A bit rich to blame Tottenham…isn’t it?

Harry RedknappQPR manager Harry Redknapp has reignited the issue of his England snub last summer when Roy Hodgson was appointed in place of Fabio Capello before Euro 2012, despite the then Tottenham boss appearing the overwhelming favourite for the vacant post. However, as with anything Redknapp says, factoring in his customary re-writing of history, should he really be blaming his former employers over his failure to secure the role?

For those of us with memories longer than a few short months, Redknapp’s latest airbrushing of events to suit his own agenda will not come as a surprise, he’s done it several times before – the financial collapse of Portsmouth, Southampton’s relegation, Tottenham’s form and how Gareth Bale became the star player he is today – yet his latest assertion that his buy-out clause in his contract at White Hart Lane was the main stumbling block to him taking the England job seems a bit rich.

Redknapp told Twentyfour7Football magazine in an interview published this month: “I wouldn’t take it [the England job] now, no. Not now, not in the future. That was my time, really, if I was going to get it. Last year there were a lot of things that went against me surrounding that massive contractual clause. People will always deny that is the reason, the FA couldn’t say that and I won’t say, but it didn’t help me.

“I had such a badly loaded contract it was crazy, in Tottenham’s favour. That’s what you get for not reading your contract properly. It was a massive amount that someone would have had to pay to get me out of it. If they sacked me it wasn’t so massive and that was a bolt out of the blue, a shock, I genuinely never saw it coming.”

It’s clear what he’s trying to do, he’s trying to paint himself as ‘the one that got away’, the man that was considered too much of a rogue for the suits at the FA to control – in essence, the modern day Brian Clough, the greatest national manager that England never had, while Hodgson is portrayed as the cheap, safe and hassle-free option. While that may be true of the former West Brom and Fulham boss, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t first-choice all along.

Redknapp was widely portrayed as the ‘people’s choice’ and by that they mean the sort of plonkers that consider Alan Shearer the height of TV football punditry. The sort that are the lowest common denominator, let alone appealing to anything less engaged. The casual football fan likes ‘Arry because he seems a usual bloke, a man of the people not bogged down by complicated things like tactics or morals. He’s an old-fashioned ‘football man’. Of course, while the media may have seen him as the heir apparent, I could genuinely count on one hand the number of people I know that wanted him to get the England job and even fewer Tottenham fans that were upset by his eventual exit, despite the fawningly over the top rhetoric that the tabloids trotted out about it being some great injustice.

His successor at Tottenham Andre Villas-Boas was initially painted as some sort of clown, with one even going as far as to say he had ‘borderline Aspergers’. Now, you can like Redknapp, but when it strays into deeply insulting personal attacks, that simply goes way beyond the call of professional back-slapping. The Portuguese was disliked because he wasn’t Redknapp. Stories of dressing room in-fighting were simply invented and the club in crisis narrative went into overdrive. It’s only died down now because the club have done so well this season, yet his critics still lay in waiting, for an opportunity to do the same again all in the name of furthering Redknapp’s cause.

The true timeline of events is that the 65-year-old had an existing contract which had one year left to run on it and when everything was going well and Tottenham were flying high in the league, Redknapp attempted to play hardball with chairman Daniel Levy over a proposed new three-year contract. However, a run of just two wins in 12 games after February all but ruled the club out of the title race and saw Arsenal overhaul a 12-point deficit to finish third. Finishing fourth in a three-horse race was embarrassing enough, but when Chelsea went on to win the Champions League in the most dramatic of circumstances, the club’s misery was further compounded by being demoted to the Europa League instead.

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Redknapp brought on board Paul Stretford, Wayne Rooney’s agent who tried to push through his move to Manchester City in 2010, but it backfired spectacularly. It was reported at the time that Tottenham were asking for a £5m transfer fee in addition to the remainder of his £3.1m a year deal left on a contract which still has 18 months to run. Meanwhile, Hodgson was available for nothing. The choice was simple. The club’s fans will have noted how, following Stretford’s engagement with Levy, stories linking Redknapp to alternative posts – such as Chelsea – began to appear in the media, just as they did when Rooney’s Manchester United contract talks stalled and the England striker was linked with a move to Eastlands.

The reasons for Redknapp’s downfall rest squarely with him, though, but as is a common trait in football, taking responsibility for your own actions is never an option. It was him that openly flirted with the England job after winning his court case in February, telling reporters: “It has knocked me for six. At the moment there has been no approach. But if the opportunity comes, and I get asked, I’ll have to consider it.”

Even as far back as April 2010 he was touting himself as Capello’s natural heir, telling TalkSPORT: “I’m English, who wouldn’t want to manage England. There’s not an Englishman – whether it’s me, Roy Hodgson or Sam Allardyce – who would turn the job down because it’s our country and we want to manage our country. No one is ever going to turn that job down.”

He went on to say even as late as the final week of April last year, with Tottenham’s form in the gutter: “It’s a great job to be manager of your country. I’ve got a job to do at Tottenham and I’ve got to really keep concentrating on my job there, which I do 100 per cent, and see what happens at the end of the year.I have never been approached by England or anybody else. I have said all along it needs an English manager. I think it’s a job for a more experienced manager. I’ve got to weigh it all up at the end of the year and I’ve got to do what I feel is right for myself and what I feel is right for my family.”

What other club would stand for such brazen disloyalty and such flagrant disregard for his current employers? You could call Redknapp’s position arrogant, even if he believed as much in private it was unwise to air it so publicly, but he was the clear favourite for the job. He clearly thought he had it in the bag.

Nevertheless, many of the underlying issues  that became eventual roadblocks to his appointment were self-inflicted; it was him that blamed the England job as a distraction for his players and responsible for their loss of form, only to then turn around a few weeks later and say the exact opposite when it seemed as if he would be overlooked by the FA and was desperate not to be sacked by Spurs, with his tail firmly between his legs. It was him that failed to rotate his squad enough, leaving them exhausted down the home straight. It was because of him that the club carried out some woefully short-term deals during the January transfer window only to see his side become less competitive – the club were clearly worried about handing a man with his eyes set so firmly on another job any significant kind of budget to work with.

In the end, Redknapp had one job and held another within his grasp but he only succeeded in talking himself out of both. Being a media-friendly manager is great when everything is going well, while the regular newspaper column to use as your bully pulpit helps win friends and influence in powerful areas, but it also creates a circus around you. He became the story, not the team and when that happens, it’s time to leave the stage. By trying to play the FA and Tottenham off one another when the club’s form was outstanding, he held all the cards, only to be left caught short with a rotten hand when they collapsed post-February.

Money may have been a factor in avoiding Redknapp from the FA’s perspective, but it clearly wasn’t the motivating factor behind the snub, as he clearly still feels it was. The faint whiff of hypocrisy is never far behind Redknapp and it’s somewhat ironic that the one thing that made him the favourite for the post – his relations with the press and his penchant for a soundbite – may have counted against him above all else in the end. He played a game of bluff and he lost, so to apportion blame anywhere other than himself is a serious distortion of events bordering on the absurd.

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