Belfast Telegraph

James Lawton: After court case, Harry Redknapp will find England job a pleasure

Having cleared his name in Southwark Crown Court, Harry Redknapp is now merely obliged to justify the belief that he may well be the saviour of England's national team, which is once again in a dock of its own on a charge of chronic dysfunction and with any number of cases to be taken into consideration.

The suspicion must be that having won over one jury Redknapp will find the new challenge filled with the sweetest simplicity if at some point between now and the summer he makes an amicable parting with the Tottenham he has served so brilliantly.

In court Redknapp was required to admit to a range of vulnerabilities, not least an inability to write a letter any more successfully than the average two-year-old.

Never in question, though, were the qualities which brought him such distinction as the Freedom of Portsmouth on his journey from the streets of east London. These included, supremely, an implicit understanding of what makes professional footballers function at optimum levels.

Add the durability that carried him through a life-threatening car crash in Italy and, more recently, emergency heart-surgery at a time of soaring pressure, and certainly it is understandable enough that so many always believed that his skirmish against Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs was the last obstacle to the England job.

There are complications, not least his loyalty to the club he first knew as a youth footballer in the company of titans as Dave Mackay and Danny Blanchflower. Redknapp was at pains to underline these feelings on the courtroom steps and he made a special point of thanking Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy for the depth of his support. Yet when England calls, few football men of Redknapp's background are inclined to resist.

That was certainly the case with Terry Venables, whose difficulties in business life proved an insuperable burden in the offices of the Football Association when he sought to build on the foundation of the impressive work which led to the team's appearance in the European Championship semi-finals and the haunting memory of Paul Gascoigne's miss against eventual champions Germany.

Yet Venables inspired a level of player loyalty unseen since the days of Sir Alf Ramsey. He knew the strengths and the weaknesses of the professional player, and for many the failure of the FA elders to grasp the importance of this will always be one of the great missed opportunities of the national game.

It is not likely to be a mistake repeated by a new generation of football administrators if Redknapp does make himself available for reassignment. In all his courtroom self-deprecation, Redknapp was not shy in suggesting that if he was never going to challenge Joey Barton in the Twittersphere he was nonetheless a "fantastic football manager".

Self-praise is not generally a recommendation but here, certainly, was a weighty version. Redknapp's claim that he was an innocent in financial affairs, notwithstanding his personal wealth, was accepted by the jury but there can have been no grounds for reflection when he asserted his standing in football.

Fantastic manager? It's a mighty claim but there is no pain in accepting that he is one with a wonderful touch who is armed with that vital quality of understanding how to make players draw the best from themselves and those around them. His work at White Hart Lane has been brilliantly constructive and at times nothing less than sublime.

There are a number of striking examples but most dramatic is the case of Gareth Bale. He was a notable under-performer when bequeathed to Redknapp. Now he is one of the prime targets of the big guns of European football.

What Redknapp has imposed upon the Spurs of Bale and Modric and Van der Vaart and such promising young England contenders as Michael Dawson and Kyle Walker is a pattern of coherence which he says is pretty much absent from areas of his own life. The tactics are not elaborate but the priorities appear to be written in stone. They are about a clear idea of how each player is supposed to relate to another, which is especially valuable from an international manager who gets limited time with his charges. It also conforms to the old pro declaration that, "football is a simple game but it takes a hell of a lot of hard work to make it so".

Harry Redknapp has never worked harder than in these last desperate days when his football future, and so much of the meaning of his life, was so precariously at stake. Now, it is hard not to believe, comes the easy part.

Belfast Telegraph


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