Thank You & Goodbye: Why the game is up for Harry Redknapp.
When Redknapp was appointed by the club in 2008 I had my misgivings. I didn’t particularly like Harry as a man and I was less than impressed by his managerial track record. However, Spurs were in a sticky situation at the foot of the Premier League table with only tw…oh, you’ve heard this one?
The 2009/2010 season saw my expectations blown out of the water. A natural pessimist, I was stunned when Tottenham finished fourth and ultimately qualified for the Champions League. Even Redknapp’s biggest detractors had to concede, this was an impressive achievement.
I was almost immediately back on the anti-Harry offensive though as Redknapp signed former Chelsea and Arsenal defender William Gallas. I was even proved wrong about that as after a stuttering start Spurs beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, Inter at home and Milan over two legs.
It was a strange sensation but I was coming around to Redknapp’s side. It made me feel a little like I needed a bath but as fickle as fans are, the success of your chosen team generally supersedes the moral high ground.
After a shaky opening to this season there was some more judicious signings and Spurs went on a run in the league that saw them lose just one game in nineteen. This included victories over Liverpool and Arsenal. Even when that spell came to an end with defeat at Manchester City the team bounced back to beat Wigan.
Next up was Liverpool away during Redknapp’s court case for tax evasion and Spurs garnered a fortunate point at Anfield. Redknapp was acquitted of all charges shortly after that game and celebrated by watching his rampant team destroy Newcastle 5-0.
Spurs had created a ten point gap between themselves and Arsenal and talk of a title race including Spurs was on. There was even a cherry on top of that cake. Fabio Capello had resigned as England boss and Redknapp was many people’s choice to succeed the Italian. Everything was truly coming up “Harry”.
Since that Newcastle game Tottenham have taken six points from a possible twenty-seven. This has included the ignominy of watching Spurs throw away a two goal lead to lose 5-2 against Arsenal. There has also been the small matter of a 5-1 humbling at the hands of Chelsea in the FA Cup semi final.
With each passing week the sound-bites from Redknapp have been changing. It has gone from, “there’s no reason we can’t win the league” to, “if we win all our remaining games we’ll finish fourth”. There have been various staging points along the way between those two remarks. Ultimately it speaks of a man incapable of arresting Tottenham’s slide down the league table.
By my own admission there were times this season when I thought that this Spurs team were the best I’d seen in my time supporting the club. Fast, incisive, intelligent and surprisingly for a Tottenham side, reasonably resolute in defence. So what went wrong?
The uncertainty over Redknapp’s future is a convenient excuse for Spurs’ 2012 failings. It would be all too easy for the club, manager and players to claim that speculation over the England job has derailed Tottenham’s season. Does the malaise run deeper than that though?
One of the biggest arguments about Redknapp is how tactically astute he is. There are those that say Harry’s success is purely down to man management skills, that tactics are an abstract art form which hold no interest for him. People point to the apocryphal tale of Redknapp telling Roman Pavlyuchenko to go on and “fucking round about a bit” as proof of this.
In a now infamous interview with The Sun, Rafael Van der Vaart gave an illuminating view of life under Redknapp, “there are no long boring speeches about tactics like I was used to at Real Madrid”. This view seems to have borne itself out this season with some strange choices in personnel from the Spurs boss.
All too often we have seen Spurs play with their best players out of position. Gareth Bale will end up on the right or through the middle. Tottenham’s most influential midfielder, Luka Modric will be played on the left. Then there is Redknapp’s bizarre insistence on playing a 4-4-2 formation which leaves Spurs woefully exposed in midfield.
There seems to be no plan B with Harry Redknapp. No rotation of players to keep his stars fresh. Questions have been raised about the players’ conditioning too. When asked about the rotation issue Harry will often cite injuries as an excuse but he has many players still at the club that he clearly doesn’t trust to do a job.
Redknapp has now had seven transfer windows at Tottenham to build a squad he believes in. What he has done is to build a first XI he trusts with very little in reserve to challenge for a title. It could be argued that Spurs are not a title challenging team but we must take the manager at his word on these topics and judge him by those words.
Reports emerged after last weekend’s game with QPR that there had been some kind of altercation at the club. Various players were said to have fallen out with Redknapp. Others are meant to have organised a meeting to ask Harry his intentions about the England job.
It is fair to say that the wheels are coming off Tottenham’s season at the moment. It is hard for Spurs fans to watch, especially when considering the fact that Tottenham were London’s best placed club in the Premier League by a distance.
In relation to Tottenham Hotspur it is hard to describe Harry Redknapp as anything other than the club’s most successful manager of recent times. Harry has proved me wrong on a number of occasions and there were even times when I found myself defending him. However, I can defend him no more. It is clear to me that Redknapp has taken these players as far as can. England job or not, at the end of the season it is time for Daniel Levy to say to Harry, “thank you and goodbye”.