|Harry Redknapp - comments on request|
Harry Redknapp is such a godsend for every journalist and media pundit that they must fight over the chance to get to Spurs Lodge for his press conferences. No dreary mumbo jumbo over tactics at Harry’s regular sessions. Harry, the cheery chappy with a cheeky smile on his face has a witty comment, a funny story for every situation and an opinion for every topic in football and beyond. The headline writers have a field day - Harry could fill the sports pages on his own every day of the week if he were given the chance and more often than not he is.
However, is Rednapp treading on dangerous ground with an over willingness to have his say, especially at a club like Tottenham and with a Chairman like Daniel Levy who was only a few weeks into his position at the club in 2001 when he decided to remove the manager over comments he made in an interview about the club’s transfer policy. The club stated that Graham had been issued "several written warnings prior to his sacking for giving out what was deemed by the club as being private information." He then informed the media that he had "a limited budget" for new players and expressed his disappointment with it. That was enough for the Board to dismiss him.
Now, of course, at the time this could have been a shrewd move by the new regime at Spurs to win over the fans who were clearly unhappy with former Arsenal stalwart, George Graham, as their manager, not to mention his tactics. The administration opted to remove the unpopular manager in their early days in charge and replace him with a White Hart Lane legend and hero, Glenn Hoddle. Supporters had got their ‘Tottenham back’ and the new owners had bought themselves some time.
This has always been Redknapp’s way and with his years in football management he knows how to work the system and use the media to his advantage. However, sometimes it might be better if he held his opinions until after a match or used them to motivate Tottenham rather than the opposition. The repetition of old views can become tiresome and once again this weekend, we’ve had his views on the Europa League following the win at Wolves.
Of course, we’ve heard from Harry on that subject many times as well as numerous others, right from his early days as manager at White Hart Lane in 2008 .
‘Two points from eight games’ almost became his catch-phrase in his first season. Everyone knew how badly Spurs had started under Juande Ramos that season but Redknapp used that comment so often that it became tiresome and you knew he was going to squeeze it in somewhere whenever he was interviewed. He made it seem that that was the norm for Tottenham rather than a bad start to one season. He liked the credit for turning the club round. Not surprisingly, he hasn’t quoted the statistics for last year’s end of season form along with this year’s start which aren’t so flattering, ‘ Three wins from fourteen League games.’
Ahead of games against the top four clubs, Redknapp has a tendancy to provide headlines that really don’t help the team. Sir Alex Ferguson has had years of successfully psyching out a team before a game. He’s the past-master of this but unfortunately for Redknapp, he and his players are more likely to left with egg on their face.
‘You’ll never win anything with kids.’
In season 2009-10, ahead of the first North London derby at the Emirates, all the papers had comments from both Redknapp and then captain Robbie Keane on how Spurs were ready to take on Arsenal. Redknapp taunted Tottenham’s nearest rivals by insisting they wouldn’t win anything with kids. A comment which has ultimately proved correct but on that occasion it didn’t help Spurs. There was no response in the press from their near neighbours, rather they waited to do their talking on the pitch as Tottenham produced one of their most inept performances that day and lost by three goals, conceding two in a minute, including one straight from the kick-off after conceding the first goal.
It would have been much better to have held all such comments until after the game when if successful, some ‘crowing’ would have been more appropriate. The positive thoughts could have been used behind closed doors to build up the players in preparation for the game, rather than fuel the opposition’s determination to maintain their stranglehold over Spurs. Similar headline grabbing comments have produced no benefit for the team in matches against Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool.
‘You will never get a better chance to win a match than that. My missus could have scored that one’ from a manager who is so lauded for putting an arm round his players, understanding and supporting them in order to get the best from them is a surprising comment for him to make. Darren Bent knew that he had missed a great chance and didn’t need his mistake to be given the full glare of publicity that the remark gave it. He didn’t take kindly to it at the time and it obviously still causes him anguish as he continues to mention it every time he plays against Tottenham and it certainly fires him up for those games. That remark made after Bent had missed a good scoring opportunity against Portsmouth in January, 2009 when he headed David Bentley’s cross wide, probably marked the certain end of his Spurs’ career. His confidence which was low during his time with Tottenham was gone and although he did score another five goals for Spurs, he knew the manager didn’t have any faith in him. He was transferred to Sunderland the following summer where he scored 32 goals from 58 games compared with 18 from 60 Tottenham appearances.
Comments which appear to publicly lay the blame on individual players or dent their confidence is not going to benefit the team’s progress. He has had run-ins with a number of players, including Aaron Lennon whose late withdrawal from the away game in the Champions League against Real Madrid, ‘as the team was about to go on to the pitch’ according to Redknapp was contradicted by the player who insisted he had been unwell in the days leading up to the game.
‘I haven't heard anyone moaning. They are idiots aren't they? What kind of idiot picks up a phone to ring a phone in. They are idiots and I don't listen to them.’
‘We have had an amazing season - it won't get any better, enjoy it. This is good as it can get.’
‘Anyone who has got any brains will know it's been an amazing season at Tottenham and that we've played great football. Anyone that does not enjoy it should go and support someone else.’
During last season a number of Tottenham supporters expressed their criticism of the team’s performances at the end of some games and by ringing in to radio stations. Redknapp didn’t take kindly to their remarks and referred to them as ‘idiots’ and to go and support someone else’. Such comments from an experienced manager won’t do anything to help his relationship with fans and probably leaves him open to more criticism in the future.
Fans have views and every club has to put up with the radio phone-in shows after a few poor results. Redknapp’s re-action showed a lack of tolerance and understanding of how the fans were feeling. Supporters give greatly of their finances and time to support the club and for some they feel it is the only way to make their views known especially, if they see the team perform poorly in games they would expect to win.
Tottenham supporters didn’t take kindly to the suggestion that ‘that was as good as it would get’. There was total agreement that the Champions League experience had been above everyone’s expectations but equally some of the other League and Cup performances were disappointing when fans had seen what the team was capable of in the Champions League matches. For fans to accept that that was as ‘good as it could get’ for Spurs suggested a lack of ambition at the club and didn’t go down favourably with supporters. It wasn’t what fans wanted to hear ahead of the summer transfer window when they were hoping to keep their best players and sign some more players to strengthen the team. Fans are realistic enough to know that for a club like Tottenham it is very difficult to compete with the finances available to Chelsea and Manchester City but they have to believe that the manager and the Board are doing everything possible to ensure that the club will be challenging those super-rich clubs every year. Those end of season comments from Redknapp failed to give those assurances.
‘You can’t keep an unhappy player.’
‘I would have sold Luka Modric in the summer.’
The club struggled all summer to retain the services of Luka Modric. The Chairman had rebuffed the first Chelsea offer with a strong statement of the club’s intentions not to sell the player. However, during the Transfer Window the manager made comments in the press suggesting that Modric could be sold if a high enough offer was received. This was in conflict with the Chairman’s stated intention and only added unwanted fuel to the summer long speculation. To now renew comments about Modric will only start speculation ahead of the January transfer period rather than focus on getting the best out of the player and putting the team in a challenging position which makes the player want to remain at the club.
‘The young kids will get plenty of games in Europea League because, otherwise, I think it’s a killer. Thursday and Sunday every week, you’ve got no chance in the Premier League with that. It kills you off, it’s a nightmare.’
‘There won’t be many of those players going to Greece.’
Harry Redknapp’s opinion of the Europa League is well documented. On arriving at the club, participation in the competition was a distraction, as far as he was concerned, from the club’s drive to avoid relegation. This is understandable as the first priority for a manager is to keep their club in the Premier League. However, even in that season, in the knock-out stages, Tottenham should have been able to focus on progressing in Europe and not solely on survival. The weakened teams fielded in 2008-09 so nearly got a result against eventual winners, Shakthar Donetsk, that with some more experienced players available they could have progressed in the competition.
Harry Redknapp now regards any Cup competition as a distraction from his aim of Champions League football and some fans will be in agreement with those views but the majority of supporters want to see the team going out to win every game they play, whatever the competition. Poor displays in FA and Carling Cup matches have become familiar under the manager and his widely expressed views are a ready made excuse for a poor performance from the players. The Fulham game last season was a prime example of players not fully committed or focused from the start and in such circumstances found themselves two goals down in under fifteen minutes and out of the match before half-time.
Even during last season’s run-in, there were doubts about whether the manager really wanted to finish in fifth place and the subsequent qualification for Europe. For many seasons supporters clamoured for European qualification and all the managers who failed to achieve that goal were criticised but now it is regarded as a distraction and unwanted. That is a shame for a club of Tottenham’s European traditions whose greatest manager, Bill Nicholson, was of the view, 'It's magnificent to be in Europe, and this club - a club like Tottenham Hotspur - if we're not in Europe, we're nothing.’
Harry Redknapp played down the competition during the summer and insisted that it would be an opportunity to give his young players some experience. This is reasonable as along as they are not thrown into games without experienced players who can support them through the game. They will benefit from such an experience but to be faced with opposition who are to strong for them would be a backward step in their development.
Now, after the Wolves game, Redknapp has repeated his concerns about the tournament suggesting that few of the starting eleven at Molineux will travel to Greece as they have had too much football and have a difficult match against Liverpool on Sunday. A number of the team on Saturday have had little football at the start of the season. New signing Emmanuel Adebayor has played little competitive football recently and didn’t look completely fit while Jermain Defoe didn’t play during the past fortnight while away wit England. The fear of players picking up injuries is always a concern but Tottenham players frequently do that in training as with Michael Dawson. In two consecutive seasons in the early 1970s and again in 1981-82 Steve Perryman played 64 games in each season. The current players with all the improvements in training and recuperation have it much easier through their careers.
A balanced team of experience and youth is required to see Spurs progress in Europe in a competition they are capable of winning with the appropriate focus and application from manager and players.
The thoughts of Harry Redknapp are frequently funny and thought provoking with the good of the game at heart. However, from a Spurs’ fans’ perspective they can appear to be dismissive. Reporters love his remarks as he fills their reports with humour and controversy but supporters have heard much of it before and sometimes they find it difficult to accept.
When Harry finally retires, an obvious opening for him would be to set up a web-site to rival ‘Ask Jeeves‘ - it would be guaranteed to succeed - ‘Ask Harry!’