Death of A Salesman
June 15, 2012 in Premier League
And just like that, everyone’s favourite melting cockney, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, was sacked. A man whose team had finished fourth in the Premier League, just one point behind city rivals Arsenal. I’m not the biggest fan of Redknapp as a manager, but I find it hard not to feel sad that the Premier League may lose one of its talismanic and quintessentially English figures. And here I’m not just talking about the cheeky, wheeler dealer (don’t say that to his face). I think in many ways, Harry Redknapp represented something of the past for Premier League fans. We love a manager with personality, a ‘character’, someone whose entire football philosophy is typified by how they look and sound. A great man motivator, a manager who will put his arm around a player and fill them with confidence. A wholesome approach, a straight, stand up, honest geezer (alleged tax fraud excluded, of course).
However fitting it may be to ramble clichéd sentiments (this is Redknapp we’re talking about), let’s get down to brass tax (don’t look for a pun, there isn’t one). Was Harry Redknapp a failure at Tottenham? When you look at examples like Dalglish at Liverpool and Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea, it’s very straight forward. There was a level of expectation that neither manager could aspire to. In his firing of Harry Redknapp, is Daniel Levy’s mentality moving more towards chairmen like Abramovich? Perhaps not, any chairman whose team has tasted success and who invested so much can only be expected to act upon what they perceive as failure.
I think it comes down to how form is scheduled. For a large majority of Tottenham’s campaign, Harry’s men sat comfortably in 3rd. They started well, and maintained a winning mentality and some good form for a long time. Then it all went horribly wrong. Someone said Harry might be England manager and everything collapsed. Now look at Arsenal’s season. They finished just one point above Spurs, but the biggest difference between the two sides (besides that point) is that Arsenal finished strongly. Everyone, be they fans, chairmen or players, have a short memory when it comes to those times outside of good form, where the ball doesn’t fall, the injuries persist and the team below you seem to keep on winning.
When you’re losing and you start winning, suddenly you’ve worked some magic, everything is clicking and it’s plain sailing. As an Everton fan, I know this all too well. But you could be playing the best football, pummelling everyone in sight but if your bad form comes in the later half of the season, you’re fucked. Take Sven Goran-Eriksson at Manchester City. They were playing well beyond themselves in the first half of the season and a lacklustre second half performance cost poor multi-millionaire Sven his job. Would he still have been fired if this form was reversed? Would Harry have been sacked if Spurs sat in 8th or 9th for most of the season and then made a heroic final push, to finish just one point above Arsenal? Worth pondering, I say.
Anyway, back to Redknapp. And back to clichés. However, in Redknapp’s case, the clichés ring true. A man manager, an encourager, but ultimately a man lacking the tactical awareness; a man without the slyness and guile to last in the arena with stalwarts such as Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Roberto Mancini (with infinite money cheat codes enabled for the latter). So let’s come back to what many believe destroyed Tottenham’s season. That England job, the poison chalice capable of destroying even those it does not touch. Harry just couldn’t play it cool. He never could, how many times have you seen him in the technical area, trying to not react to his team scoring? He can’t help it. He tried so hard not to show his cards during the England shambles that the poker dripped off his liquid face. He was unable to contain himself; it was almost so obvious that the FA, like some ironic hipster, decided the choice was too mainstream. Maybe he wanted too much money and they’d already blown it on rock faced Italian Fabio Capello. Maybe in some kind of messed way, they saw Hodgson as a kind of budget Redknapp. “He’s English and weird looking, he’ll do”. Only they know. I reckon they picked out of a hat.
Was it Chelsea who got Redknapp sacked? Often in football, especially this season (see the Manchester City final game), you rely on forces you cannot control. Was it Harry’s fault that Messi missed a penalty in the semi-final? No. Was it Harry’s fault that Mario Gomez forgot how to score? No. Was it Harry’s fault that he left his team in a position where they had to rely on another team winning one match for them to get Champions League football? Yes, I suppose it was. But if, as some are reporting, the main reason for his sacking is the lack of Champions League football, this seems quite unfair. Who would predict that the stars would align and conspire to doom poor Spurs to Channel Five on a Thursday?
So what now for ‘Arry? I’m surprisingly disappointed to say that I fear Redknapp won’t manage in the Premier League again, at least not for some time. I foresee a long break or move to a team in Dubai (a long break). I hope wherever he does go, he continues to enact that beloved ‘geezer’ English archetype. As long as the justice system continues to fail, Harry will always have a place in the game. In a game of mass sponsorship and PR trained bore fests, love him or hate him, we need people like Redknapp, to maintain a uniquely English perspective on a game our country loves so much.