‘Al Murray’s Sunday radio show on 5Live has a running gag called ‘Not News’ where he reads out items that have been splashed all over the media but aren’t in the least surprising. Kerry Katona puts on weight, the banks make lots of money, Kerry Katona loses weight or, to be topical, Camilla wearing a ghastly hat. Feel free to shout out the ‘not news’ catchphrase after every paragraph in this piece. Spurs have been filling the blogs and boards but frankly, nothing’s happened.
We haven’t bought a decent Belgian centre half. This has caused many to castigate Levy, become disillusioned with the direction the club is taking and so turn to synchronised swimming or korfball. On the basis of no accurate information but hey. Ledley King hasn’t been released or retired. He may have to, but talks are continuing. No obituaries to write yet. Redknapp was definitely certainly 100% ITKdonedeal leaving last Friday but guess what. So much fuss, so many meaningful interpretations. Churlish then for me to point out that what has happened is nothing.
And as we’re talking about nothing, Harry Redknapp has been on SSN again. The station of 24 hour rolling nothingness stuck a mic in front of him and like Pavlov’s dog, HR obliged. When I started this blog 3 years ago, I determined not to focus unduly on Redknapp. I always felt he was flim flam in front of the media. To prove the point, I began a page dedicated to his quotes but I soon gave it up because, one, there was so much of it I couldn’t possibly keep up without leaving work to concentrate on this endeavour full-time, and two, it merely proved what I already knew – he contradicts himself all the time.
He and I reached an accommodation – he doesn’t think too much about what he says so I don’t take very much notice. It works well for both of us. He’s not complained at any rate. Sometimes, however, it’s worth dwelling not so much on what he says but why. The best recent example was his blathering after the Norwich debacle where his decidedly odd comments about picking a team and formation he knew was wrong revealed a manager coming to terms with the stark reality that he’d lost his way. Yesterday, he said something about the Champions League being ‘overrated’. Critics have seized on this as proof, or in their eyes further proof, that he has no ambition but honestly, it’s just stuff that he says. He was actually talking about inflated salaries: players cite their ambition to play in the CL as a reason to move whereas in fact they merely want more cash, any excuse. Naively perhaps, I like to think there’s something of the football purist in him, that he wants players to see the best opportunities measured by the game itself rather than their bank balance. Mainly, though, there’s the bitterness and resentment of a manager who sees his best players tempted by something Spurs cannot and will not offer. The CL has nothing to do with it: we can’t afford the money so we don’t pay. If anything, it’s about ambition thwarted.
More revealing are his comments about his contract. He’s thinking of the club first and foremost. Not signing a new deal unsettles the players because there’s only a year to run. Of course a couple of months ago he dismissed any suggestion that the possibility of him becoming England manager was unsettling those same players but this is Redknapp, just stuff he says. He adds that you wouldn’t let a player’s contract run down to the last year but the comparison is spurious because players command a transfer fee.
It’s not about the club, it’s about him. He wants Levy to sort him out something sweet and is prepared go on TV even though his chairman is sitting shiva for his late mother. Allegedly he’s hired Paul Stretford, Wayne Rooney’s agent. Now this is significant. Stretford is not the most popular man, according to many media reports. By encouraging his main client to agitate for a transfer, he unleashed a torrent of abuse from the fans, a risky strategy but one that paid off, handsomely in fact as Rooney luxuriated in a new contract.
This has all the same hallmarks: Redknapp has upped the stakes, suspiciously at the behest of his advisor. Not necessarily a good call: HR doesn’t deserve to be sacked but he’s not indispensible. I’m all in favour of continuity but Redknapp has had three years, a fourth is right then let’s see where we are. If he attracts the right players and keep what we have, there’s plenty for a new man to work with 12 months down the line.
As I said last month, Levy has put Spurs into the right position. He shouldn’t tie us down to a long-term contract for a man who should have more time but not an indefinite amount and who is nearing the end of his career. Other clubs, notably Liverpool recently and Newcastle after Allardyce and entourage left, have fallen into that trap and paid out millions in compensation when their man has failed. Like any good businessman, Levy has given himself options.
Redknapp should be committed to stay because we have a fine team and a great club. Oh, and at over £4m a year he’s one of the best paid managers in the world. Put all that together, that’s motivation enough. He’d say as much to any of his squad. Redknapp stopped short of ‘back me or sack me’ but the Sun at least has called it ‘war’ between manager and chairman while the Times reiterates the story of the board’s fury at Harry taking his eye off the ball at the end of last season. Levy has backed him – no knee-jerk reaction and money for new players. Redknapp will never shut up so I’m back to ignoring him. Levy’s done right by the club and that’s all that needs to be said.