Football fans have often accused sports journalists of being biased when it comes to Harry Redknapp. They point the finger at newspaper reporters and allege they have too often acted as unofficial Public Relations executives for Redknapp. They cite as evidence the Fleet Street campaign to have him appointed as England manager.
So it was a little surprising this week to see so many columnists jump abord the “Harry is past it” bandwagon. There were the usual suspects. People like Patsy Collins, a journalist whose writing ability I have long respected, but one who doesn’t like Redknapp and never misses an opportunity to put the boot in via his column in the Mail on Sunday. However, this week I did read journalists who had previously been in his corner suggesting it was time Harry retired to Dorset.
QPR are in a mess, for sure. And you can question some of the costly signings made by Redknapp courtesy of the permanently open cheque book of owner Tony Fernandes.
But it always strikes me as absurd when press and supporters first jump on the back of the manager. What about those players. Are they not responsible for failing?
On Monday evening QPR beat a woeful looking Aston Villa side to bring some relief to the Loftus Road faithful. Next up for Redknapp’s team is a West London derby against table topping Chelsea. Good luck with that one!
Redknapp has seen it all before. He’s been criticised and praised in equal measure and knows that you are only a handful of bad results away from being singled out as the villain of the peace. He’s lucky. In Fernandes he has possibly the nicest foreign owner of any club in the English League. And Fernandes has laid out a small fortune on players, not just for Redknapp but previously for Mark Hughes. Indeed, it could be argued the airline owner is too nice for his own good. He’s been persuaded to pay money for players who are overpriced and whose wage demands are excessive.
Redknapp wears his heart on his sleeve and that has got him into bother in the past. There was the time when he joked that his wife Sandra could have converted an opportunity that Darren Bent missed when Redknapp managed Tottenham. More recently Redknapp lost his cool over the fitness, or lack thereof, of Adel Taarabt.
His chairman was quick to diffuse the row about whether or not the striker was overweight. Fernandes used his Instagram account to make light of the argument between his manager and Taarabt by himself posing topless. Nice move Tony Fernandes. I wasn’t surprised. The man runs one of the best airlines in the world and appreciates the benefits of using social media to deal with customer complaints. Fernandes is brilliant at communicating with QPR supporters on Twitter. Unlike the new foreign owners of clubs such as Leyton Orient and Leeds United, he is pro-active when it comes to talking to the fans.
It’s a shame that Fernandes has been exploited by certain agents. Seen as a soft touch, he has allowed himself and the club to be ripped off.
Redknapp told David Walsh of the Sunday Times: “Agents don’t deal with managers now, they deal with the chairmen. Managers come and go and so the chairman is the man to become friendly with. The agents say to the chairman: ‘What’s your manager doing? Do you know what he said to so-and-so the other day?’ And so often a chairman wants to be involved so he listens. They all love it. They want to be managers, really.”
Redknapp had the help of experienced journalist Martin Samuel in the writing of his autobiography, ‘Always Managing.’ Unlike some ex managers who treat their ghost-writer as though they were a therapist, Redknapp and Samuel wrote the book not via Skype and using notes scribbled on paper by someone who is computer illiterate.
Redknapp says: “Martin (Samuel) is a West Ham fan and was very helpful to me. It was good fun. We’d always end up going for dinner and having a drink, a little bottle of wine or something. We’d start talking about football and before you knew it, five or six hours would pass. I’m quite easy, once I get going.”
And I would agree with that. I have always found Redknapp to be approachable and great company. Is he whiter than white? No, of course he is not. But then he is far from alone in that regard. Best I don’t get started on that one!
In an era when foreign owners choose foreign coaches to manage their team (usually briefly), I find it reassuring that Tony Fernandes is – so far at least – sticking with one of the most experienced English managers. QPR may well be relegated again. And then I feel there would be a change in manager. Harry might walk away or he might have to be persuaded to move upstairs. I do wonder how would he deal with a life without football? It’s been his life since he was a teenager at West Ham.
It is unlikely one of the many foreign club owners would appoint him. After all, his name doesn’t end in a vowel. Harry has no interest in managing north of Watford. Having spent many hours with him filming at his home, I don’t blame him for wanting to stay close to his wife Sandra and that view he enjoys from his window.
In a country that treats its elderly so badly, especially when it comes to employment, it would be crazy if football simply pensioned off a man with as much knowledge as Harry Redknapp.
He divides opinion. He is the marmite of management. But one thing is for sure. Love him or loathe him. English football would be a duller, less happy place without Harry.