April 29, 2012
How dare he? How dare this man, who has flirted with the England manager’s job since before it even became available, undermine our club… my club, by talking about the future of our best player, when he… this media Succubus, is unlikely to be even at the helm come the summer? So enraged am I, that I’ve done the only thing any middle-class football fan worth his salt would do; write a strongly-worded letter to the club.
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am writing with regard to the recent undermining nature of our manager’s press conferences; not just undermining the players but, more importantly, the club and fans.
Harry Redknapp has always had a reputation for being cosy with the media. Complaints about him have ranged from disrespecting other clubs by talking about their players whilst still under contract, to referring to the Tottenham Hotspur fan-base as “them”. He has, of course, ticked both of these boxes in the last seven days, but this is the tip of the iceberg. Please allow me to present some quotes from just the last week of press conferences:
“We haven’t got the biggest squad. Chelsea made eight changes to play Arsenal and still looked good. I only had one striker and two centre halves — Ledley King and William Gallas — and if one of those got injured I was bang in trouble and would have had to use Bongani Khumalo, who has been on loan at Reading this season and didn’t get in their side. We were desperate. I had five central defenders and now I have only two. I have lost Dawson, Kaboul and Nelsen.”
Where to start with this? Firstly, the size of the squad is entirely within his control – his hand was on the trigger finger in January when he let Corluka, Pienaar, and Pavlyuchenko leave, as well as younger players (like Townsend, Carroll and Kane) who had all impressed in the Europa League.
Secondly, it is incredible that he can bemoan losing Ryan Nelsen, who has grown increasingly injury prone throughout his career, and had only managed one match this season prior to joining us due to ongoing injury issues.
Finally, I was in utter disbelief when I read the reference to Bongani Khumalo. Not only is Bongani Khumalo a Harry Redknapp signing (or at least someone brought in under his reign); not only is he from our partnership club in South Africa, SuperSport United (and therefore these comments could be damaging to the club relations and marketing opportunities); not only is he a member of the squad that may well yet be needed (it is vital to keep spirits up amongst squad players – what must the others who didn’t make the bench think?); but he is human – this is a totally unnecessary slight. He has used Bongani as a tool to indicate to the chairman and fans that he is down to the “bare bones” (as he likes to say), and so it cannot possibly be his fault that we lost last week. At least Darren Bent can now rest easily knowing that it was nothing personal.
“I said to the chairman ‘Can you get me Carlos Tevez’. It wasn’t possible, but that was my dream, ‘Can we get Tevez’. We would have loved Tevez, but it wasn’t doable because his wages are whatever they are – £200,000 a week, it’s not possible at Tottenham to buy him.”
Carlos Tevez is under contract with Manchester City and so, firstly, it is totally disrespectful to him and them to discuss him openly like this – particularly matters of finance. In addition, I have no idea what planet Mr Redknapp is on if he thought that a rival club were going to sell us a key player in the January transfer window (bearing in mind the position we were in at the time), and that Tevez would join a club who pay a maximum of under half his wages. Finally, it is absolutely vital that a club of our stature, who pay top wages but not top wages think outside the box when it comes to transfers – was Tevez ‘Plan A’, and Saha ‘Plan B’? I personally find that concerning, and this comment shows Mr Redknapp as, at best, naive in the transfer market.
“No players have ever come to me and said: ‘Gaffer I feel tired’. If they said that then I would have left them out. Some of their stats have gone down but that’s because they have not wanted to run about enough, it’s not because they are particularly knackered. I didn’t play any of them in the Uefa Cup [sic], FA Cup, most of them didn’t play until the later rounds so, the players have probably played on average 30 games this year which I don’t think is a lot. Frank Lampard plays how many games a season? Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra are not being rotated, so it’s a load of nonsense. It’s an excuse.”
Firstly, Mr Redknapp is very wrong with his estimation of how many games our players have played – Walker has played 41, Assou-Ekotto 39, Bale 37, Modric 36, Kaboul 35, etc. Nine players have played 30 games or more, with four matches to go.
Ignoring that, his lack of understanding of fatigue, both mental and physical, is not only concerning, but must be a constant worry to the players, who need their bodies and minds in elite condition to maximise their earning potential. Speaking about tiredness in this way is not only patronising, but actually dangerous. The likes of Walker and Assou-Ekotto have had a big dip in form, which most fans agree is at least in part due to tiredness due to lack of rotation, but Mr Redknapp would rather blame the players than his own selection policy – “they have not wanted to run about enough”. Yet he himself spoke about the dangers of Scott Parker damaging a hamstring after the Norwich game – Parker is one of the players whose form has dipped most significantly due to over-use.
Mr Redknapp then changes his mind.
‘It’s my decision. It’s difficult to rotate a team. It’s okay to rotate if you have enough players to do it but I have not been in that position due to injuries.
Now the reason is not that he doesn’t want to rotate because the players don’t need to be rested, but because he hasn’t got enough players due to injury. At this point I feel I need to mention Corluka, Pienaar, etc again.
I saved my personal favourite on rotation until last.
“I don’t ever remember Bobby Moore getting rotated, nor Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Dave Mackay or Alan Mullery. They played ankle deep in mud every week.”
As a fan of our great club, I find myself cringing whenever Mr Redknapp takes to the floor, but none more so than having read this. Having played football during the 60s himself, he must realise that today’s game is far quicker, more intense, and puts a lot more strain on the body. The pitches that he references slowed the game down and meant that it was played at a fraction of the pace that matches are played at now. Today’s hard, flat pitches are great for the spectator, but mean that the players have to put more into a match. His apparent lack of understanding of modern football – or perhaps it isn’t that, perhaps it’s that he doesn’t like the way football has evolved – is a huge concern.
A lot of fans agree with Mr Redknapp’s comments about players not getting tired having played 30 games, etc. “It’s only one game a week for 30 weeks! How can they be tired?!” That attitude is totally missing the point. Players do not just need to be “not tired” – they need to be managed so that they are as close to their peak physical condition as possible, and this is where sports science should be used throughout the club. An extra 10% can be the difference between 3 points and 0 points.
“Last summer it was vital that we kept hold of Luka. I don’t think we will have to do it with people like Gareth Bale this summer. Luka, it’s different with him. I don’t know what he would do. I would be lying if I said I was sure that he would stay. You don’t know.”
The game this weekend is massive for the club. The manager, staff and players need to pull together and ensure that we get a win so that we can finish the season strongly. Commenting on the future of one of our key players in this way – hinting that he may leave this summer – is not only totally unnecessary, but potentially destructive. Not only this, it sends a message to Champions League clubs – Luka Modric is available for transfer. The correct way to answer any questions about Modric’s future would have been:
“I don’t want to speak about any contract or transfer situations at the moment – we have an important match to focus on”. If he was so desperate to comment on Modric’s future, he could even have said “Mr Levy decides when he lets contracted players leave, and any move would be with the best interest of the club in mind.”
In closing, I ask that you immediately relieve Mr Redknapp of his duties. And by duties, I mean press conference duties – let Kevin Bond do them for the rest of the season. Or Chirpy.