Tuesday 6 December 2016

Kop hero delivers the goods that Harry keeps on flogging

Dion Fanning

Published 15/05/2011 | 05:00

H arry Redknapp can find plenty of reasons for Tottenham Hotspur finishing below Manchester City in the Premier League. Most of them have to do with Sheikh Mansour. If Spurs lose at Anfield today and finish below Liverpool, this may be harder for Harry to explain in his story of the season.

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Harry predicted great things for Liverpool at the beginning of the season so perhaps, as a punter, he can point to his prescience in this matter. The problem is that Harry was predicting great things for his friend Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson, of course, has managed to restore West Brom to their good early-season form since his appointment in February. They took 15 points in their first ten matches this season under Roberto di Matteo. In the last ten under Hodgson they have taken 18 so Hodgson has brought stability to the Hawthorns, even if it's not the stability last seen in 1978, but in October 2010.

Yet, he deserves all the credit that comes his way (and watch how it comes!) for restoring West Brom to their former, early-season, glories. The only shame is that it may have come too late for the Manager of the Year award but I'm sure something can be done, even at this stage.

Harry was anticipating Hodgson doing what he does at Liverpool and in some ways Hodgson did, but not as Harry anticipated. Redknapp spoke in glowing terms about Hodgson at the start of the season but then Harry likes to speak in glowing terms about his rivals.

His management of expectations insists that this has been a magical season for Tottenham. Spurs' run in the Champions League was talked about by commentators as if Dagenham & Redbridge were somehow shocking Europe.

Harry's end-of-season analysis could have been crafted by Ian Holloway. Harry has cast Tottenham Hotspur as the corner shop, valiantly trying to do business the old-fashioned way while the megastore moves in up the street. It's no surprise, this analysis goes, if the poor old corner shop is struggling when the big boys have got all the financial muscle. When you're talking about Manchester City, this view has some weight, but if Liverpool stay above Tottenham then the theory falls to the ground.

If you were to continue the retail metaphor, at the start of the season Liverpool was the sporting goods store in The Sopranos. This store is owned by Tony's friend who loses too much money in Tony's poker game, becomes increasingly sucked in, and then ends up handing over a piece of the store to Tony. They then pile this high with debt and open lines of credit they know they can't sustain. This was the 'bust-out'.

Liverpool were close to being busted out when Harry made his predictions at the start of the season. But the exit of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, the purchase by FSG and, most crucially, the appointment of Kenny Dalglish changed everything.

Dalglish, some said, was an appointment based on sentiment. Liverpool should remember what happened to Kevin Keegan and beware of hailing false Messiahs.

But there is a difference between sentiment and emotion. Dalglish understood the heart of the club and he represented its soul. Liverpool has always been a club that needs this visceral connection but Dalglish is too intelligent not to know that more was required.

Of course, he has provided it, spectacularly so far. There are different expectations for next season now but there is more of a burden on the owners than there is on Dalglish.

There are issues with the playing staff he will have to overcome. How he accommodates Steven Gerrard will be fascinating and how many games Andy Carroll plays could be critical, at least for the player.

Under Dalglish, these are debatable issues and nothing more. They are no longer grounds for civil war, for desperate intrigue and incessant politics.

Redknapp was not alone in predicting big things for Hodgson this season. The men who hailed Hodgson's appointment are now defending Redknapp after Tottenham's slump which has brought one win in 11 league games.

Harry sees the season as a success. There was the great night in Milan which, again, is something supporters of Norwich City would cherish, but Spurs and the billionaires who back them might want something more.

There has been progress. Spurs now wait until they are knocked out abjectly of the Champions League before entering their traditional slump.

Redknapp hasn't revolutionised Tottenham, he's just made them more of what they always were.

He does so, as Hodgson did, with the blessing and encouragement of opinion-formers who can't understand what the fuss is about. They mock those supporters who express impatience just as they once mocked those at Liverpool who backed their manager.

Some of them also warned about Dalglish. It would be hard to find one who didn't hail the appointment of Hodgson, insist he needed time and then bewail his sacrificing on the altar of the modern craze for instant gratification.

Dalglish didn't need time and he has demonstrated what can be done with genius, heart and street smarts. There are greater challenges to come but not in Dalglish's eyes. He knows what real challenges are -- fulfilling the expectations of Liverpool supporters is an opportunity for a man like him.

It might be true that he could manage at no other club but equally Liverpool could appoint no other manager. His permanent appointment on Thursday was inevitable. Harry might welcome the timing too.

Harry will have his excuses ready and for once he may have a point. "It's buzzing up 'ere," he'll say if Spurs are steamrolled today. He will be right. Liverpool knew they weren't getting a false prophet when they turned to Dalglish. They had the real thing. And when you find a Messiah, what can you do but worship him?

dfanning@independent.ie

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