No longer a wanted man
They say football is a funny old game but I’m fairly sure Harry Redknapp is not finding it all that amusing right now.
In the space of a just a few short months he has gone from being the most sought-after English manager in the sport, to being unceremoniously rejected by his country and then humiliatingly sacked by his club.
As transformations go, this has been one of the most dramatic you will ever see. And that’s saying something, considering how volatile and unpredictable football management tends to be.
However, whether you like Redknapp or not, you have to feel a certain degree of sympathy for the way his career has crumbled in such a short period of time.
To be fair, I can just about understand the Football Association’s decision to go for Roy Hodgson over Redknapp although, ironically, I think Redknapp’s existing contract with Tottenham Hotspur would have had a lot to do with their choice.
However, if the FA’s decision was just about understandable, the Spurs’ one most certainly isn’t.
When Redknapp arrived at White Hart Lane in 2008, the club were four points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League. In his four years in charge he turned them into a team that is consistently challenging for a Champions League spot.
He put together an immensely talented squad and got them playing a brand of football that is both exciting and effective. Spurs became one of the few teams that, as a neutral, you could look forward to watching.
I am not going to deny that the end of last season was a disaster as they went on a awful run that ultimately saw rivals Arsenal overtake them to finish third. And the bizarre twist in the tale was that they missed out on a Champions League place despite finishing fourth.
Undoubtedly the uncertainty over the England role had a lot to do with that poor run of form. But I didn’t see Spurs chairman Daniel Levy or any of the club’s other directors pushing him out of the door when the England job was up for grabs. No, all we heard at the time was that Redknapp was their manager and that he was under contract.
So effectively, their determination to stand in his way (or earn compensation) when it came to managing his country contributed towards him missing out on the top job in English football. And now, having crushed that particular dream for him, they repay him by giving him the sack.
Of course, there could be, and probably is, more to this whole story than meets the eye. Redknapp and Levy never really got on with each other, for example. But I can only go on the limited facts we have been given. And, frankly, from what we know, Levy and Spurs have acted rashly.
Certainly I think they are guilty of underestimating Redknapp’s contribution to their recent league achievements. Levy must believe that, considering the squad, anyone could have led the team to fourth, fifth and fourth place again over the past three seasons. If Harry could do it, then so could Tom or Dick.
But I think they are greatly mistaken. Yes, the club does have plenty of great players. But they still needed bringing together as a team and nobody does that better than Redknapp, one of the greatest motivators in the game.
Among the early favourites to fill Redknapp’s boots are Jurgen Klinsmann and David Moyes, both interesting choices. But I tell you what, give Moyes the reigns for a couple of years and he is unlikely to do a great deal better than Redknapp. There will, however, be one glaring difference – the football on display will be a whole lot less exciting.
What I really do find staggering is that many Spurs fans I have spoken to in recent days have actually said they are happy Redknapp has gone. Whether they will still feel quite as ecstatic in a few months’ time is very much open to debate. I think this is a decision Spurs will live to regret.
So what now for Redknapp? Well, he will certainly not be in a hurry to get back to work for financial reasons. It is reported that he got a £3 million pay-off from Spurs.
But, to give him credit, in his interviews since he was dismissed he has shown not a bit of resentment towards Spurs, insisting this is the sort of thing that happens in football. He also said he has no intention of retiring and is ‘hungry’ for another challenge, which is surely not going to take too long in coming.
I just wonder if one or two clubs (maybe even the FA itself) are not wishing they had waited a little bit longer before making their new managerial appointments this summer.
One thing is certain, with Redknapp waiting in the wings, I wouldn’t like to be a Premier League manager whose team have a poor start to the season…
Things are developing far too quickly in Ukraine and Poland at the moment for me to put too much emphasis on Euro 2012. The rapid flow of games, combined with my deadline, means whatever I write is likely to have been overtaken by events by the time you read this.
However, there is one thing I do need to say, and I mean this quite sincerely: Sorry Holland, it was nothing personal.
Rumours are circulating that the English FA, in a move of staggering masochism, is thinking of bidding to host Euro 2020.
The current destination for the tournament is Turkey. However, Turkey is also the leading contender to host the Olympics, which happen to fall in the same year. Obviously, you can’t do both. For starters, that would be greedy, but more importantly it would be a logistically impossible.
And, given the choice, any country is going to opt for the Olympics as it is the more prestigious of the two events.
Which means the chances are Uefa is going to be looking for someone else to hold their showpiece tournament in eight years’ time.
At the moment, the only other realistic contender is the so-called ‘Celtic’ bid, which would see the competition jointly hosted by Scotland, Ireland and Wales. But frankly, the lack of major stadiums in those three countries is likely to prove a stumbling block.
And that, apparently, is where England think they come in – every possible facility you could need to host a tournament is right there, ready and waiting to spring into action at a moment’s notice.
What they are not taking into consideration, however, is England’s staggering lack of popularity among the international football community. It was evident in their disastrous bid for the 2018 World Cup and little has changed in the meantime to indicate a bid for Euro 2020 would be any more successful.
Or less embarrassing.
In fact, I think Uefa boss Michel Platini would probably rather have Euro 2020 hosted on a remote and inaccessible Icelandic lava field than award the tournament to England. And most of his Uefa pals probably feel the same way.
Having said that, there is one thing in favour of the FA having a go: the groundwork is done. All they have to do is dust off the brochures from the last failed bid and print themselves some stickers to cover up the World Cup 2018 logos.
So when in a few months’ time Uefa pick the Faroe Islands over England, at least this latest rejection won’t have cost too much.
“After reading your column last Sunday I would just like to inform you that although it is true that many people, especially youths, have become fans of Spain just because they have been successful in the past few years, most of those would have been supporters of Italy or England, which proves what ‘true’ fans Italy and England actually have here in Malta.
“My family and I have been supporting Spain since we were born, as a lot of our family lives in Spain and we travel there yearly. I find it a bit annoying when people tell me that I side with Real Madrid just because they buy so many players and I side with Spain because they have been doing well, and so on.
“But I do understand the point you made as I disrespect people who just ‘switch’ their favourite teams so easily. My point is that even in Malta there are some true Spanish fans.” Rafa Vassallo, e-mail.
“Why, oh why do you do it? I like Holland.” Jeremy, e-mail.