Harry Redknapp – A Destroyer Of Football Clubs
Narrative is a funny thing. We all buy into it at some stage or another in football. One of the most artificial narratives ever created is that Harry Redknapp was a good manager.
How do you qualify or back up a statement like that? Well it’s only two and a half years ago that Redknapp was being heavily touted for the England job. His pals within the media on Fleet Street had inexplicably campaigned long and hard to have him installed at FA headquarters, all to no avail.
Despite being renowned for his lack of coaching expertise and his absence from training grounds, the crafty cockney was as good as it was going to get for their national team, apparently. Thankfully the powers-that-be at Soho Square thought otherwise and went for the much more savvy yet unfashionable appointment of Roy Hodgson, much to the media’s dismay.
That may sound harsh on a manager who has won the FA Cup with Portsmouth and took a side like Spurs to the quarter finals of the Champions League but dig beneath the surface and Redknapp’s success is a relative fallacy of dangerous proportions.
After a period of initial success in his first management job with Bournemouth he eventually led them to relegation. Okay, it happens. No one’s perfect; especially not in their first ever management job.
He then took over West Ham United in 1994 in what would be his longest ever stay at a club. Despite an embarrassment of riches in terms of youth gems created at the Boleyn Ground – Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand the most prestigious names – he underwhelmed.
His greatest achievement there was a fifth place finish and qualification for the UEFA Cup via the glorious Intertoto Cup: Illustrious stuff. He left by “mutual consent” in 2001 off the back of another disappointing campaign.
His time at Portsmouth, his next job, would somewhat define Redknapp’s career in many ways. Any success was created, not organically, but by money – money the club never had and would pay dearly for in the end. The story of the South coast club is generally used in a ‘bogeyman’ sense to scare supporters of other clubs: “You don’t want to end up like Pompey, do you?”
It’s a sad tale of greed and glory, punctuated with careless spending and terrible mismanagement at all levels. Redknapp’s demands for more and more sent the wage bill spiralling to over £50 million a year, eventually bankrupting the club into near-extinction. He was long gone by that stage, though; absolving himself of any blame.
There was also the brief season in between both spells at Fratton Park in which he took over their bitter-rivals, Southampton. Whatever anger – and there was plenty – felt by the Pompey fans had been long forgotten after he relegated Saints before returning to his ‘spiritual home’.
In retrospect, Redknapp did more damage to the South Coast of England than Global Warming will ever manage.
One can argue his time at Spurs was successful – he managed to finish fourth twice in his four seasons in charge, including that run to the quarter-finals of the Champions League – but once more, that success was based on two things: money, and luck. That luck can be summed up in one extraordinary example: Gareth Bale.
The Welshman was on his way out the door of White Hart Lane with Redknapp ready to sell him to Birmingham City for just £3.5 million in 2009. Through injuries, the Spurs’ boss was forced to play Bale as a left winger and, well, the rest is history.
The worst thing about Harry is that no one seems to learn from his mistakes, least of all himself. Tony Fernandes, QPR’s owner has lavished money upon him at every turn up until now. Their wage bill, much like Portsmouth’s, has spiralled to dangerously high levels, with little resale potential throughout the squad, leaving them staring at relegation. He has, once again, left a club dangerously on the brink of collapse before walking.
Whether the reasons for his resignation yesterday have any merit or not is arguable but the trail of damage he has left in his wake is undeniable. One would hope his time in football management is at an end and the myth that Redknapp was ever a good manager is now extinguished.