You’d forgive Harry Redknapp for looking back over the last four months and thinking, ‘What just happened?’
Back in February, having just been cleared of tax fraud, establishing a 10 point cushion in third place and with Fabio Capello’s P45 tucked under his arm as he headed back to Italy, it seemed he’d be leading Spurs back into the Champions League, followed by his inevitable succession to the England post.
Thanks to a late season Spurs collapse, a couple of flukey Chelsea Champions League victories, and the FA strangely ignoring the media’s narrative and appointing the man best for the job, ‘Arry now finds himself out of a job, and given the trend of employing young, dynamic managers to oversee the building of long-term projects, Redknapp’s managerial options, in the Premier League at least, are severely limited.
Trying hard to ignore the media’s sickening sycophancy surrounding all things Redknapp, it’s clear that his time at Spurs was successful – masterminding famous victories against AC Milan, Inter and Arsenal, overseeing the rise of grade A talent like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric and establishing Spurs as an attacking and attractive top four team are not achievements to be taken lightly.
He’s also a much more tactically astute manager than he’s given credit for, despite his supposed emphasis on ‘passion’ – He’s frequently made key changes in both formations and personnel during matches, perhaps most notably in the 3-2 win at the Emirates when he brought on Jermain Defore and Aaron Lennon at half time, injecting pace and thrust into the side, to seize the initiative.
With the above in mind, Redknapp’s dismissal cannot have been an easy decision for Daniel Levy to make, but it’s a key indicator of the ruthlessness that the Tottenham chairman is famous for. He clearly didn’t see Redknapp as being able to regenerate this aging side and ensuring they remain competitive both domestically and in Europe. Levy’s challenge now is to find a successor for Harry that can maintain Spurs’ status as one of the top five clubs in the country.
With another season mssing the allure of the Champions League, both Bale and Modric have attracted admiring glances from several of Europe’s biggest clubs. Levy was able to resist Chelsea’s lures last season, but should similar interest reoccur this summer, it seems unlikely that Levy would turn down the chance of a £35-40 Million windfall to keep an unhappy and want-away player at the club. Particularly when that money is desperately needed to freshen up a tired, aging and injury-prone squad.
The two key areas of the team that the Spurs manager will have to address, and fast, are clearly defence and attack. Jermain Defoe is now the only recognised, proven forward at the club, and, he’s been making suggestions his future may belong elsewhere. At least two quality strikers (three if Defoe leaves) are required to add depth and nouse to Spurs’ attack, but with Leandro Damiao ruling himself out of a move, and Spurs’ wage structure preventing Adebayor’s permanent signing, the scouting team will need to work hard to find shrewd , cost-effective signings, similar to Nikica Jelavic and Papiss Cisse last year, who can come in and make a difference.
Defensively, with Ledley King rumoured to be hanging up his boots, and an over-reliance on the aging Gallas and injured Dawson, some younger reinforcements are a necessity to ensure that the older contingent of players don’t suffer from fatigue as badly as they did in the latter stages of last season. Jan Vertonghen and Jonas Olsonn looks set to arrive, which is good start, and cover is also needed at right back to give the excellent Kyle Walker some back-up and competition. Outside of these areas, Brad Friedel and Scott Parker are both nearing the end of their careers, and finding replacements of a similar quality to replace them is likely to be both challenging and expensive.
Any new manager coming in will need to place far more trust in his entire squad than Redknapp, who only really had faith in his chosen first XI, in order to minimize the damage of another potentially gruelling Europa League campaign, making the injection of youth that the team needs even more of a pressing issue. Even now, Spurs will be playing catch-up in the transfer market, with Arsenal and Chelsea both already making significant strides in the transfer market, while City’s riches will be burning a hole in Mancini’s pocket as he eyes his next mega-signing.
Off the pitch, the issue of the Spurs’ new stadium remains unresolved, and every year of inaction ensures Spurs fall further behind their rivals commercially, as they rake in nearly three times the amount of revenue per match. The jobs of the backroom staff are also far from certain, with Joe Jordan and Clive Allen both unsure of where their futures may lie, now Redknapp’s departure has been confirmed adding to the potential instability around the club.
Redknapp’s departure has led Spurs and Levy to a fork in the road. Bring in a young, ambitious and astute manager, augment the squad with three or four quality signings, and keeping hold of key players like Bale and Modric should provide enough of a platform Spurs to maintain their success of recent years.
Conversely, it doesn’t take the biggest leap of imagination to see Spurs most valuable assets being lured away with the promise of far greater riches and Champions League football, and slipping back into the ‘Best of the Rest’ status they used to be so familiar with.