You’d like to think Harry Redknapp spent Sunday evening scribbling a strongly worded letter to the FA. Well if illiteracy didn’t stand in his way of doing so then English footballs head honchos would be on the business end of his scorn.
Signing off with a ‘Thanks but no thanks’ the FA would feel the full wrath of the Tottenham boss’ vicious contempt. The revelation that Roy Hodgson was in line to replace Fabio Capello as England manager must have felt like dagger through the heart for Redknapp. His one chance to fulfill a lifelong ambition to take what he refers to as ‘the ultimate job’.
In the wake of Capello’s departure 82 days ago the media hyperbole machine was sent into overdrive. That fateful day on February 8th when the stars appeared to align and events seemed to jump straight from a scriptwriters imagination was to prove a false dawn. The Italian’s resignation was swiftly followed by Redknapp’s acquittal from a tax evasion charge. It was all too perfect
He was the overwhelming favourite to succeed Capello in the Wembley dugout. The Redknapp bandwagon soon kicked into gear as the media plugged the 64-year-olds credentials at every available opportunity. Spurs’ 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle looked to confirm he was the only candidate worth considering. Even influential members of the Three Lions camp championed Redknapp’s case for appointment. It seemed like it was a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ his appointment would be rubber-stamped. The decision to hand Hodgson the job contradicts both public and internal opinion.
Foreseeing the destructive effect the media wildfire could have Spurs’ officials instigated a no fly zone for journalists keen to cross-examine Redknapp about England. The FA also acknowledged that approaching him too soon could turn out to be disruptive as the North Londoners challenged for the Premier League trophy. At the time Tottenham were deemed serious title contenders sitting third in the table and breathing down the necks of both Manchester clubs. A champagne performance in the win against Newcastle only served to reaffirm to the media and his adoring fans that ‘Arry was England’s knight in shining armour.
Unfortunately for Spurs the hyperbole machine was already rattling along at breakneck speed. Arrogantly Redknapp had already begun to believe his own hype and Spurs slipped into free fall. Three wins from the next 11 games in all competitions saw their their title dreams wrecked along with their hopes of winning the FA Cup and securing automatic qualification to next seasons Champions League. In the blink of an eye their season had unravelled in the most spectacular of circumstances.
Redknapp had taken his eye way off the ball and Spurs had paid the price. Speculation soared over his future at the London club with it appearing inevitable that he would be installed as England’s new leading man ahead of Euro 2012. His predestined departure caused a visible shift in the focus of his squad. Uncertainty over whether their manager would be around at the start of next season played heavily on the minds of players. The swashbuckling early season form, that saw them ruthlessly carve teams apart at will, had been substituted for a tentative style that reeked of nervousness and fear. On the pitch they appeared fidgety and restless, their passing and movement lacking in any sort of fluidity and conviction. It’s as if the trust the players had in one other to take risks has evaporated completely.
Morale had irrefutably dipped and, despite his well renowned motivational expertise, Redknapp struggled to conjure the corrective formula. His shortage of tactical knowledge also had a negative impact. Constantly switching Gareth Bale and Luka Modric into the wrong positions stifled their once vibrant play. Quite simply he failed to cope with the pressure of merely being linked with a job that is relentlessly scrutinised by the notoriously brutal national press. Graham Taylor, Steve McClaren and more recently Capello felt the sting of journalist’s keyboards following their sub-standard England reigns. Even as a media darling Redknapp has been pummelled into mental submission under the sheer weight of expectation before he even had the chance to pull on the Three Lions blazer.
Tottenham have been a casualty of that as has Redknapp’s reputation as a specialist in man management. The FA have undoubtedly taken notice of his failure to nip Spurs’ downturn in the bud ignoring the newspaper and television headlines effectively demanding they give him the job. Opting to overlook the ex-Portsmouth and West Ham chief strikes me as a power move displaying that the English football hierarchy aren’t to be swayed by the national media’s impositions. Not to disparage against Hodgson who is a fine manager in his own right. But is he better or worse than the other pretenders to the throne?
For so long Redknapp appeared to be the only man in the frame. But the sheer level of expectancy from the press and public ultimately proved to be his undoing. He’ll surely view this as the end of his dream to manage England. Meanwhile Spurs will be left picking up the pieces in the aftermath wondering whether their manager has enough in the mental tank to carry on in their hotseat.