Harry Redknapp was seemingly on the verge of scaling the highest peak in English soccer but, just six weeks later, he has been brought down to earth with a bump after being jettisoned as manager of Tottenham Hotspur. By Toby Davis.
When the “people’s choice” to replace Fabio Capello as England boss was overlooked in favour of Roy Hodgson on May 1, few would have predicted it was the beginning of a remarkable descent that culminated in Redknapp being sacked by his club on Thursday.
In a familiar pose, he leant out of his car window to address a waiting reporter and explained his dismissal had nothing to do with the media circus that had followed him around from the minute Capello announced his departure.
“No effect whatsoever,” the 65-year-old said on Sky Sports News. “I kept my counsel about that all through and in the end England was nothing at all to do with anything.”
Nor was it anything to do with his side’s loss of form following Capello’s resignation that saw Tottenham drop from 10 points clear in third place, to one point behind rivals Arsenal at the at end of the season.
Although they scraped into fourth place, they were eventually prevented from entering the Champions League next season when Chelsea won the competition having finished sixth in the table.
“I still think the same outcome would have come if Chelsea hadn’t had won it that’s the feeling I got,” Redknapp added.
The club said Redknapp had arrived at the club at a time when “his experience and approach was exactly what was needed”.
Which implies they now are looking for a different mould of manager to the one who had taken them from bottom of the table when he arrived in 2008 to a Champions League quarter-final in 2011 and consistent top five finishes.
Redknapp is a likeable East Londoner with a penchant for comic one liners. He is an old-school man-manager, who is able to get the famous soccer cliche of “110 percent” from his players.
His tactical acumen, however, has been frequently called into question.
To a certain extent he was the obvious choice to succeed Capello, with the FA inclined towards an Englishman following the Italian’s fraught tenure.
Redknapp had outperformed all his fellow countrymen in the Premier League and could unquestionably motivate players to outperform their ability.
But whether he had the tactical know-how to succeed during the long slog of a qualifying campaign, when there are no longer any easy trips to far flung destinations in Eastern Europe, was another matter.
Just as the campaign to have him installed as England’s number one gathered pace, the wheels started to come off Tottenham’s drive for Champions League football.
Amid accusations that he had become distracted by the speculation surrounding his future, fans were also questioning his decisions to tinker with a tried and trusted formation that had served them so well up to that point.
Experiments with scorching left-winger Gareth Bale through the middle or on the right rarely bore fruit while his decision occasionally to switch to two defensive midfielders stifled the rampaging spirit that had blown many teams off the pitch.
The England manager’s job was not his only off-field distraction. He endured the unpleasant glare of a court case on tax evasion charges, of which he was cleared in February.
Perhaps it was a confession he made during his hearing that cemented his position among an older generation of managers.
In the modern age when football is increasingly reduced to statistical analysis by technocrat coaches, Redknapp admitted he was “the most disorganised person in the world”, who writes “like a two-year-old and can’t spell”, doesn’t “know what an email is” and has “never sent a text”.
This was probably not music to the ears of Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, who wanted to create an image of Tottenham as a modern, high-flying, big-spending soccer club.
Redknapp’s managerial CV is also far from gilded.
He won the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008 but this stands out as the principle shining beacon of success in a career spanning nearly 30 years.
He did, however, succeed in bringing together a collection of players at Tottenham who have the talent to mount a title challenge.
“I have left behind some fantastic players,” Redknapp said.
“The only disappointment is that it was a team that could have gone on and won the Premiership in a year or two.
“I only wish I could have been able to see that through and be part of that.” DM
Photo: Harry Redknapp (Reuters)
"The soul is known by its acts" ~ Thomas Aquinas