The Calvin Report: No bitterness from Redknapp on first meeting with ex since being dumped
Sunday 13 January 2013
Ultimately, players are more important than a manager's media profile or his comfort with the metrics of the modern game. Harry Redknapp's current set at Queens Park Rangers are inherently inferior to the familiar figures whose allegiance is to Andre Villas-Boas and Tottenham Hotspur.
Redknapp's horizons are limited, so pragmatism must overwhelm principle. This goalless draw had the feel of a lower-division side chiselling out a lucrative cup replay. It didn't quicken the blood, which would have been a bonus on a frigid day, but such performances can be rehabilitative.
Everyone knew the back story. The pre-match embrace between Redknapp and the man who succeeded him at Spurs owed more to The Sopranos than Love Actually. It was brief and perfunctory. Their farewells were more effusive, and a source of strange irritation. "I just told him what a good job he was doing," Redknapp insisted. "I have never had a problem with him. We don't mix socially, but I don't mix socially with other managers. He didn't take my job. I didn't have a job at the time."
The contrast between the pair was compulsive, yet focused on caricature. 'Arry the sheepskin-coated scallywag is no closer to reality than AVB as the Voice of the Mysterons. They do the same job in different ways. It's called diversity, folks. Enjoy.
There was no outpouring of emotion, no genuflection towards the progress made at Spurs during Redknapp's four seasons in charge. A single banner, on a cardboard sheet, in the away end was the only visible demonstration of gratitude: "We'll always love you Harry. But today's on you."
It is legitimate, though, to consider who has the best of the deal. Instinct, not to mention the League table, suggests Spurs. Villas-Boas has seen off the Redknapp Glee Club. He is emerging as a figure of substance, even if yesterday's palsied performance suggested more work was required on the training ground.
It is pointless to underplay the damage caused to AVB's reputation at Chelsea, where he was a predictable victim of prejudice, politics and alpha male personality profiles. He learned harsh lessons, but now seems more comfortable in his own skin.
"Both teams want to reach their goals," he said, in that prosaic way of his. "QPR's is salvation. It is Champions' League qualification for ourselves." Some of his public statements still make little sense, but when he simplifies his approach, common sense and erudition shine through.
Redknapp was predictably the more tactile figure during breaks in play, ruffling Adel Taarabt's hair like an indulgent father. His comic timing is all very well, but a one-liner is insufficient to persuade a player of the requisite standard to volunteer for fire-fighting duties. Rangers lack the width and creativity associated with his teams. The net result of the agents' bonanza under Mark Hughes is a Championship-standard side which has rejected conscientious objectors like José Boswinga and Esteban Granero.
Revealingly, their most effective player was Ryan Nelsen, who is awaiting permission to start a new career as head coach of Toronto in the MSL. He may be 35, and wider than the South Island of his native New Zealand, but they will miss his resolution and the honesty of his character.
Unlike Redknapp, whose selection policy at Spurs was relatively inflexible and led to fatigue at the business end of the season, AVB has rotated his team intelligently and effectively, without finding the ability to win when playing badly, which defines Manchester United.
While Redknapp believes his sacking was political, Villas-Boas accepts the limitations imposed upon him as a middle manager employed by an institution that is 85 per cent owned by a Bahamas-based investment company.
Tottenham is a multi-layered club. Villas-Boas has more affinity with the aspirational nature of the new Academy than Redknapp, whose preference was always to prioritise experience over youth. He is more at ease with the commercialism of his role, and the need for managers to maintain churn rates and cultivate sell-on value.
Footballers are notorious for being self-serving in their praise, but whispers from Tottenham's new training ground suggest the players are more comfortable with the clarity and intensity of the Portuguese manager's coaching.
Redknapp has always been more emotionally driven. But the blueprint he used in saving Portsmouth from the drop in 2006 has more relevance than his definitive achievement at Spurs, reaching a Champions' League quarter-final against Real Madrid. Circumstances dictate that his main objective to is make QPR "hard to beat". A limited but not unworthy aim. Whether it can satisfy Redknapp in the long term remains to be seen.
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