Rejoice. Capello is gone. Instead of some stubborn, sour-faced Italian sitting in the dugout who only knew the swearwords from the entire English dictionary, we can now have a smooth talking, charming Englishman providing a bit of gentlemanly conduct on the touchline. Oh wait. It’s gonna be ‘Arry. The happy-go-lucky, wheeler-dealer Cockney (on second thoughts, don’t call him that). Redknapp is the obvious choice to step into the hot seat, the players want him, the fans want him and clearly the FA want him (how else did he get off the court charges…Only joking). But is Harry the right man for the task?
The next manager has to be English, that has already been decided by everyone involved in football and the FA have admitted they will appoint an English successor to Capello. It has to be said that not many candidates stand out when considering the English category, but the one that does, fortunately wants the job. Redknapp is ‘flattered’ to be considered for the position and believes it is the ‘ultimate job for an Englishman.’ Although I’m not sure I agree with him on the last point, indeed the England role seems to be a poisoned chalice, it is good to see someone in charge showing a bit of passion and hopefully this will translate to the players.
Redknapp made a decent start to life as a manager during his first role at Bournemouth, where his team won promotion from the third division, not to mention famously beating Manchester United in a FA Cup clash. In 1994, he took the West Ham job and established the Hammers as a consistent force in the Premier League, eventually leading them into Europe, finishing fifth in the division. His departure took many by surprise, though his time in charge at Upton Park will be fondly remembered for helping develop the careers of so many talented young English players. Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick to name but a few, all got their breaks under Redknapp and have all become seasoned internationals since. He took charge at Portsmouth soon after and got them into the Premiership, not to mention keeping them up the year after in 2004. However, clashes with Chairman Milan Mandaric led to his resignation and he joined bitter rivals Southampton. He couldn’t save the club from relegation though and resigned in 2005 when the Saints couldn’t find the form needed for promotion.
A return to Portsmouth though saw Harry enjoy some of the best years of his career, getting the side into the top half of the Premier League, not to mention winning the only major trophy of Redknapp’s career so far, the FA Cup in 2008 after a 1-0 win over Cardiff at Wembley. Harry assembled a cracking squad at Portsmouth, attracting the likes of Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and Lassana Diarra to the South Coast, something the fans could only previously dream of. With Portsmouth in dire financial straits though, Redknapp decided to take Juande Ramos’s job at Tottenham and was appointed manager in October 2008 with Spurs bottom of the league. Harry did a remarkable job in that first season, reaching the League Cup final and eventually finishing in a respectable eighth position. The 2009/10 season represented Redknapp’s best season in management, finishing fourth in the table to qualify for the Champions League, an achievement that won him Premier League manager of the season. He continued the good work the following year, as Spurs reached the quarter finals of the competition, producing some outrageously good performances on the way, with wins over both Inter and AC Milan. His side are still in Premier League contention this year, and lie third in the table.
It is clear that Redknapp has enjoyed a decent career at the top level. He has achieved moderate success, but the one real positive of having Harry in charge is the rapport he strikes up with players. White Hart Lane is currently full of some rather inflated egos, yet the boss seems to have gelled them together. Rafael Van Der Vaart had a reputation as a difficult player before his move to London, but he has turned out to be an inspired signing, while Emmanuel Adebayor is not exactly wonderful for dressing room morale. Harry even coped with Luka Modric’s attempts to manufacture a move away in the summer and it is to his credit that he has such the side playing so well. This is important for England, whose current squad has a few stars with what we will call ‘egotistical problems.’ A manager needs to have the respect of his players and Redknapp will be a happy medium to the strict disciplinarian approach of Capello or the ‘I get rugby tackled in training by my players’ role of Steve McLaren. His sarcastic nature and decent sense of humour will stand him in good stead when dealing with press conferences, indeed managing the journalists is one task any England manager always struggles with, Capello in particular, and Redknapp’s already-good relationship with the media sharks is important. Harry has been around the block a long time, he knows the English game and more importantly, the English players and therefore his credentials seem to match up to what is required.
A few questions still linger though. Redknapp is 64; he’s not exactly the new kid on the block. He has a history of heart problems and recently underwent surgery to try and resolve this. The pressures of taking the England job could be problematic from this point of view, but one hopes this is not the case. You also have to wonder why Redknapp hasn’t been considered before. He’s been at the top of the game for the best part of 30 years and England have had a few managers in their time. With Redknapp available, why did England appoint foreigners twice, and why, oh, why was Steve McLaren considered ahead of Harry in 2006. Well, Redknapp isn’t always the most savoury of characters, as the recent court case proves. He has been accused several times before of wrongdoing and this has kept the FA at bay before. He has also never really managed at the very top of the game. Tottenham are Redknapp’s biggest club and he turned them into title contenders. Last year was the first time he has managed in the Champions League and that lack of big game experience could mean Redknapp struggles with the demands of international football.
These questions have to put to one side though, Redknapp is clearly the best candidate and in terms of getting the best out of his players, he leads the rest of the pack by a country mile. The only sticking point to his appointment is Tottenham, will they let him go before the EUROS? Redknapp himself is keen to finish the job he has started there. A job share is the only possible solution and needs to be sorted soon so Old ‘Arry can get the Three Lions roaring again.