Harry Redknapp tells a funny story about Roman Pavlyuchenko that pretty well sums up his approach to management.
When they were both at Tottenham, the manager was frequently exasperated by his Russian striker’s languid body language. So when a club translator asked Redknapp if had any special tactical instructions for Pavlyuchenko before a game, the manager responded: “Just tell him to effing run around more!”
Redknapp would tell the story, half for a laugh and half to get across what he believes is a simple but effective approach to football — and indeed to life — that his humble roots in London’s East end taught him. Work hard, and you will get the rewards.
That is now what he is telling his new charges at Queen’s Park Rangers, and what he believes is the key to lifting them off the bottom of the table, just as he did at Tottenham just over four years ago.
He made it clear in his first press conference yesterday that hard work is the best route out of trouble for a squad assembled so expensively by Mark Hughes, who was sacked last week.
You don’t see Redknapp furiously scribbling notes in the dugout — he is more of an ‘arm around the shoulder or boot up the backside’ type of manager.
He is a motivator of men in the mould of Brian Clough, who once told his players when they were losing at half-time: “You buggers got us into this mess, now you get us out of it.”
Redknapp sent out a similar message to his team. “The players have to take responsibility and they need to get the fans on board — get running, put in a shift, show the fans they care. They’ve got to work hard,” he said.
“If you lose the ball, chase it — that’s what you learned at school, in the playground. Run after it, work hard. I need 11 people with the ability to put the effort in.
“If they do that, we’ve got a chance. If they don’t I’ll find another 11 who can do it. I’ve got no time for people who throw their arms in the air or stand with hands on hips when they lose the ball. We need grafters here — we’re in a relegation battle.”
He has overcome tough challenges before — “going back to Portsmouth when they looked doomed” — but knows the size of his task, with QPR already seven points adrift of 17th place.
“You don’t have four points from 13 games if you are playing well. It’s an embarrassing total and it’s no good kidding ourselves it’s been alright. Something is wrong and we’ve got to find out what and put it right.”
He did that at Spurs, taking a team that had garnered just two points from eight games into a respectable eighth finish and then into the Champions League the following season. But that was a side full of rising stars such as Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Luka Modric, whereas his new squad has been blighted by too many players who are either overpaid, over-indulgent or simply over-the-hill.
“It’s different to Tottenham, where I had a squad full of good players, and no obvious areas where you see it needs improving.”
Redknapp has identified three areas that need work — defence, midfield and attack!
But he will not recall Joey Barton, on loan at Marseille, and is coy about the idea of bringing back David Beckham from LA, as he almost did at Spurs two years ago.
“David sent a lovely text, wishing me the best, but we didn’t talk about him coming here. I haven’t discussed signings with the chairman at all. January’s a long way off and we need to get points on the board by then.”
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who sacked him in June, also congratulated Redknapp. “He rang up, wished me all the best, we had a chat. That’s life,” said the manager without bitterness.
In a turbulent final season at Tottenham, Redknapp had heart surgery, was acquitted of tax evasion and lost out to Roy Hodgson for the England job, before finishing fourth and being dismissed.
“I probably needed a break, after a tough old year. The past five months has been OK. I used to head along and watch Bournemouth, have a cup of tea with some of the managers, rediscover what life is like in the lower divisions. There are some great people there. The way it finished at Tottenham was bizarre, but it’s only a game, only a job. I didn’t lock myself away when I heard Roy got the England job. I didn’t want to jump off the cliff edge in Bournemouth; I got up and played golf the next day.”
He took seriously but rejected Ukraine’s approach, and sees his future in west London now.
“This is not a short-term fix, I’m not fire-fighting. I want to build a team here so they are not in trouble again. I want to keep them up and take it from there.
“Look at what WBA have done, putting a team together over five years. You can’t just throw players in, you’ve got to put the right the players in right positions, build a team spirit.”
And run around more, starting at Sunderland tonight.
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