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Huffington Post: Why Harry Redknapp will not be England’s saviour

September 19, 2011

My second blog piece for the Huffington Post UK:

It is football’s worst kept secret: Harry Redknapp will be the next England manager.

Everyone’s favourite wheeler-dealer is the bookies’ favourite to succeed Fabio Capello after Euro 2012 and has repeatedly admitted he would take up the offer if it comes.

“Until I get offered the job I wouldn’t have a decision to make”, winked Harry to his media pals last week, before admitting, “of course, it would be difficult for any Englishman to turn the job down.”

The FA has already made the bewildering decision that the next manager should be English, thus ruling out most of the world’s strongest candidates. So unless “Big Sam” Allardyce is the chosen one, it looks a dead certainty that Redknapp will get the call.

The only thing that might stop him taking the England job is a possible spell at Her Majesty’s pleasure following his impending court case for tax evasion.

At this point let me just say I have the utmost respect for Harry Redknapp. As he’s so fond of reminding us, he took Tottenham from bottom of the league to the Champions League within 18 months. Redknapp is by far the most successful manager the club has had in my lifetime and it was a joy to watch Spurs hold their own against Europe’s best last season, all the while playing highly entertaining – if sometimes tactically naive – attacking football.

That said, I am convinced that Redknapp would offer scant improvement over Fabio Capello.

Sure, the initial performances would probably pick up, with the new boss instilling a fresh sense of optimism and impetus in the squad. The hype would soon become overwhelming with England beating San Marino 3-1 in the qualifiers and the media inevitably declaring us favourites for the World Cup. But after this tired routine the old problems would soon resurface.

A major criticism of England managers over the past decade has been their reluctance to drop big name players regardless of their form. This will not change with Redknapp.

England need someone who is willing to show some faith in the young guns, building a team around the likes of Joe Hart, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge.

Obviously these youngsters should line up alongside the more experienced players who still perform, like Wayne Rooney and Ashleys Young and Cole. But England must get rid of the aging deadwood such as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who have wasted more than enough chances to prove themselves at major international tournaments.

Somehow I do not believe Frank Lampard’s uncle is the man to make this break from the past.

Redknapp has shown time and again that he favours experience over youth, repeatedly signing the same players at club after club. Consider some of his transfer targets over the past few months: Phil Neville, David Beckham and Joe Cole – “triffic” lads every one of them, but hardly the most inspiring names for a club like Tottenham looking to build for the future.

Is this really a manager who is going to trust a bunch of kids to do his country justice when the stakes are high?

But what of Redknapp’s reputation as the great man manager, who with a pat on the shoulder can miraculously restore confidence and help realise a player’s full potential?

Sadly this is a popular misconception. Just ask David Bentley, Giovani Dos Santos or Adel Taarabt: for every player he reinvigorates, Redknapp seems to undermine or alienate another. This is not a trait an England manager can afford to possess.

Last season he failed to coax any form whatsoever out of Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch – both players he had signed before at Portsmouth – and the pair scored a pitiful four league goals apiece. This was the main reason Spurs failed to seal another top-four finish.

Frustratingly for Tottenham fans, while their forwards were continuously misfiring, the one striker Harry let go was scoring by the bucket load at Sunderland and then Aston Villa.

Despite him being Tottenham’s top scorer in the 2008-09 season, Redknapp sold Darren Bent, a player he once compared unfavourably with his wife Sandra, at a loss for just £10 million. Redknapp, who is all too guilty of favouritism, clearly didn’t recognise the ability of a prolific goalscorer whose prise tag shot up to £24 million just 18 months later.

I won’t even delve into Redknapp’s famous disregard for tactics, but his past record merits close scrutiny. Is a man who only has one FA Cup trophy to show for 28 years of football management really capable of transforming a mediocre England side into world champions?

This is not an argument that many want to hear. A columnist in the Sun, Redknapp enjoys a cosy relationship with the media. While Arsene Wenger is roundly mocked you will be hard-pressed to find any piece of sustained criticism of Redknapp in the mainstream sports press.

The pissed up “En-ger-land” brigade will love him too. After the aloofness of Fabio Capello there is a general consensus among fans that England need a proper, old school, indigenous manager – as if all that’s standing between us and World Cup glory is a coach who sounds like an extra from a Guy Ritchie film: “Uncle ’Arry will sort them slaags aahht.”

The truth is England simply do not have enough players of the supreme quality that Spain and Germany possess. The job is a poisoned chalice, as even Redknapp himself has admitted.

It would be a fun ride and Redknapp might restore a bit of spirit and character to the England team, but don’t expect him to win the World Cup anytime soon.

It would require a miracle worker to get England playing as well as Spain. To misquote Monty Python, Redknapp’s not the Messiah, he’s a fackin’ football manager.

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