Harry's the man but he can't work miracles
Last updated at 11:01 PM on 12th February 2012
England awaits: Harry Redknapp (right)
Whose half-time summary is this and which game is he analysing
'I think he'll leave it for 10, 15 minutes, see how we go, and if it's not right I think maybe he'll bring Crouchie on, you know, stick the big man up there, keep piling it into the box, and see if we can make something happen there.'
Those who answered Mike Bassett, or even Dave Bassett, are way off course. Those who replied, 'Some knuckle-dragging tactical Neanderthal who should not be allowed anywhere near a sophisticated group of footballers', may be in for something of a shock, too.
As for the occasion, a Stoke City match obviously. Maybe a Europa League tie, one in which Tony Pulis has tried to get a bit too clever in the first half, suffered the consequences, and needs to go back to basics in search of an equaliser. Wrong again.
The game was England versus Germany at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the speaker was Henry James 'Harry' Redknapp, the people's choice as next England manager.
What people All people. Come one, come all.
If there really were any lingering reservations about the identity of the best English manager in the country, they evaporated around the time of Tottenham Hotspur's fourth first-half goal against Newcastle United on Saturday.
The mystifying fact Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will not discuss Redknapp's contract extension until the end of the season is almost pushing him towards a swift Wembley coronation.
And what an England manager he would make. Loved by the players, utterly in tune with the nation, he gives the people what they want. Cry God for Harry, England and St George.
What could possibly go wrong Well, this. Remember the analysis from the match with Germany The question Redknapp was answering was: 'Would you make any changes right now' Meaning him. Harry Redknapp. He replied as if talking for Fabio Capello, but the solutions were his own. Get Peter Crouch on and put it in the mixer.
Managing expectations: Redknapp is
a popular choice, but that did not help Kevin Keegan in the end
He had earlier talked of James
Milner's influence on the game. 'Milner's starting to deliver a few
crosses,' said Redknapp. 'Get it out wide, get it in the box and we'll
start to open things up.'
is that the consensus view of how England should have played against
Germany Probably not. Indeed, had Capello tried what Redknapp was
suggesting, and still lost, there would have been an even greater
backlash. We want England to emulate the sophistication of Spain, not
the endeavour of Jack Charlton's Ireland.
So is Redknapp still the man for the job Of course he is. He is the best English candidate by a mile and to have a foreign coach of the national team in a country as wealthy as England is, in essence, cheating.
Harry for England. I've been saying it for a long time now. Yet the belief he will resolve all dilemmas to general satisfaction, that every call will chime with the nation and no selection or game-plan will send us up the wall is ludicrous.
Making the most of his resources: But the likes of Luka Modric (right) aren't available to England
Tottenham under Redknapp are a joy, their methods far removed from football's route one. We dream of England playing as fluently as that. Yet Luka Modric will still hold a Croatian passport, whether Redknapp signs up for England or not. Gareth Bale will remain Welsh. An international manager can only make use of what is available, and for every Rafael van der Vaart, Redknapp has also signed a battering ram striker. Depending on resources, his brand of football can be delightful or simplistic.
Most managers are pragmatists. They adapt to what they've got. Redknapp does like a big man up front; he does like a wide player with a direct, running style. This is not intended as criticism. Redknapp has achieved unexpected success with a variety of methods. Yet there is a yawning flaw in this presumption that Redknapp will deliver exactly what the nation desires, every time.
Sir Trevor Brooking, the Football Association's director of football development, had the most realistic take on the obstacles facing the next England manager.
Sign of the times: Redknapp has transformed Spurs into a brilliant footballing side
'We have gone 46 years without winning something,' he said, 'so we won't be favourites this summer whoever is in charge, not when you've got Holland, Germany and Spain.
'We have to have improvement, but who's to say when that is going to come So let's not expect the man that comes in to suddenly deliver a championship.
'We had a European semi-final in 1996 and one in the World Cup in 1990 and we haven't been competing since. We've got to edge that way. I don't want to scare off a manager because we expect him to get to a final. It would be great, but let's not put this person's head on a block.'
Yet observing the rhetoric around Redknapp, here we go again. We cannot help but think in terms of a saviour, or a panacea, a single solution that will end all our woes. Managing England is not an impossible job; we just make it seem so with the glorious visions we project on to every new appointment.
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Our football is much like Eighties politics, when the choice was between extremes. The most influential figure on the right was Margaret Thatcher, on the left it was Arthur Scargill. There was no middle ground.
Politics evolved with the third way: socialism with conservative stances, conservatism with a greater degree of social conscience. Football has never moved on. We lurch from end to end with each new England manager, so the populist, rabble-rousing Kevin Keegan is replaced by the icy, methodical Sven Goran Eriksson (or so we thought until we spent six years looking for his trousers). He was succeeded by the players' pal, Steve McClaren, after which it was time for hatchet-faced authoritarianism again, with Capello.
Bored with that, we now covet Harry because he's a top bloke, players adore him and he'll give the camp a lift. This is the camp that hasn't lost a game in 15 months, and recently beat Spain. Funny, some might have said it was ticking over quite nicely as it was.
Not since Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United and club loyalists began talking as if he wasn't all that good in the first place has there been an outbreak of revisionism as great as that which greeted Capello's departure.
It was as if English football was rid of some bumbling incompetent, not a man who inherited a team on the floor and took them to a World Cup with an outstanding qualification record. He made a hash of the tournament, but learned from it, and has revitalised his squad since. Jack Wilshere, Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Jack Rodwell, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Chris Smalling, all were placed on a fast track by Capello.
He lost one match after the World Cup, a home friendly against France that included appearances from Jordan Henderson, Jay Bothroyd, Kieran Gibbs and Andy Carroll. That was on November 17, 2010.
Since his resignation, however, there have been rare excursions into fantasy: lectures on English football culture from people rarely seen at matches and, in one case, a list of questions it was claimed Capello had left unsolved, all of which he had actually answered.
Can England play 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 What is Wayne Rooney's best position Can Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard play together Who is England's left-sided midfield player
Short memories: Fabio Capello should be remembered for rebuilding England after recent disappointments
Answers: yes, England used that system through two tournament qualifications; second striker, behind a target man; absolutely, play Lampard as one of the midfield two in front of the back four, and Gerrard wide in one of the three attacking forward positions, so they do not occupy the same space; Ashley Young.
In fact, had every player been fit and available, Capello could quite possibly have fielded a starting line-up at the European Championship that read: Hart; Johnson, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Parker, Wilshere; Gerrard, Rooney, Young; Bent.
With Wilshere injured, Jones could have deputised. Rooney is banned for two matches, but there are other forward options with Theo Walcott, Milner, Sturridge or even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starting wide and Gerrard or Young coming inside. This is not a team in disarray, or the product of a manager who has neglected his duties.
So, Redknapp is walking into a good job, but a tough act to follow. The youthful make-up of Capello's squad – if not his starting line-up – was edited out of most farewells because we now take for granted the involvement of the next generation.
Young guns: England have a bright future with the likes of Danny Welbeck (right) around
Yet what if Redknapp does not share Capello's enthusiasm for youth What if he sees Jones only as Rio Ferdinand's understudy; or prefers Crouch to Sturridge or Welbeck What if he thinks England's best central midfield pairing is Gerrard and Lampard, almost side by side, perhaps split by Parker
What if Redknapp is the populist choice, but with unpopular views What if he genuinely does want to stick a big man up there and pile it into the box against Germany Who cares, it will end in tears whatever, we are told. Yes, but Redknapp knows that. It always ends in tears, even for Sir Alf Ramsey, and he won a World Cup. Brian Clough made Nottingham Forest champions of Europe – twice – and left at the end of a relegation season.
If Redknapp stayed long enough at Tottenham it would end tearfully there as well. It is not the ending that is the problem. It is the beginning, and the middle, too. So much is invested here, what if Redknapp refuses to pick the flavour of the month, makes a fixture of Lampard again or loses his first game in Norway That is when our impossible expectations and reality collide.
Redknapp is, after all, the people's choice. Just like Keegan was in 1999. What could possibly sour a love so strong Lose one and find out.
The FA must enforce this gesture or wash their hands of it
Start with the handshake. It has run its course. No doubt when the plan was conceived at Premier League HQ, all concerned thought it a noble and sporting way to open proceedings.
This is football, however. Every rule, every refinement, will be twisted in some way to gain a competitive advantage. So now we have the snubbed handshake as a psychological ploy. Carefully planted stories prior to a big game, will they, won't they
And as Luis Suarez proved on Saturday, just because you were in the wrong, doesn't mean you can't flip that standpoint. Patrice Evra no doubt lined up, believing he had a foot on the high moral ground. And then Suarez treated him like the pariah. Who knows what the Uruguayan phrase is that means 'more front than Selfridges' but if there is one, he is worthy of it.
The handshake issue can be dealt with overnight by making the responsibility of players very clear. Before each match, you shake hands with all opponents in the line, and failure to do so results in a disrepute charge. Either enforce the gesture, or abandon it. We cannot let this farce continue.
Shame: Luis Suarez refused to shake hands with Patrice Evra ahead of Liverpool's defeat in Manchester
Ever since John Terry was left hanging by Wayne Bridge in 2010, there has been the possibility of ordeal by refused greeting. Now it seems to be a weekly occurrence. What should be a commitment to sportsmanship has descended into the first shot fired.
As this ceremony is having the opposite effect to that intended, it is time to evolve the regulation: enforce or abandon. It is the Football Association's call.
So Suarez lit the fuse by publicly humiliating Evra, who was attempting some small reconciliation. Why did he do this He did it because he felt empowered. And he felt empowered because his club have allowed him to believe and behave as if he has done nothing wrong; until Sunday when one imagines a tipping point was reached, and Suarez apologised.
Not to Evra directly, we notice. Not quite. Suarez instead said sorry to his manager and his club, as he should. He has done them no little harm in recent months.
Yet both helped create this monster. They could still have supported Suarez while making plain from the start that his conduct towards Evra was unacceptable. They could have let him serve his punishment and return without casually flicking a match into the powder keg. They did not.
While Kenny Dalglish maintained his strong public sense of resentment over the ban, there was no prospect of closure; while Liverpool allowed this to fester there was always the potential for further outrage.
Sour ending: Evra let himself down by wildly celebrating United's victory at the final whistle
Suarez deceived them, by reneging on a pre-match pledge to behave correctly, but there have been some very mixed messages from Liverpool. Everyone was apologising on Sunday: player, manager, club. It should have happened sooner.
The wisdom of Liverpool's stance on Suarez will long remain a mystery. What good any of it has done will long remain a mystery. Every manager has used a siege mentality to inspire his players, but never like this. There is a difference between convincing a group the world is against them, and behaving in a way that ensures the world is.
Only the most blindly devoted could find reason in Suarez's actions before Sunday's climbdown and no good came of his ignominious last stand at Old Trafford, and no victory, moral or literal. It should have been Suarez's first step towards rehabilitation. Instead, he ended a two-time loser.
Now to Evra's problem. He could not recognise that he had won, so also lost. His triumphalist, confrontational behaviour at the end of the game diminished him, and detracted from the hard-fought victory of his team-mates. It was unnecessary.
By offering his hand, he had shown a willingness to reconcile. It was no easy match for him, mentally, after the snub but as United's captain he should have controlled his emotions. He should not have put personal feelings ahead of what was best for his team. His antics in stirring could have had serious consequences had he sparked a brawl, and further FA sanction for players of both sides.
All round, it was a desperately depressing day for football, and we must hope Suarez's statement is the beginning of a difficult and lengthy healing process. It has to be; beyond lies madness.