I have long been of the belief that the success or failure of a coach at international level is dependent on fortune. Would Sven-Goran Eriksson have been so derided by the press and general public had his England side won either of the two penalty shoot-outs against Portugal in 2004 or 2006? Would Terry Venables be so acclaimed had Spain been accredited with either of the legitimate ‘offside’ goals during their Euro 1996 quarter-final?
The FA’s process for deciding on the most prestigious job in English football appears to engage in a bizarre game of trial and error. After employing Eriksson for six years, it was decided that the Swede lacked passion and tactical flexibility, and that putting the ship in the hands of Steve McClaren, an Englishman with some limited domestic success, would be the best option.
For all the reasons that McClaren was appointed to the top job in 2006, Redknapp looks set match the same criteria in 2012. There is no doubt that Fabio Capello’s tenure as England coach has been underwhelming at best, and the desire for a top English replacement is understandable. But is the answer really a man with one piece of major silverware to his name across 35 years in management and no prior experience of international football?
If McClaren had a squeaky clean, annoyingly uncharismatic public image, Redknapp’s rough and ready reputation is not one that would normally be associated with such an important position. However, since the FA nailed their patriotic colours to the mast, the current Tottenham boss is odds on favourite to be leading England into World Cup qualifiers in the autumn of 2012.
On a superficial level, the appointment makes a reasonable amount of sense. From a man management point of view, Redknapp is as likely to succeed as any other candidate. Whilst he has been known to alienate players he does not have an instant rapport with, there will considerable respect from many of the squad’s established leading lights and the general public will respond well to his everyman charm. In recent seasons he has dropped the prickly persona that made him sometimes unpopular during his tenure in charge at Upton Park – all positive thus far.
However, the nation demands an x-factor from their managers, and if Redknapp fails to make an instant impression his lack of top level experience will be hammered in the press. Both Fabio Capello and Eriksson were granted a great deal of goodwill as a result of their achievements at club level – the former Bournemouth coach does not have that to fall back on.
The silverware won as a manager need not be a defining factor in his appointment, yet his cabinet is particularly bare. Admittedly his chances to win any substantial glory have been limited but he has rarely done enough to deserve a top level appointment. His achievements with Portsmouth came at the cost of the club’s financial future, the FA Cup triumph the ultimate false dawn.
Gaining his current post as Tottenham head coach was only a possibility once Juande Ramos had dragged the club deep into the relegation zone, and again everyone’s favourite cockney was afforded funds that did not match the club’s level of prior achievement – a pre-requisite for Redknapp to gain any tangible success.
Even now, Redknapp is unable to do anything but play the underdog card. The current Spurs squad is arguably the deepest in the division, yet the man who has spent phenomenal amounts of money on his Champions League dream insists that his team need a miracle just to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition next term.
This underplaying of his club’s hopes is standard Redknapp, but with so much expected of the national team, could the former Portsmouth manager realistically say when England lose in the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup that he’s done “Not bad, considering we made the last 16 last time.” Probably not.
Redknapp himself knows the fickle nature of the football world. His elevation from an unspectacular manager at domestic level to red hot favourite for the England manager’s post has been dramatic, and has undoubtedly fed off the back of the comparative failure of current incumbent, Capello. Were Tottenham to actually meet their manager’s doomsday prediction and miss out on Champions League qualification, questions may be asked again about the suitability of Redknapp to lead his country, however accidents aside he looks set for the England dugout.
Redknapp has said periodically that his managerial career is drawing to a close. In 2005, he went so far as to earmark his one campaign with Southampton as being his last, only when the club were relegated did he change his mind. It would be remarkable to think that seven years on from an earmarked retirement date, that Redknapp could be looking at embarking on a first job in international management. This is the starkest picture of the decision the FA are about to make.
Think Steve McClaren should be given another pop as England coach? Reckon Nigel Clough has done enough to throw his hat into the ring? Let me know on Twitter. Happy to change my opinion on Harry if he can get me a portion of David Beckham’s pie and mash.