In the early days of Tottenham On My Mind I wrote a piece characterising the relationship between Harry Redknapp and his chairman. The title, Levy is Redknapp’s Poodle, summed up their dealings during their first summer transfer window together. At his previous clubs, Redknapp ensured large sums of cash were at his disposal, even when at West Ham and Portsmouth that money wasn’t really there to spend. His appointment signalled a potential sea change in attitude by the cautious and parsimonious Levy and the possibility of any policy clashes further receded after Redknapp’s success in averting disaster placed even greater power in his hands. What Harry wants, Harry gets.
Over the next two years, I came to revise that assessment. Like many before, I had underestimated the quiet man’s resolution. Redknapp was clearly given boundaries for the first time in his managerial career since he left Bournemouth. He operated within a strict salary structure and transfer fee budget. Given Harry’s garrulous nature and his cosy relationship with an adoring media, his frustrations occasionally surfaced but by and large he seemed happy enough. Success on the pitch helped. Now, with a watershed season already under way but a lack of new signings, Redknapp can’t contain himself any longer. Restlessness has become thinly disguised antagonism. The tail is trying to wag the dog.
His comments yesterday are all over the media. It’s classic Harry. He’s relaxed and reflective, understanding the situation facing his best player: “…if someone comes along and offers to treble your wages..” note the use of ‘wages’ not ‘salary’, old school is Harry….” and could win the Champions League, it’s not easy….he’s had his head turned.”
Yet he “wants to see him here at the start of the year…” Harry mate, we’ve started already…”I don’t see him going.” But hang on, there’s more: …”if he goes you get three or four players…They’re your options: get the money and get four players, and in all honesty have a better team, or keep Luka who is a fantastic player.”
Harry the pundit, taking a reasonable overview of the situation. Except he’s not a pundit commenting on the state of play, he’s our manager. He has a job to do, to get the best possible team for Tottenham Hotspur. At least he said ‘we’ and ‘our’ this time.
In fact, he doesn’t want to keep Luka at all. He wants the money to buy more players and ‘have a better team’. Thus he is in direct conflict with his chairman, who some time ago said unequivocally that Modric is not for sale, then kept a dignified silence.
Not only is our club riven with conflict at the very top precisely at the time when crucial decisions are being taken at the beginning of this watershed season, it’s revealed in the media for all to see. It’s bad enough our dirty washing gets an airing in public but Redknapp is blatantly using the publicity to gain leverage over his chairman.
In my limited dealings with the club and with people who have had dealings with the club, they are intensely controlling of things like access to the staff and information about behind the scenes activity. Yet Redknapp can say what he likes. He’s so powerful, he kept his newspaper column as well as spewing out quotes about anything going on in the game. Journalists pick over the bones of the slightest incident or event in football, yet Redknapp is not criticised and is more untouchable even than Alex Ferguson. Call him a ‘wheeler-dealer’ and he’s at your throat, one win in 10 and Harry’s working hard to get it right.
Levy does not want to sell Modric or he’s playing hardball to make Chelsea sweat. Redknapp says ‘sell’. Either way, keep it quiet and sort it out behind closed doors. Redknapp’s instinct to deal via the media serves his own interests more than it does those of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. His employer. As it is, he’s openly blaming Levy for not coming up with the cash for new players, cash which in passing surely does not have to come solely from the sale of one player. We have some cash from Keane plus O’Hara and deals will be done for several fringe players in the frenzied last few days of the window. Then there’s £31m from the Champions League and a well-run club.
While I’m at it, sell Luka for even £30m to bring in ‘three or four’ quality players – the sums don’t add up. It smacks of Redknapp getting his excuses in early – fail and it’s not his fault because he didn’t have the players.
I’ve been clear on the blog about my attitude towards our manager. I will always be grateful for taking us from the foot of the table to the quarter finals of the Champions League, in the process serving up scintillating football played by superb players. To say there’s more he could have done and still can do is not to diminish that achievement. I’ve never accepted his media personna as a cuddly uncle figure who just has to drape his arm round a man’s shoulders to transform him into a worldbeater. He’s crafty and shrewd, knows the game inside out and is tough as old boots. Fine by me – I don’t want a shrinking violet as manager because it’s a hard old game out there – but don’t try to fool me. Don’t like it, never have.
However, I’m tired of this game-playing in the media. It seems no one is prepared to control him so he needs to exercise some self-control for the sake of our club. Our club, Harry, our club.
To finish with, let’s talk about the team. There are serious issues here. If Levy is reluctant to release cash for transfers, even if it means paying a little over the odds, at this point in our history it could have disastrous consequences. If on the other hand he hangs on to make one of his legendary (or infamous?) late deals, he could be our saviour. Right now, all we know is that relations between manager and chairman have plummeted to a new low. After the window is over, something has to give and history suggests it won’t be Levy. The prospect of Spurs caught up in these internal conflicts is the very last scenario I had in mind as our season kicks off in a few hours time.