Tuesday 16 January 2018

Redknapp shadow looms over under-fire managers

It's seven years since Harry Redknapp took over at Tottenham
It's seven years since Harry Redknapp took over at Tottenham
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

It's just under seven years since Ronaldinho and Filippo Inzaghi scored two late goals to rescue AC Milan from defeat while relieved manager Carlo Ancelotti watched from the sideline ... against Portsmouth at Fratton Park.

Ronaldinho was a second-half substitute for Andriy Shevchenko with 16 minutes to go in a double change as Alexandre Pato came on for Kaka. Earlier, Clarence Seedorf replaced Genarro Gattuso while Andrea Pirlo spent the entire game on the Milan bench. Even allowing for all that, it was Portsmouth manager Tony Adams who was the one disappointed with a draw.

Adams was in charge because one month earlier Harry Redknapp left Portsmouth to take over at Tottenham.

As has been a theme of his managerial career, Redknapp got out at a good moment with Portsmouth in Europe, having won the FA Cup for the first time in 69 years and with a squad capable of getting a point from a Milan team containing two former Ballon d'Or winners. The fact that, seven years on, they are drawing 0-0 at home to Mansfield as they did on Saturday, he might add, has nothing to do with him.


Every season, there are veteran managers whose shadow looms over the Premier League and, usually, there is an obvious first cab off the rank for chairmen with itchy trigger fingers.

Last year, Tony Pulis was the logical choice of a safe pair of hands to step into the breach at West Brom and lead them comfortably to safety. This season, Sam Allardyce took that role and when Ellis Short - whose trigger finger is in danger of cramp at this stage - ended Dick Advocaat's time in charge of Sunderland, Allardyce was the obvious first call.

There's a certain pattern to the veteran managers' behaviour in the few months before their return to work.

The first task is an interview in which they explain why it didn't work out at their last club but are happy to have a break from it all. The next is regular punditry appearances where they say nothing too controversial about individual players but regularly reference "great clubs". The final part is follow-up interview in which they are now ready to come back.

In February, Redknapp left QPR with the club rooted to the foot of the Premier League citing a knee injury which, he felt, made it impossible to do his job. He had been unable to save them from relegation when he first arrived, led them to promotion via the play-off and was heading for a second relegation before he jumped ship. Even though he probably couldn't actually jump.

"I'm struggling so badly now. I can't walk, I can barely stand and watch. I'm in pain all the time. I've been putting it off, and putting it off, but it has got to the stage where I cannot do the job," he said. "I went to see my grandson play football at the weekend, and after five minutes had to go back to the car. I couldn't even stand up. What sort of life is it if you can't watch the kids play? That sort of made my mind up."

In the interview, Redknapp admitted he hoped to get back into management but would need replacement surgery for both knees in the coming weeks.

By July, both Redknapp and his knees were in rude health as he signed up as a pundit with BT Sport and revealed that he had recently played golf for eight consecutive days at various charity events and was ready to be back in the dugout.

"I'm not desperate. I don't have to go to work," he said. "It would only be if it was something I really wanted to do with the right people. If nothing comes up it's not a problem, either."

Redknapp is a polarising figure and, were he to get another job, there's a chance it could cause Twitter to combust. Last weekend, journalist Raphael Hogenstein said that Tottenham "used to be easy to beat" prompting Redknapp, sitting next to him, to ask "when was that?"

When Hogenstein responded "well always" it gave Redknapp a chance to reply that "they weren't easy to beat when we finished fourth", reminding everyone of an achievement with Tottenham that no other manager has managed.

Hogenstein may have 349,000 Twitter followers compared to technophobe Redknapp's 187,000 but not being particularly popular on social media hasn't done Allardyce or Pulis much harm and it won't for Redknapp either.

Redknapp has mentioned more than once that there aren't enough British managers getting a chance which can sound a bit like moaning about Johnny Foreigner but it's an understandable frustration which cleverly speaks to the masses when there are 11 non-British coaches in the Premier League compared to six "foreigners" in Germany, four in Spain and three in Italy.

Yesterday, however, was a bad day for two British coaches which could open the door for a Redknapp return.

Bournemouth's home hammering at the hands of Tottenham may give their chairman a thought that Eddie Howe could do with some help - or 'elp -from Redknapp but it's Tim Sherwood's departure from Aston Villa which is most intriguing.

If Redknapp believes in fate, he will have noted that yesterday was the seven-year anniversary of him leaving Portsmouth for Tottenham with Spurs bottom of the table and four points off safety - exactly as Villa are now.

David Moyes and Brendan Rodgers are ahead of him in the betting but, for younger coaches, the lack of investment from the owners gives the job the feel of being a career killer if it goes wrong.

Redknapp, however, will see a core of experience (Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards), some fine young talent (Jack Grealish) and a local hero to get back in form (Gabby Agbonlahor) and a chairman who could be persuaded by a man who lives up to caricature when it suits him but is far more shrewd than stupid.

It's a job description that Redknapp couldn't write better for himself with a chance to bring a big club back to somewhere near where they belong. The fact that it wouldn't be popular on Twitter wouldn't bother him in the slightest.

Tweets of the week


Richie Ryan (@richieryan)

"Steve Evans has got the Leeds United job What has football come to? #robbingaliving #lufc #Dog"

The Irish man, who 'experienced' Evans at Crawley, is clearly not a fan


Arsenal (@Arsenal)

"Which substitute should @Arsenal bring on first? Ox/Giroud"

You'd have thought the club's Twitter account would have better things to tweet during a game against Bayern Munich


Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton)

"Man City without Aguero and David Silva look a very ordinary side. Need them both back before return leg in Sevilla."

The Burnley man times his tweet just before City's injury-time winner


MattyKennedy (@MattyKennedy31)

"Where's decent in cardiff to buy pets?"

The Scottish-born player with a question everyone wanted to ask


Shay Given (@No1shaygiven)

"Good luck tonight to all @FinnHarpsFC #MonTheHarps"

The Ireland goalkeeper's heart never far from home


SAMUEL OJI (@SamuelOji_24)

"Waiting for the doubting journalists to favourite my tweet don't be shy boys we all get it wrong sometimes #YouKnowWhoYouAre #AllAboard."

The Galway man enjoys the 'ye wrote us off' moment of Airtricity League survival


Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish)

"Gutted , thank you for everything :-("

The youngster not among those happy to see Sherwood leave.

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