Have Spurs made the same mistake as Redknapp by sacking him?
13:24 14 June 2012
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Tuesday’s premature rumours of Harry Redknapp’s departure softened the shock, but last night’s news still came as a surprise: Tottenham really have sacked the only manager to lead them into the Champions League.
Redknapp says he is “bemused”, and few can blame him. After all, in his three full seasons in charge he has overseen Spurs’ best sequence of top-flight finishes for 47 years, as well as a historic run to the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite competition.
Reading between the lines, chairman Daniel Levy’s statement suggests that he and the board felt that Redknapp had taken the club as far as he could.
“This is not a decision the board and I have taken lightly,” he said. “Harry arrived at the club at a time when his experience and approach was exactly what was needed.”
This seems to suggest that Levy is now planning a different “approach” – possibly with the appointment of a Director of Football, and a return to the management structure that he abandoned to accommodate Redknapp in 2008.
However, it is hard to see why a change is needed now, after Spurs have just equalled their highest-ever finish in the Premier League.
Yes, the Lilywhites have just missed out on the Champions League for the second year in a row – and they should have finished third last season.
But is it really possible that Redknapp was sacked because Spurs finished one point behind Arsenal, and then watched Roberto di Matteo’s Blues win a penalty shoot-out in Munich? Would a regime change be justified based on such wafer-thin margins?
It seems unlikely – and Redknapp does not seem to think so.
“We finished fourth and were unlucky at the end, but I think the same outcome would have happened,” he said. “Even if we had finished fourth [and qualified for the Champions League], the chairman would have gone down the same road - but that is football.”
The board and the chairman had clearly lost faith in their manager, creating an increasingly public rift - possibly because of the England saga and Redknapp’s reluctance to commit himself to Tottenham and take the extension that was reportedly offered at the time.
Given that the 65-year-old’s Spurs bosses were seemingly so keen to keep him in February, they have obviously had a major change of heart.
Perhaps Redknapp’s exit is a punishment for his failure to pin his colours to Spurs’ mast when he was in demand.
It may be exceedingly harsh – this was the national job after all - but there is a lesson in the tale of the man who wanted more than he had and ended up losing everything.
If that was Redknapp’s mistake then he has certainly paid the price. His fall from grace, from the apparent heir to the England throne to unemployment in a matter of weeks, is scarcely believable.
Levy and his colleagues may also have grown tired of a series of ill-advised sound-bites which alienated a large section of the fans.
Having raised the bar at Spurs, Redknapp’s attempts to lower expectations and put his achievements in the context of the club’s history often set him in opposition to the supporters.
“If people start getting carried away about what Tottenham should be doing then I think they need a reality check,” he said at the end of the season, having previously reminded everyone that Spurs were a mid-table club at the turn of the century, and that he had finished above them three seasons in a row with West Ham.
However, the most likely scenario is that Levy, like everyone in the country, expected Redknapp to depart for England this summer and consequently made arrangements.
The contingency plan would have become increasingly attractive as Spurs slumped at the end of the season, winning just four of their last 13 league games and consequently missing out on the Champions League.
And, as Tottenham look ahead to a new era at a new training ground and then a new stadium, the club’s hierarchy may have come to the conclusion that Plan B – whatever it is - now looks better than Plan A.
The signs were there at the end of the season - suggestions that Redknapp was being sidelined.
Even in his final pre-match press conference, the manager insisted that he had not discussed any transfer targets with Levy. Yet the very next day, Jan Vertonghen was at White Hart Lane to watch Spurs’ final game of the season against Fulham.
The apparent lack of a new contract may well have been a ploy to force Redknapp to quit in anger. But, once the manager had stated that he had no intention of resigning on Tuesday, he had to be sacked.
The worst-case scenario would a rueful, marginalised manager stubbornly seeing out the final year of his contract, despite the fact that he clearly does not have the backing of his employers.
Such a situation would devastate this summer’s transfer window, and exacerbate the same uncertainty that existed behind the scenes in the second half of last season.
If Levy was intent on bringing Redknapp’s reign to an end, he has at least done the right thing by ending all of the doubt and speculation now.
It may have cost him £3million in compensation, but that is a small price to pay to make a clean start at this relatively early stage of the summer.
Ultimately, it will be a while before Levy’s enormous gamble can be properly assessed – this time next year probably, after the new man’s first season in charge.
But the message seems to be clear: Fourth place is no longer good enough for Spurs – and that is a daunting statement for the next man, who will have to improve on the club’s best ever Premier League finish at the first attempt to justify the change.
He will also have to do so in the style that Tottenham are used to, and the style which Redknapp brought to the Lane.
In fact, in sacking the man who possibly didn’t fully appreciate what he already had at Tottenham, Levy may be making exactly the same mistake.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs