James Lawton: Harry Redknapp, like Brian Clough, just didn't fit the England blazer

Which Englishman in recent years has produced the most exhilarating football? Not Hodgson, for all his virtues

As is so often the case in any debate over the future of England's national football team, the real point of the Hodgson-or-Redknapp argument has been cast so far out into a sea of drivel we can only regret that someone hasn't written it down and put it in a bottle. Then, who knows? The penny might at least drop on some distant desert island.

The nub of the matter, despite what you have heard, is not that a bunch of sports hacks – including yours truly – unsuccessfully picked, or even tried to impose, the wrong horse. When, after all, did the triumphalist, all-seeing Football Association last pick a winner?

We should all know the answer to that question. It was as far back as 1964, give or take the quickly curtailed promise of Terry Venables 30 years after England won the World Cup under Sir Alf Ramsey.

The gut question is simple – and as relevant as it was a mere 30 years ago when Brian Clough, the most brilliant of English football managers, was judged at the FA's old Lancaster Gate headquarters not a proper fit for the England blazer.

It is not about who happens to be best mates with Harry Boy (my own relations with him down the years have been generally cordial but scarcely intimate) or who doesn't see Roy Hodgson's impressively broad background in the game, and enthusiasm for involvement in every level of the national football operation, as necessarily sure-fire endorsements of his succession to Fabio Capello.

No, the big issue – somewhat by-passed by the FA when it made its announcement earlier this week – is which Englishman in English football over the last few years has produced the most exhilarating football and suggested most strongly that he has the wit and the imagination and, maybe most vitally of all, the understanding of players, how they think, how they operate, how they work, how they play, to get something of a response from arguably the most chronically underachieving nation in the world game.

Is it Roy Hodgson, for all his virtues, or was it Harry Redknapp?

Instead of dwelling on the fact that the FA, given all of the latter's track record at White Hart Lane, not least his brief but thrilling adventures in the Champions League when the reigning champions Internazionale and the Serie A title winners-elect, Milan, were put to the sword, has treated Redknapp with an egregious lack of courtesy, we should get back to the indisputable fact that in these terms Redknapp wins by the length of Seven Sisters Road.

No, he is not Clough. He hasn't won a couple of European Cups with football that, while not always luminous, invariably carried the hard edge of a winning instinct. But he has got into the heads of players like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric and Kyle Walker and made them immeasurably better players.

What Redknapp has most in common with Clough, and Venables, is not so much an easy rapport with players (Clough could play the martinet as readily as the father figure) but the capacity to cause uneasiness in the FA's upper echelons.

Clough was outrageous in many respects. He was a brilliant player and always knew it and when he came to management he had a genius for building great teams – rather than preserving one at Leeds United – that persuaded him that his claims for the England job could not be resisted.

It turned out to be no more than a pretty thought – as did the hope in some quarters that Venables would be able to survive some troubling business adventures and build on the promise of his work in Euro 96, which included a wholesale ransacking of the Netherlands at Wembley.

Over Redknapp, the FA has applied the policy of omerta. Trevor Brooking, the head of football development at the FA, strenuously denies that his recommendations were coloured by old enmity. The FA chairman, David Bernstein, steadfastly refused to mention the non-candidate's name. That this was at the very least curious, and at worst wilfully ungenerous, has been dismissed as the jaundiced reaction of Redknapp admirers.

However, if the debate isn't to lose all rationality, we have to go a little deeper under the cloak of denial. We have to see it as a defensive posture, an implicit acknowledgement that a legitimate measuring of Roy Hodgson's extremely worthy career against the old pro flair of Harry Redknapp simply didn't happen.

This doesn't mean that Hodgson should be denied the support he and the FA have requested so urgently, however brittle it may prove.

But nor does it say that we are not entitled to question the wisdom of a decision that was handed down so imperiously it might have been written on a piece of stone. That it landed so heavily on the head of Harry Redknapp was gratuitously insulting, apart from also – it is believed here – being plain wrong.

Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
footballExclusive: Former Man United star writes for 'The Independent'
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home