Sam Wallace: Harry Redknapp must be patient with new boss, but who is in charge at struggling QPR? - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

Sam Wallace: Harry Redknapp must be patient with new boss, but who is in charge at struggling QPR?

Talking Football: Chairman Fernandes is prolific on Twitter but was quiet when Hughes was sacked

Were it not for Bastian Schweinsteiger's penalty miss, or Bayern Munich's failure to stop Didier Drogba with two minutes left of the Champions League final, or any number of critical moments in Chelsea's improbable, exhilarating run to the European Cup last season, then Harry Redknapp would probably not be where he is today.

He would not be taking his first press conference as Queen's Park Rangers manager this morning, and articulating in stark terms just how steep the task is for the Premier League's bottom club.

Had Chelsea failed to win the Champions League in May, leaving Tottenham Hotspur in the competition this season, then Redknapp, despite his relationship with Daniel Levy, would still be Spurs manager. He might even have done a better job of avoiding the pitfalls of Group E, which last week ensnared Chelsea and ultimately cost Roberto Di Matteo his job.

Instead, only three months short of his 66th birthday, Redknapp will be taking on his fourth Premier League fire-fighting role in the space of eight years.

Most men of his age are easing themselves into retirement or, in the case of one of his peers, unveiling a statue of himself. But Redknapp once again has the proverbial flashing blue light on his head and is turning up at the scene of yet another disaster to try to revive the patient.

This really should be the last time he has to do this. QPR, nicely placed in west London, with an ownership that wants success but has so far been clueless about how to achieve it, could potentially be one final great top-flight job for Redknapp. Success will require this chaotic club to get its house in order. But it will also require Redknapp to play his part in making this relationship work.

Redknapp attracts more than his fair share of sneering, and any defence of him tends to be seized upon by the militant fringe as a giant London-centric media conspiracy (the aims of which are never fully explained). But let's deal in the basics: this is a manager who took a Spurs team who were on their knees in October 2008 and turned them into a side that two seasons later beat both Milan clubs in a style rare among English teams in their first-ever Champions League campaign.

That he was sacked by Spurs for two fourth-place finishes in his three full seasons there shows just how rapidly that club's ambitions expanded during his time in charge. And just as long as Andre Villas-Boas finishes fourth or better then he will have been an improvement on Redknapp – but that is by no means guaranteed.

Redknapp is often outspoken and off-message which, with hindsight, meant that he was never going to be appointed England manager despite having been the best performing English manager at the time of asking. Yet in times of a real crisis, survival is all that counts. Look at who QPR went for. Surprise, surprise, the best man for the job.

Even by his own admission, he can be his own worst enemy. He said as much during his prosecution for tax evasion – for which he was later acquitted – at the start of the year. In fact, you only had to sit in Southwark Crown Court for those two weeks to know that for all Redknapp's ability to coax the best out of footballers, he is just as capable of taking a sledgehammer to his own achievements.

When asked in court what his relationship with Redknapp was like, Milan Mandaric, his former chairman at Portsmouth, could not resist replying: "You mean the relationship when I tried to strangle him?"

Mandaric said how Redknapp would "drive me crazy", that he was like "a little kid wanting something". "Finally I had to spank that kid. Sometimes I had to deal with Harry that way [figuratively speaking]." And what of the players, Mandaric was asked. "The players loved Harry," he said. "They adored him. He could get more out of them than anyone else."

In a nutshell, there was Redknapp's issue. When it came to players, he was brilliant – perfectly capable of understanding and inspiring them. When it came to dealing with his bosses – managing up, as they say – he could be infuriating. If he could have done with some patience back then at Portsmouth, he will certainly need it at QPR.

Redknapp is walking into a club that has done little to prove that its owners, directors and shareholders – the whole cavalcade of people who seem to be running QPR – have got a handle on what makes a club successful. The chairman, Tony Fernandes, is prolific on Twitter but was noticeably quiet in Mark Hughes's last few days and absent at his sacking.

Hughes's dismissal was officially presented as a decision by the five-strong board but it appeared to be a shareholder, Kamarudin Bin Meranun, who was pictured with chief executive Philip Beard on the day Hughes was sacked. Who is really in charge?

At QPR, it is evident that Redknapp will have to grit his teeth and put up with quite a lot while he attempts to sort out the team. Meanwhile the club needs to walk before it can run. Certainly the notion of building a new stadium in White City looks preposterous in the current situation.

Nevertheless, QPR have Premier League potential and it would be a shame were Redknapp, should he establish them in the division, not to be around to enjoy it. In order to do so, he may have to rein in the frustration he so evidently feels at times with the owners of the clubs he has worked for, and focus on what he is undoubtedly so good at, which is the football.

The day that Arsène ran out of jokes

Arsène Wenger has never had much problem addressing the difficult questions posed to him when his team are in a bad place. He usually recognises that it is not personal and can take the sting out of a question with a joke or a smart change of subject.

So his outburst after Saturday's 0-0 at Villa, when asked about substitutions, was out of character. What was troubling was not him giving reporters stick – we are well capable of taking that – but the notion that Wenger cannot be questioned.

Asking about the reasons behind a substitution, and the reaction of the crowd, does not amount to questioning the entire career and achievements of a manager. Of course Wenger's record in football deserves the greatest respect but that does not preclude him being asked why he replaced one player.

How Cantona turned Red

Eric Cantona was at the unveiling of Sir Alex Ferguson's statue last week, bearded, greying, well-upholstered but unmistakeably still the man that transformed Manchester United into a title-winning team in 1992 and put them on the road to the success they have achieved since.

Twenty years on from his £1m transfer to United from Leeds, the re-telling of the story is a reminder of how Ferguson stumbled across his signing having first tried and failed to get David Hirst from Sheffield Wednesday.

Leeds had made the original contact because they wanted Denis Irwin but, having been refused, it turned out that Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson ended up selling a player who had made just 15 appearances in the club's title-winning season and, Wilkinson said, did not want to come back to Elland Road. Inspired? Yes, but like so many good signings it also required a very serendipitous turn of events.

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