Harry Redknapp Is Wrong to Say 'Only a Dope Could Fail at Chelsea'
Harry Redknapp should have known better.
Time and time again, the beautiful game has come back to bite those who publicly make outlandish criticisms. At the beginning of the 1995-96 season, Alan Hansen boldly condemned Manchester Utd's youthful squad, saying "you'll never win anything with kids." Those kids, of course, grew up very fast and won consecutive league and domestic cup doubles.
More recently, former Blackburn star Henning Berg said there were "no real managers" who would accept the job at Ewood Park. Shortly after, he accepted the job himself. Just 57 days after that, he found himself unemployed again.
You'd have to be a real dope to mess it up with [the likes of] Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Frank Lampard.
He [Rafael Benitez] has walked into a squad of players there who are Champions League winners - you've got a chance, haven't you?
When your bottom-of-the-league side visits the reigning champions of Europe, it's not always wise to call the opposing manager a dope—as he might prove otherwise in emphatic style.
However, on Wednesday night, Harry Redknapp was not made to eat his words, nor follow it up with a bitter serving of humble pie.
His collection of overpaid (his word, not mine) misfits somehow managed to defend superbly for 90 minutes, work hard for one another and set up a winning goal for a former Chelsea player. Against all odds, Redknapp had made Benitez look like a dope.
There is a certainly a case to be made for Redknapp's bold (if a little inarticulate) sentiment.
What is so hard about coaching a side like Chelsea?
With virtually limitless resources, how can a manager in that position fail to succeed?
Such a talented group of players should probably be able to manage themselves—just look at Juventus, who led Serie A for most of the first half of the season without Antonio Conte on the bench.
A Telegraph journalist friend of mine compared the experience of being Chelsea manager to the experience of playing a computer game on the easiest setting: You will do well, but it's not very rewarding at the end of the day.
Perhaps Redknapp feels the same way—the real hard work of a football manager is done in relegation scraps and turning a team around using tactics and teamwork, rather than a huge budget.
After all, if you know that disappointing results can be counteracted with an injection of Russian petrodollars to bring in some of the world's best players, how difficult can it be?
Well, in reality, it is very difficult.
Redknapp may think it is easy to walk in and coach a squad of Champions League winners (he should know, he has a few himself!), but Chelsea's boundless resources put an incredible strain on a manager. If it was easy, Roman Abramovich would not have worked his way through 10 managers during his ownership of the club.
Abramovich, in fact, is one of the main reasons the Chelsea job is not an easy one. A man who is willing to displace his managerial staff so frequently that the League Managers' Association have deemed it "embarrassing" is not exactly an employer who creates a stress-free environment.
With Abramovich's millions, world class players and Chelsea's store-bought success comes a weight of expectation that a manager could never experience at a club like QPR.
Thanks to anomalous performances like the triumph at Stamford Bridge this week, Redknapp is likely to be praised for his valiant efforts even if he fails to keep the Hoops in the top flight. A Chelsea manager is a failure if he doesn't stay ahead of the very best sides in the country—and the world.
The pressure of expectation comes not only from the club's owner, but fans, journalists and just about everyone with a passing interest in football.
If the entire world analyzed every professional decision you made and your peers hung the "dope" insult over your head even before you had failed, you would soon start to doubt yourself. It takes a certain kind of resilience to withstand that pressure.
Chelsea fans may have mixed feelings about their current manager, but he has not landed upon one of the biggest managerial jobs in the world by chance. It is his skill and accomplishments that have fuelled his journey from Real Madrid U19 manager to Stamford Bridge, via two league titles, a Champions League and plenty of other decorations.
Rafa Benitez may have already lost two of his eight league matches in charge—and he may be accused of underestimating the opposition when facing QPR, Corinthians and a few others—but Andre Villas-Boas, Carlo Ancelotti, Jose Mourinho and a number of others would concur that his job is not an easy one.
For now, Redknapp can back up his reductive dismissal with three points. He of all people, however, should know better than to trivialise the difficulties and strains of top-flight management.
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