Friday, 15 June 2012

Harry’s Gone

Brett Curtis reviews Harry Redknapp’s departure from Tottenham.


Despite finishing within the top four in the Premier League for the second time in his full three seasons in charge, Harry Redknapp has been sacked by Tottenham Hotspur.

When presented as the bare bones, the situation appears almost unbelievable; a chance for the anti-modern football brigade to deplore the managerial merry-go-round that England-based owners have undoubtedly contributed towards.

Yet, as surprising as it remains because of Tottenham’s increase in stature under him, there was also an air of relative inevitability about Redknapp’s departure. Two fatal collapses in successive seasons have cost the North London club a place in the Champions League -- and perhaps Harry his job. Some may point towards Chelsea’s unexpected Champions League triumph as making Redknapp and Tottenham joint victims of unfortunate circumstances. Moreover, it was, after all, Redknapp that delivered Champions League football to White Hart Lane for the first time, finally putting to bed the bitter memories of food poisoning-gate that cost them a top four spot in the 2005/06 season. The excuses were seemingly gone – success had replaced them.

He then led his side to famous victories over both Inter Milan and AC Milan before being defeated by Real Madrid in the Quarter Finals. Yet that was largely as good as it got under Redknapp, as in the same season they finished a distant 5th; whilst this season talks of a title challenge in as late as February somehow resulted in another Europa League place. The excuses subsequently returned to White Hart Lane, as Redknapp’s embarrassing lowering of expectations as the season progressed angered fans: they were being made to feel stupid by the man they had previously respected.

You could argue he has now become yet another manager to be a victim of his own success. But, equally, once you deliver such success to owners and fans alike, you surely must maintain it at a club of Tottenham’s stature to avoid at least pressure. Redknapp narrowly failed to do so – but that is not to say the sacking comes close to being justified based on results alone.

This season’s collapse coincided with his ongoing tax evasion case, of which he was cleared, and the exit of Fabio Capello from the England’s manager job. Redknapp became the “People’s Choice” to replace him, and it shortly become no secret that he wanted the job. I joked on Twitter last night that, “Harry Redknapp must be the first manager in history to buckle under the pressure of the England job without actually having it.” Jokes aside, his entire managerial career was likely geared towards that opportunity – he would not be alone in that regard. However, the FA unexpectedly preferred Roy Hodgson: a man that will crucially carry with him lower expectations from the outset, rather than when results begin to go bad.

A large section of Spurs fans saw this situation as far from ideal, but certainly workable – he could leave Champions League football and a good foundation behind him after a happy four years; before achieving his own dream at the helm of his nation. It appeared as potentially harmonious as any managerial exit could be -- particularly as Redknapp never truly captured the fans’ adulation; made more evident than ever last night, when neutral journalists appeared far more angry than any Spurs fan about his exit. Ultimately, a combination of failure on the pitch, uncontrollable circumstances in Chelsea’s success and the FA’s decision, and a breakdown in relations between Redknapp and his chairman denied any realistic chance of mutual satisfaction.

Indeed, it is the latter that is almost definitely the chief factor in this surprise exit; managers have overcome far worse results or player/fan relations in the past. Redknapp and Daniel Levy’s relationship had reportedly always been lukewarm, with Redknapp joking in December 2011, “Anyone who’s working with Levy would make an odd couple.” He was, of course, alluding to the fact Levy is a notoriously shrewd businessman rather than the “football man” Redknapp portrays himself as. The contrast is obvious – but opposites attracted to form success. After Tottenham’s mostly unsuccessful transfer dealings prior to Redknapp’s arrival, with the likes of Darren Bent, David Bentley and Roman Pavlyuchenko signed for heavy fees in 2007 and 2008, Levy adopted a financial stance not dissimilar to their astute North London rivals.

Perhaps the sentimental signing of a deteriorating Robbie Keane for £15m in January 2009 was the final straw for Levy. Indeed, eighteen months later, it is believed he provided Redknapp with Rafael van der Vaart rather than Luis Fabiano, the number nine he craved to lead his Champions League charge, based on his sell-on fee transfer strategy. In January this year, with Tottenham looking credible dark horses for the title, Redknapp strangely signed Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen on free transfers. The expectation levels dropped when they should have been rising; Levy would have noted this and feared a repeat next season of the situation that led to Redknapp’s appointment in the first place.

It is this division in ideas, philosophy, and perhaps personality between manager and chairman that ultimately turned from attracted to entrenched. Combined, for example, Saha and Nelsen’s age represents 67, older than Redknapp himself. And one would not be surprised to see a far younger man in Andre Villas-Boas or Roberto Martinez replace him – rather than the highly touted David Moyes, who would arrive with baggage and perhaps an eye on the Manchester United job once Sir Alex Ferguson chooses to retire. Tottenham must now look to become “a Manchester United” in their own right – and keeping players such as Luka Modric, who could feasibly represent a Xabi Alonso-esque hole should he leave, and Gareth Bale this summer will be important in this long-term process.

As for Redknapp, it is Ferguson he has looked towards today, noting, “He is in his seventies yet is still the best manager in the world.” Harry will, of course, never reach that standard, and may look towards the spring and summer of 2012 as the most disappointing time of his career; he entered it with the chance of a maiden Premier League title for himself and his club, and the favourite to assume the role of England manager. Yet he is now without a job, with no obvious vacancy to fulfil. It would be fitting if he could end his managerial career at West Ham United where his playing career first started.

This article was written by Brett Curtis. Check out his work on and be sure to follow his Twitter: @bcurtis92.

Make sure you follow Pundit Watch too, a hilarious Twitter account run by Brett: @PunditWatch_

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