arsenal?'" Adebayor said. "I said: 'No, brother, I'm professional and the only choice I have is Tottenham. It's a fantastic club and I'm back to see my family. It's going to be fun to play against you.'

"When we watched the Champions League draw last season, we started laughing. Lassana Diarra [Real's former Arsenal midfielder] asked if I was going to score against them again. I said that I love Tottenham but the ball is going in the net. Now, hopefully, I'll be scoring for Tottenham. If I have the chance to score against Arsenal, trust me, I will score, although I would never again celebrate like I did."

Adebayor has apologised several times for his behaviour against Arsenal which, unfortunately for him, saw many people reach unfavourable conclusions about his character. An apparent wanderlust and a six-figure weekly wage packet rarely help in this regard. But Arsène Wenger, who set him on the path to fame when he took him from Monaco to Arsenal, sought to debunk the perception.

"He is not a difficult guy to manage," Wenger said. "Football is about performances and every guy has a difficulty to manage but he was not one that you remember to be especially difficult. He is a great player and he can be a threat on Sunday."

Redknapp's take was more irreverent. "He's always wanted to play for Tottenham, ever since he was three years of age, so he's finally got his wish," he said. "I hope he scores a couple of times and I hope he slides on his knees and celebrates. I don't care what he does, to be honest."

Adebayor's focus is purely on getting the goals.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by David Hytner, for The Guardian on Friday 30th September 2011 23.03 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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