England: Should Tottenham Boss Harry Redknapp Succeed Fabio Capello?

Tony MabertContributor ISeptember 21, 2011

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Manager of Tottenham Hotspur, Harry Redknapp looks on prior to the Pre Season Friendly match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur at Amex Stadium on July 30, 2011 in Brighton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)
Tom Dulat/Getty Images

When Fabio Capello steps down from his role as manager of the England national team after the European Championship in 2012, it is almost inevitable that there will be a clamour for his replacement to be an Englishman.

Fans and media alike have grown tired of the Italian's perceived detachment from the emotional side of the job, which has become a prerequisite of anyone who takes charge of the Three Lions. That he has been in the employ of the FA for almost four years but has still to master to language of his adopted country is also a source of frustration for many during difficult times.

The 65-year-old's assertion that he only needs to know a "maximum 100 words" to do his job does not sit well with the homeland of Shakespeare, Chaucer and Wordsworth.

While Harry Redknapp will be the first to admit that he also lacks the rich vocabulary of such esteemed literary heavyweights, he has made little secret of his ambition to take on the top job once Capello bids his predetermined farewell.

Through press conference appearances and newspaper columns, Redknapp has often stated how managing the 1966 World Cup winners should be the ultimate ambition for any true Englishman, something he happens to be. 

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While other English bosses may cautiously dodge the issue when mentioned so as not to be throwing their hat in the ring, Redknapp has never been shy about exclaiming what an honour it would be to take on one of the most pressurised jobs in international football. 

Given his nationality, his experience (he is one of only 18 men to have managed more than 1,000 matches in English club football) and his current status as the only Englishman in charge of a top side, in theory Redknapp is a shoo-in for the job. However, the FA harbour reservations about hiring the 64-year-old.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20:  Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp looks on during the Carling Cup Third Round match between Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur at the Britannia Stadium on September 20, 2011 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Mich
Michael Regan/Getty Images

This summer's transfer saga involving Luka Modric saw Redknapp go off-message with the media by making statements which contradicted those of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. Last season he dismissed supporters who were critical of the team losing its top-four place as "idiots."

The straight-talking Cockney has built a reputation for calling it as he sees it, an admirable virtue in an era of football double-speak but one which would have the FA constantly worrying whether he was going to toe the party line or not.

Despite his 'Poplar barrow boy' persona, Redknapp has often been caught going back on some of his own previous emphatic statements. 

For all his experience in the game, which now includes time spent in the knockout phase of the Champions League, Redknapp has no experience of international football either as a player or as a coach.

Capello himself is one of the most decorated managers in the game and arrived with an almost spotless reputation, but even he was exposed as a novice at the helm of an international team at last year's World Cup in South Africa.

Redknapp may vehemently refute the commonly held perception that he is a "wheeler-dealer," but it is difficult not to conclude that a large part of his success has been based on his consistently enthusiastic activity in the transfer market.

That is a luxury which will not be afforded him at international level, save for recruiting the odd foreign-born star who may become eligible to play for England. The question as to whether or not he can cope by managing with what he has at a high level has never been truly answered.

And, of course, there is the elephant in the room that is his potentially impending trial for tax irregularities relating to his time in charge of Portsmouth. Terry Venables had to step down from the England job after taking the team to the semifinals of Euro '96 because of his own court battles, so it is inconceivable that the FA would make any approach to Redknapp until his own legal affairs are cleared up one way or another.

This current state of affairs shows up the current stories about his potential installation before Euro 2012 as a nonsense.

For all those off-pitch issues, however, Redknapp's record on the field certainly puts him in the running as a candidate. Before taking Tottenham all the way from the Premier League relegation zone to a European Cup quarterfinal via wins over both Milan clubs, he became the first English manager to win the FA Cup in 13 years with Portsmouth in 2008.

Four years previously, Steve McClaren had joined the small club of English bosses to lift a trophy in the past two decades when he led Middlesbrough to success in the Carling Cup and then took the club to the UEFA Cup final the following season. Subsequently, he was rewarded with the England job upon Sven-Goran Eriksson's departure.

Given that precedent, Redknapp's superior track record justifies his place as the favourite to take the job next summer. Relegation while in charge of Southampton remains the only significant blot on his copybook in terms of results.

He possesses the ability to motivate his players ahead of big matches, especially when the odds are stacked against them, an attribute which is vital in international football when you either only have your players together for days at a time or for intense two-month periods during tournaments.

Conversely, he has also been known to shun players in his squad who he does not like the look of or who have not produced the goods after he has signed them. While at club level he could simply sell them in the next transfer window; such ostracising of players in an international squad environment could mean them being dropped from the squad, never to return under his reign even if they continued to have something to offer. 

Redknapp also has an unrivaled rapport with the English media, something that would be highly advantageous when coming under scrutiny for risky squad selections or when results do not go his way.  

His old-school attitude that football is a simple game—just 11 men against 11 kicking a round ball—is both his greatest asset and the source of potential shortcomings against the very best managers. However, it would be foolish to to believe that; a seasoned a campaigner as he would be so naive as to the importance of tactics and nous when the occasion demanded.

Redknapp's position as a front-runner for the England job is warranted, but the FA should be sure to thoroughly explore all other options—English or otherwise—before they settle on him. 

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