Harry Redknapp

August 7, 2010

Harry Redknapp is rarely out of the news these days. 

The Spurs manager seems to be one of those characters that attract attention almost unwittingly. Surprisingly sacked by West Ham in 2001, after presiding over The Hammers second best ever premiership finish, Redknapp resurfaced at Portsmouth where he was manager for a little over three years before disagreements with owner Milan Mandaric led to his resignation. Redknapp then threw fuel into the fire by becoming manager of Pompey’s great rivals, Southampton. The move infuriated Pompey fans and Redknapps rather odd response was that he did not realise there was so much rivalry between the two South Coast clubs.

Barely a year later, in December 2005, Redknapp returned to Fratton Park for a successful spell which resulted in the clubs highest league finish since the 1950s and in 2008 they won the FA Cup for the first time since 1939. Even then Redknapp managed to turn success into the bizarre. Just 2 days before a ceremony awarding him the “Freedom of the City”, as a result of that cup win,  Redknapp left Portsmouth to manage Spurs and since then has been relatively successful, guiding the team to the Champions League for the first time since 1961.

Hanging over Redknapp’s – and Spurs’ – head this season though is his impending court trial for failure to declare income and pay tax. That incident is another carry over from his time at Fratton Park.

As if the court date wasn’t enough, in the last month ‘Arry has been in the news three times – its almost as if his lack of activity in the transfer market has prompted him to look for ways of keeping Spurs in the news. Firstly, he put himself forward as Great Britain Olympic coach for the 2012 games football tournament. It will be the first time Britain have had a team in the Olympics since 1960 and it’s been agreed that they are represented by a solely English team. That team is a compromise as the Scottish, Welsh & Northern Irish FA’s refused to endorse a combined team.  Then came the absurd….. Redknapp offered to find a home for the Russian donkey which was photographed parasailing. Spurs fans cringed at how their club was portrayed in the media and one can only guess what Roman Pavlyuchenko, Spurs disappointing Russian striker, thought. The headline writers had a field day.

This week though, Harry was spot on when he complained about the midweek international date just three days before the start of the premiership.

England are due to play Hungary in what can only be described as a complete waste of time. Englands last fixture was the shellacking at the hands of Germany on June 27. The team were in camp together from the end of the season until then and many have only just returned to their clubs after the shortest of close season breaks. Spurs have a large contingent of England players, some who went to the World Cup – Lennon, King, Dawson, Defoe & Crouch – and some who did not – Jenas, Huddlestone, Bentley and the perpetually injured Woodgate. How is Redknapp supposed to prepare his team for the opening day of the season when so many are away on international duty? Redknapp says he won’t get his players back until the Friday, having not had them at training for the whole week.  On Saturday, Spurs kick off the Premiership with the first match of the season at home to Manchester City. It’s a huge match in the context of the season as both clubs are viewed as serious contenders for the championship. How can Redknapp seriously prepare his players for such a match when most of them are elsewhere? Now its true that Manchester City also have quite a large contingent of international players, many of whom are likely to be involved in midweek, so perhaps it evens out. But at the end of the day its likely that we will see two underprepared teams come day one of the season. Given the importance of the match, that’s not something that fans will want to see.

According to the FA, the fault lies with FIFA who designated the day as an international date. With this the last opportunity to try new faces before the upcoming Euro qualifiers in September, England had little choice but to arrange a match.

Really? And what new faces is Capello going to try, that he didn’t take to South Africa? And on what basis is he going to select them? He hasn’t seen any of them play since May. If they weren’t good enough then…..

It’s an absurd date for an international and Redknapp is right to complain.



Is Englands reign over?

May 22, 2010

This weekends UEFA Champions League final may herald a changing of the guard at the top of the European football table.  

Although no club has won the trophy twice in succession since the fabulous Milan side of the late eighties, the competition does have cycles where teams from one country dominate. Italian clubs, for example, dominated the tournament throughout the nineties until Spanish clubs, notably Valencia & Real Madrid, took over and they were then followed by English clubs. Liverpool’s thrilling, come from behind victory in 2005 started a run of five consecutive finals involving English clubs.  Although only two of those finals were won, the semi finals regularly involved two or more English clubs. This year though, not one English club made it even that far. Despite Italy’s dominance in the nineties, Internazionale  – one of the most well known clubs in the world – are appearing in their first final in 38 years, whilst Bayern Munich are the first German club to make the final since Bayer Leverkusen in 2002.

Its an interesting conundrum that at a time when the Premiership is becoming more competitive than ever, English clubs internationally are waning. After years of dominating the league, the “big four” have had their monopoly broken. Liverpool of course slipped down to seventh with Tottenham taking their coveted Champions League spot, edging out Manchester City in the penultimate game of the season. With the money that is available to them, we can expect City to improve on this seasons fifth position, next year, and that suggests that there is a good chance that another of the “big four” may follow Liverpool.

Ironic too, that with Fabio Capello at the helm, England consider next months world cup to be their best chance of winning the trophy in forty years, although they came moderately close in Italy in 1990.  Of course, football followers are used to England declaring that “this year is our year”.  Before this years failure in Europe – and yes I am aware of Fulhams great run, but who really takes the Europa League seriously?  – things did seem to be falling into place for England. Their club sides were dominating internationally and a sprinkling of excellent players such as Lampard, Rooney, Defoe and Gerrard seemed to be coming to their peaks at the right time whilst new blood in the form of Lennon & Walcott were thriving. 

With the world cup being played in winter, the Brazilians & Argentines who thrive in warmer summer temperatures no longer have that advantage. This must surely give the European nations a great opportunity to win the trophy outside their home continent for the first time. The draw has been kind for England too. Should they win their group they would meet Serbia or Ghana in the second round and then probably France or Nigeria in the quarterfinals. They could realistically expect to get to the last four without meeting a team ranked in the top 10!!

Is this seasons champions league failure a pointer towards failure for England? Time will tell, but it does seem that perhaps English club sides have passed their peak. Other outside influences are having a negative effect too. The John Terry/Wayne Bridge scandal resulted in the latter withdrawing from the squad and the former losing form to such a degree that his previously secure place is now doubtful. This week the FA have had to issue apologies to the Spanish and Russian FA’s following comments made by 2018 bid leader David Triesman, implying that those nations were conspiring to bribe referees….more negativity. Add into the mix doubts about the fitness of John Terry & Wayne Rooney and suddenly morale starts to drop even further.

Mind you, back in 2006 the Italian side played under the cloud of a bribery scandal and they didn’t do badly did they?

Foreign managers

April 11, 2009

  mexicofa2    sven2

Following last weeks world cup qualifiers, followers of the world game will have read the news that Mexico dispensed with their manager Sven Goran Eriksson after yet another away defeat – Mexico’s 4th in 5 matches and in a world cup confederation that New Zealand could realistically expect to qualify from. Eriksson seemed unable to inspire his team away from home.

One wonders whatever possessed Mexico to appoint him in the first place. After all, what does a Swede who has never set foot outside Europe, in a football sense, know about the culture of Mexico anyway? Coaching foreign clubs is one thing and many, many managers have achieved success in foreign countries at club level – one only has to think about the (English) Premiership, a league that has never been won by an English manager. It’s not going to happen this season either. At Champions League level, in recent seasons there have been as many “foreign” managers win the trophy as not.

Success at international level though is entirely different. To be successful at international level a manager needs not only the obvious footballing qualities but also needs an understanding of the culture, values and motivations that drive a nation, not just a team. Clearly its not a simple task. There’s a pride involved in playing for your country that doesn’t come to the fore in club football and harnessing that is not easy without the long term cultural understanding. It’s no coincidence that no country has ever won the world cup with a foreign manager. Its almost the same in the European Championship where the only foreign manager to prove successful has been Otto Rehhagel, the German who inspired Greece to victory in 2004.

Of course at the lower levels there has been moderate success. Guus Hiddink took Australia to Germany in 2006. New Zealand’s greatest era coincided with having two English managers at the helm – Adshead & Fallon – and there has been a succession of African countries with European managers who have managed to qualify for world cup finals. Jack Charlton too, over achieved as manager of Ireland in the nineties and famously Serbian Bora Milutinovic took five foreign countries to world cups between 1986 and 2002.

But back to Eriksson. He was appointed controversially as England’s first foreign coach back in October 2000. England one of the world’s great football nations with an apparent abundance of talent, yet Eriksson – a successful club manager in a number of countries – couldn’t get them past the quarterfinals in any tournament. Surely a failure. Scotland too, tried a foreign coach with the appointment of Bertie Vogts in 2002. Loss after loss followed until he finally resigned two years later.

Put simply, successful nations have a coach of their own nationality. Perhaps it’s a good omen then that a Kiwi, Ricki Herbert is currently New Zealand coach, as we approach our best chance of qualifying for a world cup in over 25 years.

Rules for some…..

September 20, 2008

This time at least we can’t blame the referee.

There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that referee Mark Halsey got it 100% spot on when he showed a straight red card to Chelsea’s John Terry last weekend. No it wasn’t a professional foul in the strictest sense of the word. As Manchester City striker, Jo, ambled past the lumbering Chelsea captain, he would still have faced challenges from Ricardo Carvalho & possibly Jose Bosingwa, before having a clear scoring opportunity. But it was still a professional foul, in that Terry’s foul – Terry’s rugby tackle – was in no way an attempt to play the ball merely an attempt to stop the player progressing any further. It succeeded.

But whether it was a professional foul or not is irrelevant. According to Halsey’s match report, Terry was sent off for “serious foul play” – which clearly it was. How then has the Football Association managed to rescind the red card? Strangely the FA are silent on the issue. Predictably Alex Ferguson is not though. He has claimed that referees chief Keith Hackett told Halsey to overturn the decision.

I can’t say whether Ferguson is correct or not but clearly its strange that the decision has been reversed. Especially when Chelsea are due to play Manchester Utd this weekend.

John Terry, England captain, Chelsea captain, red card overturned – its hard not to be cynical and suggest who you are makes a difference. One wonders if Halsey will be reprimanded for getting such an important decision wrong.

Everton’s manager Davie Moyes was also sent to the stands last weekend. His crime was to react furiously after Everton were denied what appeared a stonewall penalty against Stoke. That the decision was incorrect is beyond dispute – except, obviously, by Alan Wiley the referee. Whether Moyes should have reacted the way he did…a vocal outburst – disgraceful!!!!….is another question. He maintains he used no foul language. I guess we will see when he confronts the FA.

But then, he is Scottish, not English, and his club are not one of the big four – he’s quite obviously then, guilty as charged.