As an emotional Harry Redknapp addressed the media outside Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday, several miles away, Fabio Capello was having a showdown meeting with his employers, the FA.
When both characters rose on Wednesday morning, their thoughts would have been of a similar nature whilst munching on their Cornflakes. One was at the mercy of 12 men and women, who as his peers and jury, were deciding whether the accused was guilty beyond all reasonable doubt of tax evasion charges. The other was contemplating whether he could complete his remaining five-month tenure as the England manager after his bosses undermined his position and authority, by not consulting him before they made their decision to strip John Terry of the England captaincy.
During the hour-long meeting, Capello offered his resignation which the FA accepted. Meanwhile, Redknapp was cleared on all charges of tax evasion which has been a long running, five-year, saga. An action packed day for both men.
Will tears be shed over Capello’s exit? Anxious tears maybe in North London. Looking at Capello’s England record, you will hear or read that he is in fact the most successful England coach, judging him solely by his 67% win to loss record. This is misleading for two reasons.
Firstly, England comfortably qualified for the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championships against relatively weak opponents. For 2010 qualification, they did impressively deal with Steve McLaren’s nemesis Croatia (4-1 away and 5-1 at home) though England did manage to lose away to the Ukraine in the last qualifying game. This is where the cracks under Capello first started to become noticeable but were not elaborated on as England had qualified for the World Cup. At the Finals, it was a different story. England laboured through their group qualifying in second place. A 1-1 opening draw against USA was followed by another draw, this time 0-0 against world beaters Algeria and then thankfully England beat world football superpower Slovenia, 1-0. A swift but controversial 4-1 hammering at the hands of the Germans underlined the fact that England were hugely over rated and that at £6m per year, maybe Capello was not the right man in charge. He stayed on and England motored through the 2012 European Championships qualifying rounds beating the likes of Bulgaria, Switzerland and Wales, finishing top of the group. Montenegro proving to be a thorn for Capello as England managed only two draws against the Balkan nation, 0-0 at Wembley and 2-2 in Podgorica. Capello’s overall England record reads, 42 games played, 28 wins, 8 draws and 7 defeats. A 67% win record. 28 wins against opponents you would demand, not expect, to beat.
This leads to my second point. In Capello’s 42 games, England played against top nations (Germany, Spain, Brazil, Holland and France) approximately eight times. His England record against top nations reads as follows:
Won: 2 (Beat Spain 1-0 and beat Germany 2-1)
Drew: 1 (2-2 against Holland)
Lost: 5 (Lost to Spain 0-2; lost to France twice 0-1 and 1-2; lost to Brazil 0-1 and; lost 1-4 to Germany)
So against top nations, Capello’s England win ratio drops from an impressive 67% to an awful 25%. England were shown up time and time again against the elite opposition. I know that as England fans we have expected too much in the past, but given that the mastermind was on £6m per year, we definitely deserved better. More so, with the Terry stance, Capello made his position became untenable following his rant to Italian State broadcaster RAI.
Before Terry-gate, Capello reiterated his desire to lead England to the Euros and then leave the post. Even at that time, Harry Redknapp had always been the peoples’ favourite to be installed as England manager when Capello was due to leave. What happens now is unclear and has repercussions elsewhere.
Spurs directors were at court with Redknapp for everyday of his case but will scrutinise his loyalty. After all, the FA can decide tomorrow to offer Redknapp the England job and this is the same Harry Redknapp who left Portsmouth to join bitter rivals Southampton, got them relegated and then returned to Pompey, saving them from the drop!
Without a doubt Redknapp’s name would not have been touted for the England job, with the same ferocity, had he not seen any success at Spurs. When he joined the North London club in late 2008, he joined a group of under achievers who have been transformed from whingeing losers to running amok against Europe’s finest.
Harry Redknapp’s Spurs have continuously surpassed all expectations. They finished fourth in the 2009/10 season, resulting in Champions League qualification, after taking three vital points against Man City in Manchester. The media were already hailing ‘Arry as the next England manager given his turnaround of Tottenham’s fortunes and Spurs continued to progress. They then became the first new team competing in the Champions League to finish top of their group, which contained the then reigning European Champions, Internazionale, and formidable opponents, Werder Bremen. Another Italian giant was then disposed of, AC Milan in the round of 16, ensuring their opponents (who went on to win the Scudetto last season) remained scoreless over 180 minutes.
Redknapp has always been showered with man management praise, but in this tie he demonstrated his tactical nous against the Rossoneri by changing his favoured 4-4-2 to play a continental style which stifled Milan’s attacking threat. Spurs were then eliminated following a rush of blood to the head from Peter Crouch in the Bernabeu against Real Madrid, resulting in a red card and a ticket out of the Champions League following a 4-0 reverse. Domestically Spurs finished fifth but this has served them well this season with no Champions League distractions.
During the summer, only Spurs fans gave their team hope that they would finish in the top four this season. Not only is that now a probability, winning the league itself is a, albeit slight, possibility. This is a feat considered unthinkable during the summer. Would Redknapp want to jump ship whilst all this is possible? Unlikely. The 64 year-old will not get many more cracks at winning the league and this will definitely be Spurs’ best chance, I believe, for years to come. Whilst Daniel Levy deserves credit in his shrewd running of the Club (signing Rafael Van Der Vaart and keeping Luka Modric are amongst his key achievements), Redknapp deserves all the plaudits of getting the best out of the players on the pitch. And this is where Redknapp’s qualities stand out with the FA. These are qualities which they and the England players crave. Qualities which, sadly, Capello was lacking. Based on the reaction of the England players, they have not been entirely surprised by Capello’s decision to walk which indicates that fresh ideas and philosophies are welcome in the England camp four months before the start of a major tournament.
The last World Cup was a mess with a reported division between certain players. In addition, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry (England’s first choice centre backs of recent years) are hardly best mates given the pending court case involving Rio’s brother, Anton. Redknapp is a fine motivator but would he be able to heal the cracks in the dressing room? Would he have the guts to strip the England squad replacing the likes of Terry and Lampard? I doubt it, given he’s Frank Lampard’s uncle – it would make family get-togethers all the more lively I’m sure. That said, could he galvanise the existing squad? Absolutely.
Other mentioned candidates for the England job include Roy Hodgson, which is laughable given the misery he heaped on the red half of Merseyside during his recent short reign. Trevor Brooking and Gareth Southgate have been mentioned as a possible double act during the Euros. Unlikely option. Whilst it’s not unfeasible that Terry Venables could be appointed for the short-term but is this the answer for England?
There are two other reasonably strong candidates running against Redknapp. One, Stuart Pearce. He has impressed with his work with the England U21s. Pearce and Redknapp could in fact work well together for the next two years, with Pearce being the logical choice as a long-term successor (i.e. after the 2014 World Cup).
The other candidate is Jose Mourinho. He’s not English but he may aswell be. He is a man manager and a master tactician plus he’s leaving Real at the end of the season. Love him or hate him, he has won everything in his coaching career and had the current Barcelona side (arguably the greatest club side ever) not stood in his way, he would have added La Liga titles to his list of honours. If you compare him to Redknapp, there is no comparison, Mourinho has done it all and has all the qualities. However, the question is, does he want to give up working with players on a day-to-day basis? Also, would the FA want to appoint an eye-gouger? Maybe not, but ‘Arry is hardly an angel himself.
Both Redknapp and Mourinho are brilliant with the media and excellent with the players – the two prerequisites of being national team boss. Importantly, Redknapp will be heavily backed by the players. At this stage of Redknapp’s life, and especially after his recent few weeks, he would welcome a step away from club management, plus can anyone really turn down the chance of leading their country to a Brazilian (2014) World Cup? I doubt it.
Spurs will suffer the most following Capello’s decision to walk. They will be hopeful that Redknapp agrees to stay until the end of the season so that they can secure a manager who has high calibre, such as Jose Mourinho. If not, all of Harry Redknapp’s good work at White Hart Lane will be undone.