Queen’s Park Rangers’ draw with Reading confirmed both clubs’ relegation and completes a remarkable eighteen months in the life and circumstances of former Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp. From managing Tottenham who were close to putting in a challenge for the Premier League title, to hot favourite for the England manager’s post, to out of work and now relegated to the Championship with QPR.
In November, 2011 with Tottenham on a long undefeated run, Harry Redknapp took time out to undergo heart surgery to unblock coronary arteries. On resuming his role as Spurs manager, the team continued to progress towards the top three in the Premier League. By mid-January a win over Everton took them level on points with second placed Manchester United and only three behind leaders, and eventual Champions, Manchester City. There was the cloud of a court case hanging over Redknapp but by early February he had been cleared.
8th February, 2012
When Harry Redknapp stood on the steps of Southwark Crown Court he was a relieved man having been cleared of all charges of tax evasion. It had been a harrowing thirteen days for him as he juggled his responsibilities at Spurs with attendance at court. All seemed well in his world – he had received the backing of the club throughout the trial and had been shown fantastic support by Spurs fans at White Hart Lane. With Spurs third in the Premier League, seven points ahead of Chelsea in fourth and ten points clear of fifth placed Arsenal, everything looked good.
Favourite for England Manager
A few hours later, a decision would be made that was to turn his world around and would be part of the reason for his departure from Spurs four months later. At the Football Association headquarters, following a meeting with Fabio Capello, the England manager’s position became vacant and Redknapp was immediately installed as the ‘people’s and media’s favourite’. It was well known that Redknapp was keen to take the England position and it seemed to be only a matter of time before he would be approached.
Saturday, 11th February:
There was an out-pouring of emotional support for Harry Redknapp at White Hart Lane as fans put across the message that they didn’t want him to leave to become England manager. The players responded in kind and Spurs put in one of their best performances of the season against Newcastle United. Spurs were four ahead by half-time with Emmanuel Adebayor creating all of them. He scored the fifth himself and it seemed that everything that Redknapp touched would turn to gold.
Tottenham’s season took a turn for the worse as they lost to Arsenal after going two up. At approximately 2.04 pm at the Emirates as Adebayor scored from the penalty spot to give Spurs a two goal advantage in the north London derby, Spurs, in theory, were thirteen points clear of Arsenal and looked set to strengthen their hold on third place and the Champions League qualification that meant so much to the club. It had been the number one priority for Harry Redknapp throughout the season. Within nine minutes that had crumbled as Arsenal drew level and Spurs had no second half response as the home team went on to score three more goals. The gap between third and fourth was now down to seven points.
Still, there was no decision regarding the England appointment as the Football Association made the apparently sensible option of delaying an announcement until nearer the end of the season to avoid unnecessary disruption at any club. Redknapp, however, was still regarded as favourite.
Tottenham’s spring slump continued, going through the month without a Premier League win. A the home draw with Stoke saw them drop to fourth, a point behind their near neighbours. Spurs’ slump in form took them into a battle for fourth place when in mid-January they had been considered title contenders.
The England position still remained on the cards with only passing mention of any other possible candidates, Roy Hodgson, in the media. It still appeared to be Redknapp’s with Tottenham making contingency plans for his departure.
Spurs results continued to cause concern although they had made stuttering progress to the FA Cup semi-final. That, however, only brought further dismay with a heavy defeat to Chelsea at Wembley. The team that had been lauded earlier in the season for playing the best football since the ‘Double’ team were a pale shadow for their former selves. The rumblings of discontent among fans were growing by the day as they despaired at the team’s loss of form and the manager’s inability to turn it around.
Tottenham lost at QPR and fans were infuriated at the constant use of Gareth Bale on the right and Aaron Lennon on the left. It again led to cries of ” Gareth Bale – He plays on the left” and “Aaron Lennon – He plays on the right”.
Even at this stage the press was still predicting that Redknapp would soon be announced as the next England manager.
The Football Association announced that Roy Hodgson had been given a four year contract as England manager and that he had been their preferred candidate and the only person who had been interviewed. Redknapp accepted the news graciously, as always, but must have felt great disappointment as he knew it was his last opportunity to manage his country, a position he had set his heart on.
Tottenham had been resigned to losing him and some had suggested, even before the FA’s announcement, that regardless of what happened over the England position that Redknapp would be leaving Spurs in the summer. Spurs’ season had taken a dramatic turn as soon as the departure of Fabio Capello was announced with many feeling that the constant media questions about England had been a distraction for Redknapp.
With four matches to go Spurs needed maximum points to have any chance of playing Champions League football. Their season revived with three wins but a draw at Aston Villa proved costly as Spurs finished fourth but missed out on the Champions League due to Chelsea’s victory in the Final.
Spurs’ season which at it’s mid-point had the potential to become one of the most memorable in recent times, had tailed off alarmingly and disappointingly. Redknapp appeared to have lost the support of a section of supporters, there had been talk of disquiet among the players and the Board seemed less than enthusiastic about extending his contract.
Rumours circulated that Redknapp would be leaving White Hart Lane and on 13th June a meeting between Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy did not reach agreement over a contract and news broke that the manager would be leaving Tottenham after three and a half years as manager.
In four short months, Redknapp had gone from potential England manager, a position he openly craved, to an unemployed manager albeit with a handsome severance package to soften the blow.
The new season started without Harry Redknapp. In the media he was linked with every managerial vacancy but he remained out of work. It was in November that he was linked with the managing the Ukraine national team which he later admitted had been a possibility in an article in the Daily Mail. Before anything was agreed, however, he was offered the post at Loftus Road to replace Mark Hughes. He was appointed in late November with QPR bottom of the Premier League.
Ever optimistic, Redknapp was quoted in the Guardian,
“We can’t get any lower. We are rock bottom. We have to try and get up that table. I remember when I was at Portsmouth and we stayed up with a game to go at Wigan – it was the most fantastic feeling.”
Labelled ‘Harry Houdini’ by the press there was some early improvement in QPR’s fortune with their first win of the season and they held Tottenham to a scoreless draw at Loftus Road in mid-January. There were few other high spots and while Redknapp talked up the club’s situation, last weekend’s home defeat to Stoke was QPR’s last chance to avoid relegation. The draw with Reading confirmed the club’s demise and return to the Championship after two season’s in the top flight.
In eighteen months Redknapp has gone from being with Tottenham in the top 3 of the Premier League and being considered as a possible England manager to losing his post at Spurs and after a period of unemployment is now facing the prospect of managing a club in turmoil in the Championship next season. It couldn’t get much tougher for Harry Redknapp.