This has been a monumental season for Harry Redknapp, and the fact that he is managing the most successful team of his career is almost incidental. In November he underwent heart surgery, in January he went on trial for cheating the public revenue and on the day he was found not guilty the job he has coveted his whole life became available.
That was three and a half weeks ago. The post of England manager remains vacant, Redknapp is the overwhelming favourite for the job, but the FA characteristically are in no hurry to appoint Fabio Capello’s successor.
Last Sunday, in the post he currently occupies, Redknapp saw his team defeated 5-2 by their bitterest rivals and closest challengers. Wherever we finish the game will leave a stain on our best season for two decades. Even in a season where everyone in the top six (bar Manchester City) has conceded at least five goals in a game the scoreline was a shock. Broadly Tottenham’s lack of shape and sharpness and poor defending are to blame, but the score and performance was anomalous enough to look for factors beyond the players’ ability.
Not long before half-time, with Spurs two-nil up, Redknapp called for steward intervention when a fan sitting behind him in the Emirates’ West Stand shouted something abusive. (I rather enjoyed a tweet from an Arsenal fan using the hashtag #grass). The offender was not removed, but Arsenal have since announced they are reviewing CCTV footage.
When asked about the event Redknapp described it as, “Nothing really. Only someone swearing behind me.” Without knowing the specifics we can assume that Redknapp’s facial tick and/or tax discretions were probably alluded to. Whatever it was Redknapp seemed genuinely hurt. He sank into his seat and stayed there for most of the match, looking particularly glum even before Arsenal came back and trounced us. Given that Redknapp’s forte is his ability to motivate players we were hamstrung. The half-time team talk wouldn’t have been his most rousing.
Probably best to remind indignant Spurs fans at this point that thousands of our number join voice to accuse Arsene Wenger of sexually abusing children.
In the period of Redknapp’s trial and the England speculation our form has been up and down. Against Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United we looked like the best team in the country. He missed the match against Liverpool when his late flight was cancelled and we could only manage a dour 0-0. In the FA Cup we were pitiful in our narrow win over Watford and our draw with Stevenage Borough.
Meanwhile the FA have temporarily put the England team under the charge of Stuart Pearce, a man with much experience and little discernable ability. The European Championship starts in four months and, poison chalice or not, Redknapp wants to be there with England.
This is the one and only time in 29 years of management that Redknapp has been in pole position for his dream job. He’s a 65-year-old with heart problems. Turning it down now would likely be turning it down permanently.
Whether or not Redknapp should take the England job is a question for another day. He hasn’t even been offered it yet. He has to focus on Spurs. There’s a job to do from now until May.
Win the FA Cup, qualify for the Champions League, then he can do what he likes.