Within moments of the last rites being uttered over Harry Redknapp’s increasingly divisive managerial reign, his potential replacements were being castigated. David Moyes doesn’t play the Tottenham brand of football, Andre Villas-Boas is a failed Mourinho lite, Roberto Martinez is greener than Kermit the Frog. Welcome to Tottenham. The new manager hasn’t got a chance.
Ever since I’ve followed Spurs, from Bolton to the Bosphorus, fans have desperately sought a change of manager. Redknapp out, Ramos out, Jol out, Santini out, Pleat out, Hoddle out, Graham out, Gross out, Francis out, Ardiles out…I’ve heard them all. The managerial door revolves only to spit out the latest saviour. Has a lack of continuity been the real reason for Spurs’ limited success over the years?
In the modern culture, Keith Burkinshaw would have been slaughtered in 1982 for ‘throwing away’ the league title (Spurs finished fourth after a gigantic fixture pile-up), European Cup Winners Cup (unsuccessful semi-finalists) and League Cup (defeated finalists in extra time). No doubt Bill Nicholson’s inability to win a second title with the most gifted team of a generation would have set the Talksport phone lines alight.
Harry is gone. And I must confess to mixed feelings. I have great appreciation for what he achieved at Tottenham. Harry was the caretaker manager who overachieved; he reanimated a dire Juande Ramos team and saved the club from certain relegation. Redknapp delivered us Champions League football and broke Sky’s ‘Big Four’ cartel. We beat the reigning European champions, won at the San Siro, defeated Arsenal three times in breathless affairs and found ourselves respected rather than ridiculed as was largely the case from 1992 to 2006.
But Redknapp the manager and Redknapp the personality should not be confused. The former delivered fourth, fifth and fourth place in successive seasons – a feat unmatched by any Tottenham manager in recent history. The latter didn’t know when to keep his own counsel. If a man ever required his own personal ‘mute button’ it’s Harry.
Talking openly about contract negotiations when the mother of your Chairman has just passed away is either ill-timed or tasteless. Stating that the players would be distracted by his own contract situation a mere eight weeks after claiming they were unaffected by the unrelenting ‘Redknapp for England’ speculation was either astonishing front or infuriating hypocrisy.
Levy hired and stood by Harry with the HMRC’s court case hanging over him, but as soon as England were ‘interested’ Redknapp was distracted like a golddigger who spots a potentially wealthier suitor in the corner of her eye. A new deal was on the table for Harry in February. He chose not to take it. Loyalty swings both ways.
Offering a 65-year-old man a lucrative three-year contract after Spurs' late season slump was never on Levy’s agenda. Harry had already burned his bridges by this point. But it’s a big call by the Chairman. And, despite reservations about Redknapp’s recent conduct, I am not convinced it’s the right one.
On the pitch, Redknapp largely delivered and elevated the club’s status from also-rans to contenders. For years, Spurs struggled to break into the top eight and yet the two managers who broke this slump, Jol and Redknapp, were sacked by one man following top five finishes. Should Levy, again, fail to back the new manager in the transfer market then his own position should fall under scrutiny.
With Manchester City and Chelsea on a different financial playing field and Manchester United operating at a consistently unreachable level, fourth was arguably the glass ceiling of Tottenham’s ambition. Redknapp’s recent fourth place finish is something the new manager will struggle to emulate. The knives are already being drawn by Harry’s friends in the press. The days of favourable Spurs media coverage have drawn to a close. Expect a far rougher ride when the results fail to go our way.
If David Moyes leads Spurs to a creditable sixth place finish next season the usual suspects will want him out. Some fans will hate him, others subject him to personal ridicule. He’s Scottish, he’s a ginger, those bulbous eyes are swelling and poised to pop out of his head. Within two years, Moyes will be blowing his compensation money just like the others and his critics will look forward to another new manager.
As we know, the next relationship will always be better.