Candles may have been lit, and there may even have been hushed talk of a silent vigil outside of White Hart Lane. Meanwhile, on social media platforms such as Twitter men – grown men – threw around comments which indicated that many of them had jumped straight to the second stage of the Kübler-Ross Model five stages of grief – anger – having scarcely had the opportunity to feel the transient and illusory feeling of denial. Yes, the confirmation that Harry Redknapp is leaving Tottenham Hotspur hit some sections of the British press hard. Just a few short weeks ago, Redknapp was in line for the England job, and all was right with the world. Perhaps they’d all fly out to Poland together, laughing and joking about the size of each others’ duty free bills. Once there, the only thing that would flow more readily than the nice bottles of red would be the media-friendly quotations. The air of bonhomie would mean that a scapegoat might have to be found after the inevitable disappointment but hey, there would be two dozen players to choose from and if no-one stood out for this task then the whole thing could be marked down as a transitional period and forgotten about.
But then they stepped in. The bloody FA, with their suits and their blazers, their ties and their badges. Their meetings and press conferences. Their damned criteria for selecting a new England manager. They betrayed the press’ selection process, overlooked their Harry and brought in Roy Hodgson instead. Hodgson, whose face occasionally betrays a palpable feeling of contempt when being asked deliberately leading questions by journalists desperate for a meaty byline. Hodgson, who reads books. Hodgson, who never won the FA Cup with Portsmouth and chose – chose! – to spend years abroad. Typical political correctness gone mad. Look on the bright side, though. At least Hodgson will be easy to destroy when the time is right, and at least there’ll still be Harry and Spurs. Don’t ask too many difficult questions and the quotations will continue to flow. And that’s what really matters, but now this? But now this.
There is a certain delicious irony to the fact that Harry Redknapp leaves White Hart Lane on the very day of the announcement of a television deal so luxuriant that to merely glance at the numbers may cause drops of blood to fall from the nose. Redknapp made his name as a managerial “wheeler-dealer”, as if talents more frequently seen at Queensway Market on a Sunday morning were as much a key performance indicator of a managers ability as the highly sophisticated tactical acumen that we, the humble supporter, might have expected to be required in order to cope at the highest level of professional football. Harry, one suspects, would have rather liked the sudden – and for many prior to yesterday, unexpected – injection of cash into the game that will come in a couple of years time, but that won’t be happening for him at White Hart Lane now.
For all the love felt for him in the media, Spurs ultimately failed in the closing straits of last season. In the Premier League, the nine month long narrative regarding the race for fourth place in the table was rendered suddenly irrelevant when Chelsea won the Champions League. It probably shouldn’t even have come to this. At one point, Spurs were ten points clear in third place in the table, and that they ended in fourth place felt all the more accentuated as a failure because they were overhauled by Arsenal – in particular a symbolic 5-2 defeat at The Emirates Stadium in which they took a two goal lead before throwing the match away. This match turned out to be a microcosm of their season. In the FA Cup, meanwhile, a bid to end a twenty-one year spell without winning a competition that the clubs supporters ended in further humiliation at Wembley in the semi-finals with a thrashing at the hands of another London rival, Chelsea.
Even conceding five goals to each of your London rivals in critical matches – as well as at home to Manchester City on the opening day of the season – might have been shrugged off had Spurs ended the season above Arsenal and in the Champions League, but they didn’t and it is the supporters of Tottenham Hotspur who seem the least affected of all by last nights announcement today. Their relationship with Redknapp always felt as if it had an element of trade-off about it, with the comparatively good performances that he brought them on the pitch meaning that he was tolerated without being particularly loved by them. With speculation concerning the futures of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric continuing unabated and several other players reaching the twilight stage of their careers, there has a feeling of fin de siecle about Spurs over the last few months. Regardless of the issues concerning extensions to Redknapps contract, concerns about Spurs going off the boil when the England managers job unexpectedly became available earlier this year and the other myriad issues surrounding this departure, though, there is a feeling that now is as good time as any for a broom to sweep through White Hart Lane and start afresh.
We might expect the list of names that will end up as the short-list to be his successor to be an eclectic one. Perhaps David Moyes will be lured by the prospect of not having to turn base metals to gold at the start of each season any more. Perhaps Roberto Martinez might fancy London over Wigan. There will be no shortage of candidates. Spurs have been knocking on the door of a Champions League place for several seasons now, but have only managed it once, but their commercial clout will be vastly increased should they ever get around to redeveloping White Hart Lane and the prognosis for the club remains healthy in the medium to long term. The likelihood of somebody of the calibre of Pep Guardiola – who has become something of a Candyman-like figure for supporters the Premier League clubs since his departure, in that there seems to be a hope amongst some that if you say his name enough times he will curtail his self-appointed break from football and pitch up at your club – accepting this challenge seems remote, but there are plenty of other very good managers who may well see this club as a great opportunity.
Any managerial replacement is a gamble on the part of the club taking the decision, but there can be no escaping the feeling that Harry Redknapp had reached the end of his shelf-life as the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. Last season, in which Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool all had their own bouts of crisis, was an opportunity that should have been seized with both hands by the club but the fourth place finish – which most had assumed all season would be enough to ensure Champions League football next season – proved not to be enough, and no matter what certain sections of the press might say, this is a fact that a large number of Spurs supporters seem to recognise. Things may not be quite so open again next season. There may well be a candlelit vigil held this evening for a popular manager who gave people what they wanted. Those people, however, seem to have been jounrnalists rather than supporters or the owners of the club, and the vigil seems more likely to be held at the headquarters of News International than outside White Hart Lane.
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