Time catches up on Harry Redknapp at Tottenham
He put on a brave face yesterday but he might not get another top Premier League job
Four hours sleep; one for each league place, or year in charge at White Hart Lane (well almost). Harry Redknapp put his jobless head on his pillow in Sandbanks at 5.30am yesterday, after a two-hour drive home from the meeting where Daniel Levy had told him he was no longer wanted. At 9.30am he rose, spoke to reporters outside his house and told them he was fine, was off to play golf and wanted another managerial position.
Wounds take more licking than that. Still, as fronts go, it was brash, it was bold and there was still a twinkle in his eye. All very Harry.
"Watch your backs there lads," he told reporters peering into his 4x4. "I don't want you getting run over by a bus." Hours after he had suffered the same fate, metaphorically.
He looked for all the world like the Redknapp who had walked out of Southwark Crown Court four months ago, an innocent man, ready to conquer the footballing world.
Then Tottenham, his Tottenham, like his career, were flying. England seemed inevitable but events, perhaps visible only to a seasoned visitor to the bookies like Redknapp, colluded against him.
For all the emotion that he showed yesterday, and say what you like, it was a man getting on with his life, there was no trace of surprise. The decision to sack Redknapp, for that is what it was, has been blowing in the wind around White Hart Lane, and the 65-year-old, who drew great delight from the closeness he felt with the four black-cab drivers who picked him up before and after his dismissal, had smelled the mood change.
Levy had not appreciated the flirtation with England, despite Redknapp's own assertions to the contrary. He did not think the link between Fabio Capello's resignation and Tottenham's slump (a run of one win in nine league matches) was coincidental. There was private admiration in the Spurs boardroom for the young managers at Swansea, Brendan Rodgers, and Wigan, Roberto Martinez, and the jobs they were doing. Combined, the two men have been on the planet only 12 years more than Redknapp. Levy was ready for a new direction two months ago.
"We finished fourth in the league and were just unlucky but I think it would have been the same outcome if Chelsea hadn't have won [the Champions League]," Redknapp said yesterday. "That's the feeling I'd got. I think the chairman would have gone down the same road. It was just a decision that the chairman decided they wanted to make – him and the owner – and they can do whatever they like. It's their club."
I was told Redknapp was keen on making a move for Andy Carroll at a knockdown price but the story could not be run while there was uncertainty about the manager's position.
Redknapp's exit may not even be the most controversial departure of the summer. Gareth Bale and Luka Modric have huge question marks hanging over their futures. Would Redknapp really have kept quiet if both had gone? With them will exit any hope Tottenham have of being a regular top-four side.
"I've left behind some fantastic players," he added. "I think it was a team that could have won the Premier League in the next year or two. I just wish I could have gone and been part of that. I am disappointed, of course. It couldn't have gone better for me, the football we played, finishing fourth and fifth was great, great players, so I loved every minute of my time and the fans have been amazing. Also the support at the club when things were difficult I'll never forget. They were special. I had a great time there but that's football. I don't hold grudges or worry about what could have been. We all move on."
And Spurs will move away from breaking their wage ceiling of around £70,000 a week, where they were heading under Redknapp.
Perhaps Tottenham have punched above their weight. Emmanuel Adebayor, Ledley King, Bale and Modric may all be gone by the time the new season begins. The preferred transfer market strategy is to buy young, develop and then sell, so it will not be big-name, big-money replacements at the top of their game who come in.
The future is similarly unclear for Redknapp. England has gone, perhaps forever unless something truly calamitous happens under Roy Hodgson. Last season's top four, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea are all sorted for managers for the immediate future at least. Liverpool and Newcastle appear to be sailing into more stable times. Everton have the glamour but none of the finance should David Moyes go to White Hart Lane. Other jobs down the food chain at Aston Villa (Paul Lambert, 42), Wolves (Stale Solbakken, 44), West Bromwich Albion (Steve Clarke, 48) and Norwich (Chris Hughton, 53) have already come and gone.
"I'm not coming to the end of it," he stressed when asked if Spurs would prove his last job. "I love football, I would suit any job. I don't think I'm coming to the end of my career. Alex Ferguson is in his 70s and is still the best manager in the world. I'm as fit as a fiddle."
But Ferguson has 36 more major pieces of silverware during his career in England. Domestic football may yet follow Tottenham's lead, despite the free-flowing football of his White Hart Lane tenure. And despite the brave face.
Harry at the Lane
2008-09 Takes over with Spurs bottom. Guides club to safety – finishing eighth – and a League Cup final.
2009-10 Shrugs off FA Cup semi-final defeat to secure Champions League qualification.
2010-11 Leads Spurs to quarter- finals of the Champions League.
2011-12 Eleven-game unbeaten run takes Spurs into title contention. Has heart operation and is cleared of tax evasion, but England vacancy proves a distraction.
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