About 12 months ago, in the wake of securing Champions League football for Tottenham, I made the declaration that it was time for Harry Redknapp to step down. The reason? Because it just could not get any better than where he was at.
Of course it was never going to happen. No other manager in that situation would have contemplated it and I don’t blame Harry for taking on the challenge of leading Tottenham in to the Champions League.
And what we got was a largely successful campaign that I won’t go over ad nauseam. In spite of OTF (other team’s fans) trying their damnedest to belittle the achievement, Spurs went to the quarter-finals and did what Jermain Defoe said they would do.
But the last few months has been atrocious, so much so that rumblings amongst some fans suggest that it’s time to get shot of the manager. Recent results arguably have shown that, in fact, Harry is a stop gap who won’t lead the club to the next level.
I dissected his achievements earlier this year and was very generous in my praise while trying to honestly appraise the help and good fortune he’s had along the way.
Now that the team will probably miss out on Champions League football (and I realise an unlikely win at Eastlands could make me look like an idiot in a week) and could fall as far as sixth place, questions need to be asked.
This is the poorest quality Premier League that I can remember. An only-occasionally impressive Manchester United look to have sewn up the title today. But they’ve been helped by Chelsea’s diabolical mid-season run, Arsenal’s lack of maturity and cutting edge, the noisy neighbour’s erratic form and Liverpool’s lack of quality. Seventy points secured Champions League qualification last year. This year it could be 65 although it’s likely to be less.
The list of teams that Spurs have dropped points against is embarrassing: Wigan (won 1 point out of 6), West Ham (1/6), West Brom (2/6), Blackpool (1/6). Five points out of 24 against struggling sides is nowhere near good enough and it shows the fundamental problem with Harry’s team (I won’t get in to the four goal thrashings that knocked us out of three different tournaments). Forget the Michael Dawson handballs and red cards, the Heurelho Gomes howlers and the paltry return from the strikers. Tottenham’s inability to defend and compete against dogged teams has contributed greatly to this season’s failure.
Harry can do what other under pressure managers do and project the blame on to the supporters and their “heightened expectations”. But that’s the business you’re in, Harry.
If he wants to take on another 12 months at Spurs (and I think he should if only to punish those that could not see this coming a long time ago) then he’ll need to make some big decisions. The goalkeeper has to go, the right-back position needs filling, the centre of midfield needs an overhaul and two new strikers are required. Peter Crouch is the only striker I’d keep, if only to offer the faint suggestion of a Plan B from the bench while Kyle Walker – impressive on loan at Aston Villa – should be moulded in to our first choice right-full.
The midfield situation will be difficult as something’s gonna have to give. Maybe Harry will cash in on Luka Modric or, more likely, Rafael van der Vaart. It could be that one of the wingers will go (Aaron Lennon was left out of the starting line up yesterday) and the crud that’s filling up the bench (Jermaine Jenas and Everton’s former linchpin-cum-mediocrity Steven Pienaar jump to mind) will move on.
But Harry’s problem is the perception of his reign now – fifth (or sixth) place will be seen as relative failure and his chances of becoming England manager will recede further next season if Tottenham are still labouring outside the top four and failing to beat Premier League also rans.
Does he decide that he needs a year off while he campaigns to be the next England manager? Or does he try to repair the damage at Tottenham and push for the top four one last time before leaving for the national job?
With Manchester City likely to spend a hundred million plus in the summer and Liverpool revitalised under Kenny Dalglish and with new financial backing, Spurs are more likely to be fighting Sunderland, Everton and Bolton for sixth place. Could the golden era be over already?