Sunday, May 1, 2011

Harry Redknapp

Good ol' 'arry, everyone's favourite East End wheeler dealer spiv. A cross between Del Boy, Arthur Daley and according to many, Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa and Bill Shankly, what an incredible human being and football manager he must be - except he's not.

The reason for this blog is not Spurs' latest defeat at Stamford Bridge - that's hardly worthy of news - but in response to the constant nonsense issued with regard to someone who is a decidedly average manager and whilst not wishing to getting into any legal territory, a businessman of dubious integrity.

The more one reads and takes an interest in the English football press the more one can come to the conclusion that it is huge example of a slightly less posh jobs for the boys. The press that certain managers enjoy beggars belief whilst others (and it is not just the foreign managers as there is an equal measure of belief in the press that anyone from Italy or Spain has a magic wand) are pilloried for anything that isn't a 5-0 away win.

There is little doubt that the Sky style of coverage and the 24 hour saturation broadcasting that goes with it has encouraged the development of an ex players and out of work's managers club. The Premiership is broadcast the World over and the sheer number of ex players and ex managers blazing the pundit trail ensures many of them will receive little bad press regardless of any future failures back in the real world of football itself.

Amongst this incestuous media mix, certain managers have raised themselves above the masses by their managerial records and/or by their charisma and skill at dealing with the media. Ferguson and Wenger receive praise and criticism in equal measure - and seem not to care a jot regardless - others like Mourinho care not a hoot what is written about him, as long as the scribes are doing just that.

There are those like Holloway and Keegan that are too honest for their own good and others such as Warnock are popular because they are simply obnoxious. Benitez was one of the most interesting as with the exception of forty five minutes in Istanbul he was an utter failure and was prickly at best with the press yet despite that he enjoyed good coverage and remained very popular with the Liverpool fans also, clearly an intelligent man.

And then we have Harry Redknapp, unique except for that other cheeky chappy that is Terry Venables. The parallels between the two are various, both have a similar demeanour, both are Spurs managers, one has managed England and one is about to and their dalliances in the world of finance are controversial to say the least. They do differ in that Redknapp would not get through an X Factor audition but where they are most definitely the same is in receiving swathes of fantastic press whilst having a decidedly average managerial record.

Portsmouth's FA Cup victory is a prime example. Whilst a club of this stature winning a trophy should be applauded, the level of hyperbole enjoyed by 'arry is nonsensical. With the exception of a fine sixth round win at ManYoo they had to put to the sword en route, Ipswich Town, Plymouth Argyle, Preston NE, West Brom and then the might of Cardiff City in the final. Each and everyone of those teams was playing in the Championship that season yet Redknapp is hailed as some kind of tactical genius.

Nor whilst Redknapp was at Portsmouth were they a team of paupers. Redknapp is regularly touted as a master wheeler dealer with an eye for a bargain, unquestionably he has made fine acquisitions such as Paolo Di Canio at West Ham. Whilst at Portsmouth, David James (1.2M), Lassana Diarra (2M) and Nico Kranjcar (3M) proved sound business but when you sign as many players as he does even an utter novice would hit the dartboard a few times. Who could forget the masterstroke of Marco Boogers back in the bad old days at West Ham?

Whilst at Portsmouth, large fees (certainly for a club of their stature) were paid for Sully Muntari (7.1M), Peter Crouch (estimated upto 11M), Jermain Defoe (6M), Glenn Johnson (4M), David Nugent (7M and an utter turkey), John Utaka (7M) to name a few, it was both a good and large squad and by no means all the transfers were poor ones. The point is that Portsmouth at that juncture should not have been seen as some provincial club, they were a strong and expensively assembled - with a wage bill that ultimately crippled the club - football team, a reasonable amount of success should have been expected. Instead the press and Redknapp will have you believe it was some kind of fairytale, what nonsense and as all who read this blog know, there should be none.

If we're consistent then it is unfair to blame Portsmouth's financial implosion on Redknapp as we just yesterday said that Wenger should not be concerned with the Arsenal finances, that is the job of the board in the same way that Risdale was at fault for not saying no to O'Leary and David Murray likewise with Walter Smith and Dick Advocaat in the 1990s. That being said Redknapp's relationship and dynamic with both Milan Mandaric and Alexandre Gaydamak seemed more far reaching than most and it is hard to believe he was not entirely sure of what was really going on. It is also oft forgotten and little reported that Redknapp got Southampton relegated in between his two Portsmouth stints.

Redknapp duly abandoned Porstmouth in October 2008 and took over a vastly under performing Spurs side. It was the perfect job and to be honest one he would have been foolish not to take. Whilst enduring an appalling start and being bottom of the table it is hard to think that Spurs were truly in real relegation danger, they simply need a competent manager (which Redknapp is) and a kick up the back side. In addition to Redknapp's wizardry was the injection in January 2009 of Jermain Defoe, (15M this time around), Robbie Keane (12M), Wilson Palacios (12M) as well as Carlo Cudicini and the return of Pascal Chimbonda. Most Sunday morning managers would have had little problem keeping that team in the Premiership.

None of this is to say that Redknapp is not a decent manager, he generally does a decent job and has a deserved reputation for sides that play attacking football for which he should be applauded. Where this all becomes a nonsense however is when the 'Harry for England' brigade fire up their engines.

Spurs have done quite well the past couple of seasons but that is only in respect to the vast underachievement of one England's most celebrated clubs. With the squad that Redknapp has - players such as Modric, Van Der Vaart and Bale could walk into any squad in the World - however he should be achieving success. Redknapp again has played up the whole David versus Goliath myth when they have met AC, Internazionale and Real Madrid in the Champions League this season. Whilst you would have made Spurs slight underdogs against each of those three, they are hardly unable to sit at the same table.

At the very highest level, Redknapp looks short tactically. Spurs enjoyed a fine and resilient win over too legs against AC Milan and he should be applauded for that. There have however been a plethora of tactical disasters for Redknapp in big games. In the San Siro in the Autumn, Spurs were 4-0 down to Inter at half time and it could have been 8. The individual brilliance of Bale in the second half nearly producing a freak result should not distract from the tactical ineptitude. In the Bernabeau, Spurs were mauled yet again, simply not equipped to cope with what Real threw at them. If you look at the Spurs squad and the money spent on it, you would have to question why not. Sendings off can be blamed but again, the manager should be able to brief the players properly beforehand and if they show poor character then the buck must stop with him for signing them in the first place.

Against Arsenal, Redknapp has consistently found himself behind in matches and whilst he and Spurs should be commended for their stirring fight backs, the people hailing him as England's saviour should realise that if you go two or three goals down against a Germany or an Italy you will not find them as brittle as a side managed by Arsene Wenger, he will be cannon fodder for the top International coaches. If he is to become England manager will he continue his tact of claiming his side are inferior, that he is undoubtedly down to the bare bones at almost any given time? This will not sit well with a nation that expects (wrongly) World Cup semi finals as a minimum requirement.

Harry Redknapp is a decent enough manager but he brings controversy with him in the shape of his other dealings, something that ultimately meant Venables parting company with the FA, it hardly looks a marriage made in heaven. Venables also inherited a fine England side with the likes of Ince, Shearer, Sheringham and Adams at their peaks and the mercurial Gascgoine enjoying his finest post injury months for the England team. Redknapp would be taking charge of an England team pinning their hopes on Wayne Rooney. The likes of Gerrard, Lampard, Ferdinand, Terry and Ashley Cole are all past their peak and with the exception of Jack Wilshire, the replacements so far look grossly inadequate, Redknapp will not be able to whip out the chequebook come January if it starts to go wrong. It remains to be seen whether the knives in the press will remain sheathed should Redknapp duly receive his coronation as England manager  - No Nonsense.