As things stand, there appears to be a significant risk of seeing more images of Harry Redknapp playing golf on Sky television this summer than there is of seeing Tiger Woods with club in hand in the coming weeks.
A day does not appear to pass without the Tottenham boss giving his green-side views on the transfer window and his club’s potential targets over the summer. Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of the cockney geezer, with many finding Redknapp’s wide-eyed enjoyment of his recent European adventure an endearing and refreshing trait in the cynical world of European qualification.
The goodwill shown towards the former Portsmouth boss by the football public and written press looks set to sweep Redknapp into the England job next autumn- an eventuality that was brought into sharper focus after England’s 2-2 draw with Switzerland on Saturday. However, no matter how you dress them, the accomplishments of the man who would be king in the last 12 months make for confusing reading.
Domestically, Tottenham have underachieved. Considering the strength of Redknapp’s squad, and relative struggles of each of the club’s nearest rivals, to finish fifth this season represents a real missed opportunity.
Tottenham fans will talk about the transformation that Redknapp has overseen in his near three year spell at White Hart Lane. To rescue the club from the foot of the table and catapult them into a Champions League is, on paper, remarkable. However, few sides have the sort of transfer budget afforded the former West Ham boss. To spend over £100 million across such a short period, one might rightly expect some significant improvement.
You only need to compare the first choice midfields of the league’s biggest guns to appreciate the narrowing gap between the top six in the division. Whereas once Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal would have six or seven players who would walk into their rival’s line up- it is arguably Tottenham’s creative engine that is most desired by the rest of the division.
That is not to say that Spurs are without holes to plug ahead of what looks set to be a very busy transfer window. A chronic lack of goals at key times last season undermined their European charge, and Redknapp has already moved to bring in reinforcements in goal after a number of high profile howlers from Brazilian stopper Heurelho Gomes.
The manager’s bizarre attitude towards the goalkeeping position warrants a blog post of its own, nevertheless the acquisition of Brad Friedel from Aston Villa is the strongest indication yet that the FA Cup winner is no longer prepared to accept the current level of performance- regardless of how well he claims his side have done in the face of more financially powerful foes.
It is, of course, in Redknapp’s interest to continually play the underdog card- Tottenham’s inability to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition will inevitably leave a number of his high profile squad members vulnerable to sizeable bids from potential suitors. The club may be able to stave off interest this time around- the club appear in a reasonable shape financially, and as Redknapp points out- if the club do not strengthen they will be left behind.
Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that this summer represents the most unique challenge of Redknapp’s career. In previous years, the onus has been on him to live within his means and punch above his weight in both the transfer market and the league table. With such a highly talented squad at his disposal, expectation management is not a policy that the Spurs fans and board will continue to endorse. Having given the White Hart Lane faithful a taste of the big time, Redknapp must deliver more. His cries about financial imbalances may hold water, but with the league in its current state, there is a fantastic opportunity to bring big glory to north London next year.
Before he was made England coach in 2006, Steve McClaren had two achievements to hang his managerial hat on. One domestic cup competition and a brave but futile European campaign proved enough to encourage the FA that he was the correct man for the top job. Five years on, and with a strangely similar CV, Redknapp must prove that he is more than a sum of his silverware successes and the man to bring glory to both club and country.
For a full rundown of Harry’s summer tour of Britain’s golf courses, find me on Twitter.