Here follows a cautionary tale. Back in August 2004, I was travelling back from Spurs’ shock 1-0 win at St. James Park courtesy of Cameroonian mentalist Thimothee Atouba’s long range scoop shot. My mate Hugh and I had bought numerous cans of Guinness from the shop on Newcastle Station. I’m not sure how many tins we purchased but I do recall the girl filling a large black bin liner. Shortly afterwards, Hugh became teetotal.
On that victorious homeward journey to Kings Cross, we were sat on a table of four with an uncharacteristically articulate Newcastle fan who was, nevertheless, dumbfounded that his side had lost to ‘no offence - a crap team like Spurs’.
“Bobby Robson’s got to go. His tactics have become embarrassing,” he told us with conviction as I offered him a sympathy can of Guinness. The previous three seasons Newcastle had finished 4th, 3rd and 5th (sound familiar), but our fellow traveller felt his team should be higher, possibly champions, despite lifting their last proper trophy when my dad was running around in short trousers. Newcastle Chairman Freddy Shepherd shared this fan’s opinion as shortly afterwards Sir Bobby was sacked and the Toon duly crumpled to a 14th place finish. Within four seasons they were relegated.
Harry Redknapp’s more forceful critics (perhaps wishfully) assume his replacement would improve on 4th, 5th and 4th place finishes (our best consecutive league positions in the modern era) and that may be the case. But that Guinness-fuelled trip back from Newcastle keeps nagging away at me. It could, quite easily, go the other way, too. With no obvious outstanding (realistic) candidates, sacking Redknapp would represent a significant gamble by Daniel Levy. As one Spurs fan told me this week, it could be a case of ‘Better the devil you know.’
The Times reported on Tuesday that Redknapp had hired Wayne Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford to (somewhat optimistically) negotiate a new three-year deal. Harry only has one-year remaining on his current contract and, at his advanced age, it’s understandable for him to seek job security or one last ‘big earner’. Equally, after Tottenham’s late nosedive in form – attributed, in part, to Redknapp having one eye on the England job - it’s acceptable that Levy would feel indifferent about offering such a generous commitment.
The possibility of Harry accepting a lucrative job in Qatar was, again, mooted. But the Middle East is one hell of a commute from Sandbanks. No doubt the Qatar link has been leaked by the Redknapp camp in a bid for better terms. A short-term post at Chelsea would seem a far more realistic option. Anyone who leaves the Portsmouth job to sign for arch-rivals Southampton, only to return to Fratton Park is, quite frankly, capable of anything.
A move across London might displease supporters of the Champions League winners but would meet with strong approval with influential dressing room figures Frank Lampard and ‘Teflon’ John Terry. “JT? Triffic player. Triffic leader. Fortunately for me, Sandra’s in her sixties or JT would be all over that. I’ve known Frank since he was a foetus. Yeah, he’s filled out a bit since then.”
In the modern era, Spurs have always been a club of snap judgments and blurred realism. We’ve had more false dawns than an Essex nightspot. Pick up any October tabloid from 1988 to 2008 and you will find an article with a ‘Spurs in crisis’ border. West Ham’s ‘Fleet Street’ fanbase used to repurpose the same gag on an annual basis. ‘What’s the difference between Tottenham and the Star of David? The Star of David has six points.’ Put aside the verbal diarrhoea and confusing tactics for one moment and Redknapp’s reign has brought a refreshing, almost unnatural, stability to the club. Dare we rock the boat?
In my tenure as a Spurs fan, the club have sacked or ousted Juande Ramos, Martin Jol, Jacques Santini, Glenn Hoddle, George Graham, Christian Gross, Gerry Francis, Ossie Ardiles, Terry Venables, Peter Shreeve and the mystifying Doug Livermore/Ray Clemence double act. David Pleat made more comebacks than Freddie Krueger often creating similar nightmares.
I feel uneasy about adding Redknapp to that list unnecessarily without an outstanding replacement in sight. Is Pleaty still available?