From England hopeful to the scrapheap in three years
It was never going to be a happy ending for Harry Redknapp and Queens Park Rangers, a marriage that has often appeared strained, and the divorce will be lamented by few. The final throes have been ugly and the denouement reflective of a messy period in which no one has emerged smelling of roses.
It seems remarkable that less than three years ago Redknapp was the favourite for the England job. Since that avenue was closed things have never quite seemed the same for a man whose usual joie de vivre has looked diminished, tested during a long season in the Championship and a current campaign that has yet to provide a single point away from home.
His departure – decided by a 5.30am phone call the morning after a tellingly tranquil transfer deadline day – says it all, although Redknapp has insisted that he “hasn’t got the hump” with Tony Fernandes, the QPR owner who on Monday said there would be “no more chequebook” at a club that has splurged so much in recent years.
There have been terse press conferences, an internal discussion about conduct following an embarrassing feud with Adel Taarabt, and some truly awful performances.
Most notable was the 3-0 home defeat by Sheffield United in the FA Cup, in addition to the morale-sapping malaise away from Loftus Road in the league.
For Redknapp it has all unravelled rather dramatically since his appearance at Southwark Crown Court in 2012, when he was cleared of tax evasion. Soon after that the Football Association turned to Roy Hodgson following Fabio Capello’s resignation as England coach. Then his Tottenham side were denied a place in the Champions League despite finishing fourth and he was sacked by Spurs.
The England situation was a major blow. While Hodgson was preparing his squad for a World Cup last summer, Redknapp was trotted out in central London as the face of a new bookmaker. He ended up talking 1966 and dealt admirably with questions about England’s chances in Brazil, but it must have been a painful experience.
By that point QPR had achieved promotion back to the top flight, an excellent achievement but one that was not without a dollop of good fortune. Many would argue Redknapp should have bowed out then, but Bobby Zamora’s late goal at Wembley provided another shot at the big time.
It proved ill-fated and the writing was on the wall on Monday when Fernandes dipped into Twitter to discuss potential transfer dealings: “We have good players,” he wrote. “Bought all the players manager asked for in summer. Our players not mercenaries. Good guys. Given the right motivation, tactics and coaching we can achieve much more.”
There was to be no car-window interview at Harlington this deadline day, no TV cameo for a man who has previously revelled in all the hullabaloo and indulgent hype of the occasion. Instead Redknapp was left thwarted in the market, most notably when failing to sign Emmanuel Adebayor on loan from Tottenham and with a doomed attempt to send Mauro Zárate back on loan to West Ham in exchange for Matt Jarvis, having only signed the Argentinian a few weeks earlier.
Hamstrung by indulgence
In many ways he has been hamstrung by the indulgence of the previous regime, with QPR having spent extortionate amounts and falling spectacularly foul of financial fair play regulations. Jordon Mutch departed for £4.5-million last week but there were to be no late incomings.
Last summer Steven Caulker, Rio Ferdinand, Leroy Fer and Sandro arrived but Redknapp’s Rangers have never produced the kind of exhilarating football so common during his time at Tottenham. It was often stodgy fare, reliant on individuals to pull something out of nothing.
There were exceptions, notably the defeat by Liverpool in October, but those kinds of display have been all too rare during a campaign in which the win ratio stands at 18.8%, the lowest of any permanent QPR manager in Premier League history. No other team have lost their opening 11 away games in the top flight since 1953-‘54.
The appointment of Les Ferdinand as head of football operations – a title Redknapp described as stupid – did nothing to help the team before Redknapp’s early morning phone call on Tuesday and the explanation that immediate knee surgery would leave him unable to work. He said: “I still don’t think I’m finished with football.” But whether his managerial career is over remains uncertain. He may well return from surgery reinvigorated, determined to avenge a decline that has left QPR on the ropes and Redknapp out in the cold. – © Guardian News & Media Ltd, 2015