The Blog that's not always wrong.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Harry Redknapp: Houdini or Wizard of Oz?

Its difficult not to warm to Harry Redknapp. He is a football man through and through with a solid though largely undistinguished playing career and a similar managerial one .Portsmouth's FA Cup win last year was his only major achievement.
At West Ham over seven years he handled a series of good young players:Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick amongst them and gained a reputation for good man management and the encouragement of young talent.
He gives good interviews and is popular with the press for his down to earth, populist, honest and straight approach. He is quick witted ,lively, self deprecating , apparently easy-going and doesn't try to make a simple game over complicated.What's not to like?
His reputation as Harry Houdini the relegation escapologist was possibly what drew Levy to him initially but it was the fact that he was not Juande Ramos in any way whatsoever that clinched the deal and led not just to the initial 'new manager' bounce but to the amazing initial turn around in our fortunes.
For whatever reason the team were not playing for Ramos, and not just in the first eight matches of this season but for the post Carling Cup period of last season as well.
Culture shock, language difficulties, alien training and diet regimes, unaproachability ,who knows why, but the team were not responding and Harry was apparently the answer to all their prayers and ours.
My first reaction to the announcement of Harry's appointment was 'Oh no!' . I liked the idea of Harry in genaral but not as manager of Tottenham in particular. I had never been convinced by his record and his attitude.
Harry is a pragmatist, he will do whatever is neccessary to survive, including signing Bellamy for example, and, it is rumoured, Joey Barton. Good footballers they may be but with anger problems and disruptive tendencies that a club like Tottenham should not encourage or have to rely on.
However like most fans I acknowledged with great joy our new saviour. He put us back in the bottom half pack and gave us an opportunity where there seemed little before.
But Harry is not as straightforward as he appears. His words sometimes seem designed to cover his own back and to try to manipulate situations to his own advantage. On several occasions he has appeared to undermine his own squad and has veered from love-in to grand falling out.
Some of this seems designed not to get the best out of his players but to secure funds for further signings.
His failure to demonstrate his reputation for encouraging young talent is for me the worst aspect.
4-1 up gainst Burnley in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi and not one fringe player or youngster gets even a 15 minute cameo. He had praised Taraabt previously but didn't have the nerve to give him a go. Giovani was on the bench and presumably fit; Bostock played well in his brief first team appearance but has not been seen again; Gunter could well have been used to allow Corluka to play at centre half in Ledley's absence but has not been trusted to do so for no apparent reason .Fortunately Dawson is back to his best.
His failure to face down the fans that booed the appearance of Hossam Ghaly as a substitute was another worrying sign. His claim that he knew nothing of the background was nonsense or a failure of managerial duty.
His sudden overhaul of the playing system and negative tactics away toWigan; the inclusion of Ledley King in midfield when he can barely play one match in three at centre-half; the preferance of Zokora to Lennon on the right of midfield; the substitution of Modric are all to me worrying signs of a manager that doesn't know what his best team and formation are. We were asking to be beaten and beaten we were.
We are three points from 11th and two consecutive victories would see us challenging for the Uefa cup places. But we are not getting consecutive victories in the league. Three more defeats and thats 2 points from 8 games which has a horribly reminiscent ring to it.
I didn't want Jol to be sacked; I favoured sticking with Ramos and I am not calling for Harry's head either. The club is crying out for stability of management and players. We need a long term vision and some strategic thinking.

Whether we can get it under ENIC and Levy is problematic. We have had ten managers since Arsene Wenger came to Arsenal and it might well be eleven shortly even if we avoid relegation which I think we probably will, just.
Harry seems to me to be the classic short term fix and some may argue that it was necessary. But it might not work. Harry is looking less like Houdini and more like the very ordinary imposter revealed at the end of 'The Wizard of Oz' when Dorothy's little dog pulls back the curtain to reveal the true nature of the great wizard.
That makes it another year wasted in the long overdue revival of a once great club.

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