Friday 24 November 2017

Redknapp finally sits with legends

Harry Redknapp is the first English manager to reach the Champions League last eight since Terry Venables in 1985. Photo: Getty Images
Harry Redknapp is the first English manager to reach the Champions League last eight since Terry Venables in 1985. Photo: Getty Images

Sam Wallace

before Wednesday night, the last time an English manager reached the final eight of the European Cup -- Terry Venables with Barcelona -- was November 1985.

Venables would confide that the wife of his star player Bernd Schuster had a habit of walking into the changing rooms to berate her husband's manager while most of the team were still in a state of undress.

Venables' team reached the final in Seville in May 1986 where they were expected to beat Steaua Bucharest. After a dreadful final that finished 0-0, they lost on penalties, missing all four spot-kicks. Venables hung on till September the following year and was sacked.

Only on Wednesday night did Harry Redknapp finally fly the flag again for English managers when he took his Tottenham side into the last eight of Europe's leading competition.

Jimmy Armfield, Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Ron Saunders (who quit having reached the quarter-finals with Aston Villa in 1982) and Joe Fagan all achieved the quarter-finals and better in the preceding 11 seasons to Venables. The fall-off since then says a lot about the decline of English managers.

But Spurs' achievement does say a lot about Redknapp. The blossoming of his career has come very late. He was 64 this month, only four years younger than Venables. Unlike Venables, who got the Barca job straight from managing Queen's Park Rangers at the age of 41, Redknapp had to wait much longer for a big club.


There is a good argument for saying that his career only really started when, in October 2008, he was put in charge of a Spurs team bottom of the league.

Now, he can expect to be the England manager come a year in July when Fabio Capello will walk away, regardless of what happens at Euro 2012. All that stands between Redknapp and the England job now is the tax evasion charges scheduled for court in July.

That has been a concern for those close to him for some time but Redknapp himself voiced those preoccupations himself on Sunday. "I just want to get it out of the way and move on," he said. There is a compulsive urge to the confessional in Redknapp. He broaches subjects that would be well off-limits for other managers. It seems he cannot stop himself at times.

But, providing that he comes through the court case unscathed, he can be the only name on the current shortlist to succeed Capello. While Redknapp has made a few signings of his own such as Peter Crouch and William Gallas, and the likes of Rafael van der Vaart and Sandro have been brought in by the club, for the most part he has improved what was already there, in the way he would have to do on the international stage.

Looking back at the Spurs team from his first game in charge against Bolton on 26 October 2008, there were seven players who played in that game who also featured in Wednesday's 0-0 draw with Milan. A further two from that game were on the bench this week.

He is not a hands-on coach but he has radically changed the staff. What do Spurs players say most about playing for Redknapp? They enjoy it. And while there may be a couple of big egos at the club, the spirit is excellent.

They spent much of the build-up to the games against Wolves and Milan in Dubai, a trip that the players felt combined exactly the right amount of match preparation and relaxation.

The Spurs team that Redknapp inherited had won the Carling Cup final eight months earlier and there was undoubted quality in the squad -- to the extent that there are some at the club who think that Redknapp's part in this success story has been overplayed.

No one at Spurs, however, wants to be the one who tests the theory. When Redknapp gave consideration to a lucrative £3m net annual salary offered by the Dubai team Al-Ahli in the summer, there were some at Tottenham who would have been happy to let him go. Eventually, chairman Daniel Levy reached a compromise over the two-year option on his contract.

Now Redknapp's reputation as a manager is made. In November 1985, he was in his second full season as Bournemouth manager in what is now League One at the start of a long journey to where he is today.

If it feels as though Venables stepped away from front-line management too early, then it is certain that Redknapp has taken too long to arrive. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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