Harry Redknapp has won over two jurys this week; one at his trial where he was found not guilty, and the other the English media and fans who have, by and large, judged that he is the best man to take over the reins from the departed Fabio Capello. While he may be the man the FA turns to, would he necessarily be the right man?
Redknapp has a lot going for him, of that there is no doubt. He won the FA Cup while in charge of Portsmouth and he has taken Spurs from a side on the decline to the Champions League, albeit through heavy transfer market backing.
Tactically, he has shown that he is increasingly flexible. From a stout 4-4-2 with a big man/small man combination up front, his use of Rafael van der Vaart has shown that he has reacted to the times with a more adaptable formation.
The transformation of Gareth Bale from a mediocre back-up full-back to one of the most exciting wingers in Europe has been a masterstroke. Young players such as Tom Huddlestone and Kyle Walker have also developed under his guidance.
But for all of this, is he really the best man available to manage the Three Lions? His highest top flight finish is fourth and he has an FA Cup, First and Third Division titles to his name in 29 years as a manager, while also suffering relegations.
His managerial track record can spark a lot of debate about whether he has the credentials to lead England. For everyone pointing at Spurs’ success under him, others will highlight the money he has spent.
The case against Redknapp though goes beyond results – it is about whether he is of the right football philosophy to manage England.
Since the 2010 World Cup debacle, Fabio Capello made a noticeable shift from the previous methodologies and adopted a formation and playing style more in tune with some of Europe’s top clubs.
He introduced younger players such as Jack Wilshere to the set up and the combination of these factors resulted in England going through 2011 unbeaten. Clearly a change in philosophy was emerging and succeeding.
Add to this the changes being made and proposed to the national game as a whole. The Premier League went to significant lengths to pass the Elite Player Performance Plan and to ensure the FA and Football League backed them. The St George’s Park National Football Centre has been opened with the aim of developing better coaches and more technically focused players. These are attempts to reform the game at all levels to help England catch up with the likes of Spain, Holland and Germany.
The direction of the national game as well as the success of the national team must be considered in tandem when selecting who David Bernstein has described as the “best man for the job”, rather than the narrow criteria of which English manager is doing best at the current time. English football is at a crossroads – the FA will be wanting both short-term success but also the foundations placed for a generation of players England can be proud of.
Clearly Redknapp has done a good job at Spurs and deserves to have his name mentioned in this context. But the FA must step back and look at a broader spectrum of candidates who come into line with their widely stated greater goals. And if it is to go to the best man for the job, his nationality should be irrelevant.
Perhaps North London will be the source of the next England manager – Arsène Wenger, enduring a difficult season with Arsenal and being linked with the France national job, is one name who would satisfy the FA’s vision.
He has a track record of developing players, showing no fear of giving young players a chance and persevering with them. His style of football is conducive to technically able players. And while he is not English, he gets English. He understands the footballing culture and how the media work. More so, he has an undisputed knowledge of the players and acuteness for spotting talent early.
Roy Hodgson is another name being spoken about and despite his spell at Liverpool, there is a lot of merit in considering the Croydon man. He has extensive experience of managing in Europe with success both in Sweden and Italy with Inter Milan. Fulham made great strides under his stewardship and he has international experience with both Switzerland and Finland. He has demonstrated a keen eye for talent and has a habit of getting the best out of the tools at his disposal. Fundamentally, he has the experience, vision and tactical nous to avoid England being left behind.
A left field suggestion which if his credentials are analysed has credence, is Glenn Hoddle who has previously had the job. Like Hodgson, his experience of European football means that he has an understanding of progress in football and as the Glenn Hoddle Academy demonstrates he has a desire to improve young talent.
He is a visionary of football and has shown tactical acumen to challenge the best. He understands that youngsters develop at different pace and works this in to his outlook. Leaving Gazza out of the 1998 World Cup squad shows he is not frightened of making big decisions either.
There are other names being mentioned as ever. Guus Hiddink has international pedigree and showed in his time at Chelsea that he can tune in to the English game. Jose Mourinho and Martin O’Neill have received some backing too and while they are unlikely to fill the vacancy at this point, the cogitation that emerges from this is that while Redknapp may have the widest spread of backing, he is far from being the only option.
Each option has merit and pitfalls. Despite the overall picture, it is the short term that is at the forefront of the thoughts of many fans and the commercial arm of the FA. It is to this end that Redknapp ticks so many boxes that the likes of Hodgson and Hoddle fail to do.
The argument is not about whether Redknapp will succeed with England; in the absence of England winning a major tournament what success is, or is not, is subjective. The debate is whether Redknapp is the right man at the crucial juncture for English football.
It is about more than Euro 2012 or the 2014 World Cup. It is about the future of the English game. There could, just could, be someone with less media led clamour behind him who would benefit the game, and the national side, more.
Tags: Arsene Wenger, England, Euro 2012, Fabio Capello, Glenn Hoddle, Guus Hiddink, Harry Redknapp, Roy Hodgson