The myth of Harry 'Houdini', the QPR manager
November 17 2012, Loftus Road, Queens Park Rangers have just conceded to go 1-3 down at home to fellow relegation strugglers Southampton. Fans brandish banners begging Harry Redknapp to “come and save us” from certain relegation. Come Friday, less than a week later, they get their wish. Harry “Houdini” is installed as manager.
He’s met with rapturous applause the following day as he takes his seat in the stand at Old Trafford to observe his new side in a valiant defeat at the hands of Manchester United.
The man of the people, the loveable cockney geezer, the media-darling who has endeared himself to fans and journalists alike who hang on his every word of wisdom is here. Here to save yet another season and faith is restored among the QPR faithful.
The inevitable media frenzy follows. BBC Sport writes “Harry Redknapp returns to rescue Queens Park Rangers.” Talksport’s Adrian Durham “genuinely believes Harry will lead QPR to a higher finish than Spurs”, the club Redknapp was sacked by at the beginning of the season.
Five months, 22 games, 20 points and nearly £30million later, QPR are on the brink of relegation and face the very real prospect of succumbing to that fate this weekend as they take on fellow relegation certainties Reading.
So what happened? Would it be too bold to suggest that Redknapp is not quite as good a manager as most would have you believe? Maybe he isn’t quite the miracle worker we all thought he was? In fact, it is difficult to understand exactly where his illustrious reputation comes from.
After all Redknapp is no stranger to relegation. This will be the second of his career having led Southampton to the drop in 2005, ending their 27 year run in the top flight in the process.
You might also argue that West Ham’s relegation in 2003 was actually in large part down to Redknapp. Although he had been sacked in 2001 for an outburst against his chairman it was essentially the squad assembled by Redknapp that would eventually see the hammers go down.
Redknapp’s wheeler-dealer instincts led to him effectively wasting the £18million West Ham received from Leeds for Rio Ferdinand on cheap replacements such as Rigobert Song, Christian Dailly and flops like Titi Camara, Kaba Diawara and Svetoslav Todorov. Glenn Roeder was blamed but with almost no budget, he was left to work with a squad full of Redknapp signings that simply weren’t good enough to stay in the Premier League.
His famous man-management skills are also questionable. Redknapp has hardly instilled a confidence into his current side. He has publically questioned the talent of his entire squad and even suggested that they were so bad he wouldn’t be able to sell them on.
Maybe he’s right. But Redknapp has previous when it comes to these public displays of vilification towards his players, lest we forget the famous humiliation of Darren Bent. When manager of Tottenham Hotspur he exclaimed in an interview, after Bent had missed from close-range, that my “missus would have scored.” Bent departed soon after. Perhaps not the act of the world-class manager that we are led to believe he is. Would you ever see Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger hang a player out to dry so openly?
That aside, Redknapp has admittedly enjoyed some significant successes during his career, most notably in winning the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008. However, the legacy of that triumph was to effectively put the club out of business and the reality is that they beat a very poor Cardiff side in the final. And yes Redknapp did save Portsmouth from relegation twice, but he did so by hoarding players whose wages would eventually ruin the club.
Maybe it’s unfair to attach too much blame to Redknapp for Portsmouth’s demise but the grossly over-paid squad of players assembled by the manager was most certainly a contributing factor. As a result Portsmouth have recently dropped into league two and are looking at yet another point’s deduction.
But credit where credit is due. Taking Tottenham to the Champions League quarter-finals in 2011 was a huge achievement and Redknapp is still the only English manager to have taken a side so far. To suggest that leading Tottenham off of the bottom of the table in 2009 was the work of miracles, however, is laughable. The media went crazy for this apparent work of genius but the Tottenham side Redknapp took over were in a completely false position and consisted of top-class players like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric.
So whether you rate Redknapp or not you might as well enjoy him while you can. ‘Arry may well be waving goodbye to the Premier League this weekend and if his squad of players are quite as bad as he suggests, it might be a while before he graces the Premier League with his lovable cockney demeanour again.
I’m sure he will be missed by most, none more so than his media chums. I wonder who they’ll blame this time.
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