It was announced on Thursday that Harry Redknapp had joined Derby County in the role of football advisor. A statement from the club read that Redknapp has joined the Rams until the end of the season, in order to assist rookie head coach Darren Wassall with first team affairs.
The move is the latest in a series of strange decisions made by the people in charge at Derby, and the surprising appointment of Redknapp has raised more questions than it has answers.
It was only in January when Paul Clement was abruptly dismissed as Rams head coach. It was a decision Chairman Mel Morris claimed was down to Clement having more of a short team perspective on where team were/should be heading to his own, rather than the team’s drastic slump in form after Christmas.
The overriding reaction to the news must be; why exactly has Redknapp been brought in? The timing seems somewhat curious, as if almost a direct consequence of Derby’s meek surrender of a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 at Rotherham at the weekend. If that is indeed the case, then the decision by the powers that be at the iPro Stadium seems to have been borne out of desperation.
The appointment of Wassall as Clement’s replacement has failed to reverse the team’s fortunes, and with Derby’s season and promotion chances seemingly imploding, is Redknapp’s arrival one final roll of the dice from Morris to get the club’s disillusioned supporters back on side?
Speaking after the dismissal of Paul Clement in an interview with BBC Radio Derby, Mel Morris stressed that promotion to the Premier League was allegedly not the primary objective for the club this season. The comments were met with a degree of disbelief from sections of Rams supporters, who found Morris’ statements regarding promotion to be somewhat at odds with the club’s pre-season spending, in which they forked out in excess of £20m on players to bolster the squad ahead of the season.
It would not be unreasonable for Rams fans to expect promotion given the club’s outlay on transfers, only for them to then be told that promotion was not the primary aim. If Morris sincerely meant that, then fair enough. However, the appointment of Redknapp, a veteran manager known for getting teams into the Premier League before his career, being brought in at this stage of the season, again seems to be sending mixed messages as to what the club is attempting to achieve this season.
Criticism has also been levelled at Chairman Morris for talk of what he considers to be ‘The Derby Way’ when addressing the sacking of Clement to the media. Supporters have questioned the validity of the term, as well as the relative ambiguity of Morris’ explanation as to what the Derby Way actually entails.
Appointing Wassall as new head coach, a former Academy Director and ex-player who was promoted from within the club, was a move that at least made sense in that regard. A man with as sound of an understanding of the club and its inner workings and values as Wassall did, would appear to be more in sync with what ‘The Derby Way’ may have represented, than say Paul Clement, an outsider who did not share the same kind of emotional attachment to Derby County as his successor.
Questions must again be raised then, as in Harry Redknapp they have brought in someone who presumably is unfamiliar with the club and what the Derby way is. Is bringing in Redknapp as football advisor an admission from the people that run the club that the Wassall experiment has failed? Again that would appear to be the case, and Wassall has supposedly requested some extra help with managing the first team duties of the club. It would be harsh to pin too much blame on Wassall, a dignified man who has done great work with the academy, but a man who has been thrown in the deep end with the task of turning around an under-achieving club going through something of an identity crisis.
The latest development at the iPro Stadium has pretty much shown that an experienced manager was actually what was needed to steady the Derby ship after Clement’s sacking and that appointing someone like Redknapp (though not necessarily him) should have been the direction needed in the immediate aftermath of the Clement sacking. Darren Wassall is not and never was going to be the solution to the club’s problems, and the gamble has now left Derby further adrift than they were, and surely in no better shape than they would have been had Paul Clement been given to at least the end of the season.
Harry’s arrival could well turn out to be a good move. He certainly has the experience and know-how to arrest a slide like this one, and could give Wassall the support and pointers needed to refine his work as a manager and turn around the club’s fortunes. It would be foolish to completely right off a man with the knowledge of the game that Redknapp undoubtedly has, and it will be interesting to see how his presence will influence Derby’s on-field exploits between now and the end of the season.
Supporters of the Rams will no doubt be hopeful that the move turns out to be a season saving master-stroke. Unfortunately, Redknapp’s introduction only appears to be another stop-gap solution to the wider issues facing Derby. It has all the marks of another Mel Morris U-turn regarding what his vision for the club is, and what the aim truly is for Derby County this season. The club is crying out for some consistency, both in terms of the words coming from the Chairman, performances on the pitch and in who is truly in charge of first team affairs.
A short-term advisory collaboration between Darren Wassall and Harry Redknapp is unlikely to provide that, and Derby will probably be back to square one in their search for the correct coaching infrastructure come the end of the season.