James Lawton: FA's treatment of Redknapp is nothing short of appalling


So there it is, Harry old boy, you didn't win enough of your last few games. You didn't keep your place at the top of the popularity parade. Another unhelpful factor, let's face it, was that after all that money spent on Il Capo, you were shaping up just a shade pricey.

Yes, we know you were a brilliant, even dream candidate when you walked down the steps of Southwark Crown Court a free man. You were a figure of destiny, then, the perfect choice to test the theory that all these years after Sir Alf Ramsey only another Englishman, assuming he was smart enough, could get the best out of English players and a football culture which has been mocked for so long by the front-rank nations.

That, however, was only a compelling argument when Tottenham were lighting up the sky, at quite modest cost, with some of the most sparkling, intuitive football seen in the Premier League for years. It simply turned to dross when all the momentum, all that impressive sense of a team who knew precisely what they were doing, and rejoiced in it, for one reason or another lost their edge – and no matter that some extremely good judges believed that a prime reason for the decline was that the Football Association had virtually anointed you as the natural-born successor to Fabio Capello.

However we rate the psychological disruption caused by such a development, however damaging it was to the morale of a dressing room which had felt so secure under a tightly knit leadership, it is impossible not to believe that it had some significant effect. One moment Spurs were potential (albeit long-shot) champions – and slugging it out with Mancester City in a compelling, finely drawn game at the Etihad Stadium, the next their manager and creator was deemed unworthy of the niceties of a formal interview.

This was shoddy, demeaning behaviour by the FA, another confirmation, if you like, of an innate capacity to turn a hopeful scenario into the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Saying this, of course, is not to dismiss out of hand the credentials of Roy Hodgson, the man who now seems such a certainty to inherit the wind generated by the fiasco of Capello's departure. In some ways his claims are formidable. If he was the wrong man for Liverpool at the wrong time – and clearly scarred by the experience of being at the wrong end of such concentrated scorn from the Anfield terraces – he has quickly reminded football of his impressive background in the game.

It may be troubling that one consequence of his Liverpool ordeal is his apparent need to appeal for the support of England fans. He has even suggested that without such underpinning the job might prove impossible, a proposition which has to be odd for anyone who remembers the degree of critical and popular opposition Ramsey encountered while putting some career-long convictions into place, including the one that in certain circumstances the value of a workhorse like Roger Hunt might exceed that of the scoring genius Jimmy Greaves. No, Ramsey would have preferred to immerse himself in a vat of burning oil than sue for public acclaim.

However, the world turns somewhat differently these days – and creates plenty of new pressures – and there is no doubt Hodgson, given his excellent record in the game, has served his time as a Public Enemy No 1.

He is not in himself a cheap alternative to Harry Redknapp, however the FA has come to make it look. So why is his impending appointment a source of such chagrin?

Apart from the suspicion – which lingered yesterday despite the firmest denials – that it might have something to do with an ancient dispute born at West Ham between Redknapp and the FA's director of football, Sir Trevor Brooking, there is the fear that the ruling body has ridden a populist tide and, having seen it lose much of its strength, finished up with a relatively safe option.

Redknapp's recent discomfort on the Spurs touchline means that his being overlooked now is likely to provoke only the mildest eddies of disagreement, as opposed to an inevitable major storm if Gareth Bale and Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart were still cutting down the opposition with uninhibited freedom. What Redknapp represented – and still does if we can get our heads from under the tyranny of the latest results – is a force of innovation and the precious knack of seeing the potential of players.

Under Redknapp, Bale, below, has become more than a startling young talent. He is a magnet for the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid. In Modric, Chelsea have seen the possibility of a new dimension. At £7m, Van der Vaart is a running reproach to so many transfer deals twice and three times more expensive.

Such is the appeal of Harry Redknapp. It is especially compelling if you happen to believe that the killing problem of the England team for so long has been a failure to integrate properly the best of the native talent, most graphically illustrated in the eventually terminal failure to absorb such outstanding club performers as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

Redknapp could never guarantee a new way for England, who could? But he had a case, and some exciting achievement, and the very least he was due was a decent and respectful hearing. His treatment has been nothing short of abysmal.