Watching football fans watching the football
When it comes to the England job, there are many who believe Harry Redknapp’s widely-touted appointment to succeed Fabio Capello after next summer’s Euro 2012 finals to be a mere formality.
In light of this, it’s understandable that the words of Daniel Levy - Redknapp’s chairman at Tottenham – at the club’s annual general meeting last Tuesday were greeted with a measure of surprise in the media.
"Harry has 18 months left on his contract," Levy stated.
"We have had a conversation where it was said that, as far as Harry's concerned, he's very happy here and that he doesn't particularly want to consider England at the present time.
"We will worry about that situation if it arises in the summer."
Levy’s comments were generally portrayed as casting doubt on the common assertion that Redknapp to England is a ‘done deal’ – as indeed it probably is not yet – but in reality what he said was nothing new or even unexpected.
For his words constituted no more than a confirmation of Redknapp’s unwavering focus on the task in hand at White Hart Lane, albeit with the rather telling acknowledgment that the Spurs boss’ long-term future may well have to be assessed at the end of the season.
Primarily, Levy’s address aimed to reassure the club’s board, staff and fans that the on-the-field progress evident in Tottenham’s highly promising start to the campaign won’t be derailed by any off-the-field speculation – whether about Redknapp or prized assets Luka Modric and Gareth Bale, who he was also at pains to state will not be leaving in January.
In spite of these latest comments, it remains highly likely that Redknapp will be chosen as Capello’s replacement next summer, and that he will jump at the chance offered.
After all, there is reportedly a real appetite within the FA to ‘go native’ again with their choice after the expense and unpopularity of the stony-faced Italian, and Redknapp is widely considered the outstanding English candidate in terms of style and achievements.
Moreover, the former West Ham boss is, and always has been, fiercely patriotic. Having described the England job on numerous occasions as the "pinnacle" of a domestic manager’s career, it seems almost inconceivable that he would reject the chance to scale new heights.
That said, a man in Redknapp’s current situation would be entitled to have doubts about drinking from one of the most poisonous chalices in football.
Managing the Three Lions has been the making of few Englishmen over the years, and the undoing of many – just ask Graham Taylor, Kevin Keegan or Steve McClaren.
Taking the England job has become the biggest gamble a manager can take, and Redknapp has more to lose than most.
After beginning with relatively humble resources at Bournemouth and enduring 28 long, hard years in the unforgiving world of football management, he is finally in charge of a club capable of competing for top domestic honours on a consistent basis.
For Tottenham, fuelled by the spectacularly productive if not always entirely harmonious partnership of Levy and Redknapp, are most definitely a club on the rise.
The arrivals of Scott Parker, Emmanuel Adebayor and Brad Friedel have added real substance to a squad already among the most stylish in the land, and now a club which last season enjoyed a maiden Champions League campaign is beginning to dream of greater success this term, with Redknapp refusing to rule out a title challenge.
And it’s easy to see why. Spurs currently lie third in the Premier League, seven points behind leaders Manchester City with a game in hand. Last Sunday’s defeat away to Stoke ended a run of 11 league matches unbeaten and six consecutive league victories.
More impressive still is the manner in which this form has been achieved. Redknapp’s young and dynamic side have overrun most opponents with pace, guile and relentless attacking intent, gaining legions of neutral admirers in the process.
Spurs’ prospects this season look good and, if Levy’s determination to keep the club’s top stars remains steadfast, their longer term future is even more promising.
Now 64 and with an FA Cup triumph with Portsmouth in 2008 the only top level trophy to his name, Redknapp would be forgiven for wanting to stick around in north London long enough to enjoy the full fruits of his labour.
Such a refusal would be a hammer blow to an FA desperately seeking to regain some credibility after England’s calamitous showing at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the farcical nature of the failed bid to host the 2018 tournament.
But while the remarkable balance Redknapp appears to have struck between entertainment and results at Spurs is what has put him in pole position to become the next England manager, it also happens to be what may ultimately convince him to pass up the opportunity.
Regardless of his intentions, Harry will be hoping the FA knock on his door next July. Tottenham or England? Whatever the answer, it’s clear there are worse questions in life.
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