Opinion divided on memory Lane


Opinion divided on memory Lane

But then Redknapp has always divided opinion.

A football writer from the north-east of England summed up one line of thought recently: “Every football fan north of Watford hates Harry.”

Such a sweeping statement is, of course, both harsh and unfair, as well as highly questionable given the widespread support Redknapp enjoyed after leading Spurs into the Champions League.

But there is no doubt Harry seems to polarise football fans, even those of the clubs he has managed — and there have been plenty.

He has doubters at QPR, even though he brought them back to the promised land of the Premier League after failing to save them from relegation when he took over from Mark Hughes in mid-season.

Redknapp could not repeat the feat he had managed at Tottenham and previously Portsmouth, when he had taken over a team at the bottom of the league and not only kept them up, but took them on to greater things.

Spurs were in a sorry state when he succeeded Juande Ramos, galvanising the side and taking them to mid-table that season, and into the Champions League the next.

Not only did Tottenham beat European champions Inter and their neighbours AC Milan in the competition, they did it in the style that had made them one of England’s most glamorous teams in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

Redknapp brought back the swagger and style, with fast and attacking football based on the creative skills of Luka Modric and the monstrous speed and power of Gareth Bale.

Spurs went on to finish fifth and fourth again in the following two years, so it might seem baffling that Daniel Levy and a significant number of fans lost faith in Redknapp just as he was being talked about as the saviour of the England team.

But that was part of the problem. When Fabio Capello resigned, Redknapp believed what most did, that the England job was his for the taking. Instead of returning the loyalty the club had shown him throughout his trial for tax avoidance, which he won, Redknapp made it clear he was keen to manage his country. Inevitably, he took his eye off the ball at White Hart Lane, and results went downhill, as did the spirit among players who did not know if their manager was staying or going.

Finishing fourth was not enough to qualify for the Champions League again, as Chelsea won the competition, and embittered supporters questioned his commitment and loyalty — possibly with good reason, given his track record.

Redknapp has many strengths but loyalty does not figure highly. He grew up in east London supporting Arsenal so he had to play that connection down when he took over at Spurs, a move that alienated many of those fans who still had fond memories of his days at West Ham, both as player and manager.

As at Tottenham, he was sacked from West Ham after a successful spell because he fell out with the chairman, in that case Terence Brown, who took umbrage at an interview the manager did with a club fanzine.

From there Redknapp went to Portsmouth, initially as director of football, but then taking over from Graham Rix as manager. He took Pompey into the Premier League and kept them up, but when he fell out with the chairman — this time Milan Mandaric — he was off again. Not only did Redknapp go, but he went to Portsmouth’s deadly rivals Southampton, causing an outcry at both clubs.

Even worse, when he inevitably fell out with the club’s director of football Clive Woodward, he had the nerve to go back to Portsmouth.

This time he was able to win back their fans by saving them from relegation and then going on to achieve their highest Premier League finish and win the FA Cup to boot.

But again, many Portsmouth fans look back with anger rather than fondness on Redknapp’s time at the club. He spent heavily, buying ageing players on high wages, and after he upped sticks to leave for Tottenham, Portsmouth went downhill, eventually descending into a terrible spiral of debt and despair. It was not his fault, but there are plenty of fans who point to his departure as the beginning of the end of their great adventure.

So what now with QPR? It is highly likely Redknapp would have walked away — from Loftus Road if not football completely — if Bobby Zamora had not won the Championship play-off final at Wembley to secure promotion.

Redknapp is now the oldest manager in the league, and is starting to feel it. He had heart surgery in his final months at Tottenham, and a knee operation last summer that was not entirely successful, forcing him to rely on crutches for much of last season.

He will enjoy his return to Spurs, feeling he has a point to prove to Levy, whose choice of successor in Andre Villas-Boas blew up in his face.

But will all Tottenham fans enjoy seeing him again?

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