Why Harry Redknapp is still the right man for Tottenham
London24’s Spurs correspondent Ben Pearce gives his verdict on Harry Redknapp’s future.
It has been a while since anyone genuinely contemplated the idea of Harry Redknapp being at the helm at Tottenham next season – but the Spurs boss is now set to stay.
That brings the curtain down on an interminable saga but, 12 weeks after Fabio Capello’s resignation, Redknapp’s stock seems to have fallen at White Hart Lane.
In February, Redknapp was being hailed as the King of Tottenham, and the apparent heir to the England throne.
‘We want you to stay’, sang the Spurs fans as the Lilywhites thrashed Newcastle 5-0 at the Lane on February 11.
Tottenham were desperate to keep him, the English public were calling for his coronation – and Redknapp also had to distance himself from speculation linking him with the Chelsea job in March.
Yet, this week, the news that the 65-year-old will not be getting the England job has been greeted with a lukewarm reaction around Tottenham.
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Having gradually accepted that they would be forcibly stripped of their manager this summer, a growing number of Spurs fans have lost so much faith in Redknapp that they were genuinely looking forward to his seemingly inevitable departure.
Indeed, following the 1-0 defeat at QPR – Tottenham’s third successive loss – some supporters were crying out for a new manager.
Fans are certainly split over the issue and, in an online poll on London24.com this week, only 53 per cent said Redknapp is still the right man for Tottenham.
Having been overlooked for the England job, there are now real question marks over whether he should be allowed to lead Spurs into another campaign.
It is easy to see why there are so many dissenting voices. Having put themselves in such a strong position, and left Arsenal and Chelsea languishing in their wake, Tottenham’s collapse has defied belief.
The manager is by no means blameless for that. At times the tactics have been nothing short of bizarre, and the mystifying decision to sanction the loans of Steven Pienaar, Vedran Corluka and Sebastien Bassong in January has been costly.
The weak bench at QPR was a testament to that, and Redknapp’s belief that the squad depth hasn’t been strong enough recently only rubs salt into the wounds.
At times, he has owned up to his mistakes – only to change his mind and insist that he is “very happy” with everything he has done.
Phrases like “sports science and God knows what” haven’t helped. Neither did his declaration that squad rotation and fatigue is “a load of nonsense and an excuse” - it is hard to find another reason for the fact that Spurs have slumped so badly in the final third of the last two seasons.
The result is that Redknapp can currently do no right, and is lambasted for every comment and decision.
Spurs fans voted Scott Parker as their player of the month for September, October and November – but now Redknapp is under fire for persistently signing ageing veterans.
Accused of not putting enough faith in his young players, the manager is also taking flak for playing Kyle Walker – the PFA Young Player of the Year – too much.
Criticised in some quarters for being too reserved against a defensive Sunderland side in the goalless draw at the Stadium of Light, Redknapp reverted to 4-4-2 for the ensuing home game against Norwich – and was hammered for leaving his side too open.
Spurs pulled off one of the coups of the summer by loaning Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City, despite his enormous wages.
Yet, when Redknapp revealed that he wanted to repeat the trick and attempt to lure Carlos Tevez from City in the January window, he drew howls of derision once again.
However, these are largely side issues which have surfaced because of Spurs’ dismal form. Few fans were complaining about Redknapp’s relationship with the media or his lack of rotation when Spurs were third in the league.
Few fans were criticising his lack of tactical nous when they beat Inter Milan 3-1 at the Lane last year, or beat AC Milan over two legs in the last 16 - including a 1-0 victory at the San Siro.
Ultimately, the unrest has been caused by recent results – and understandably so.
Football is a results business and a tally of six points from a possible 27 is relegation form - Premier League managers have been sacked for less.
Indeed, Juande Ramos had a better average at the start of 2008/09, when he posted two points from the first eight games and was replaced by Redknapp.
However, there are two kinds of results – there are weekly wins, draws and losses, and on the other hand there is the general direction of a club, and its success or failure in achieving its long-term goals.
Under Redknapp, Tottenham’s points tally has been dreadful lately - but few can question that the club have been more successful since his arrival in October 2008.
Spurs had never previously qualified for the Champions League – the ultimate target that the likes of Ramos and the ever-popular Martin Jol never managed.
Yet, so far, Redknapp has finished fourth and fifth in his two full seasons in charge – the fifth-placed finish being combined with a run to the Champions League quarter-finals – in addition to reaching two FA Cup semi-finals.
Now, with three games left of the current campaign, Tottenham are in fourth place again. Should they stay there it would be exceedingly harsh to dismiss the manager.
With 62 points on the board, Spurs have already equalled last season’s total. And, if they win their last three games, they will eclipse the 70 points that secured fourth place in 2010.
In effect, Tottenham fans face the age-old question: Is the glass half empty or is it half full?
Compared to where they were a few months ago, Spurs have utterly collapsed. Compared to where they were a few years ago, they are surely in a better position.
Tottenham are about to finish above Liverpool for the third season in a row, they are currently ahead of Chelsea - and the gap between them and Arsenal has effectively disappeared.
That is in spite of the fact that Spurs have less resources than their rivals – a smaller stadium, less revenue and a tighter wage structure.
The combined outlay across the last three transfer windows is a little under �18million - an average of around �6m in each window.
Despite that, Spurs continue to be major contenders for Champions League qualification– and they do so in style, rightly being hailed as one of the most attractive sides in the top flight.
A different manager might bring more tactical nous to the Lane, but at what cost to the spectacle? It is difficult to combine attractive football with winning football but, at their best, Spurs achieve that perfect combination, and Redknapp deserves credit for that.
Earlier in the campaign, seasoned Spurs fans were heralding the best season for 50 years. Can the manager really be sacked at the end of that same campaign, regardless of how bad the last two months have been?
This brings us to another question, and arguably the most important of all: If Redknapp was to be replaced, who would take his place?
Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have been mentioned, but that is a highly ambitious wish-list for a club with Spurs’ resources – and Guardiola has already announced that he intends to take a break from football after leaving Barcelona.
Would Levy opt for a B-list hotshot from the continent then, and risk appointing another Ramos, or an Andre Villas-Boas?
That would be a dangerous shot in the dark, and it is generally agreed that Redknapp’s successor would need to have Premier League experience.
Brendan Rodgers then? Roberto Martinez? David Moyes? Rafael Benitez perhaps? Are these definitely progressive options – guaranteed to not only maintain Spurs’ current status, but to improve on it and really justify the change?
Is there actually anything badly wrong with Tottenham’s current position?
If Spurs miss out on fourth spot, it won’t be by much – it may well be less than last season’s six-point gap.
Some would see that as an improvement, others as stability, others as stagnation. Many will be unable to forget the way the league table looked in February, and will see a club that has moved downwards.
It’s all about perspective – but perspective means ignoring short-term fortunes and surveying the wider picture.
The annual goal is Champions League qualification, and Redknapp has already delivered it once, made the most of it with a memorable European adventure, and is currently close to delivering it again for the second time in three seasons.
If the yardstick has become higher than that, then he has become a victim of his own success at White Hart Lane.
Indeed, if Redknapp has made the fans believe that Tottenham are capable of finishing third, or even winning the title, then how exactly has he failed?
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs