Marriage of Inconvenience

15 May

A year ago, soundtracked by a score of ethereal tranquillity and the desolate scattering of rustling papers in the wind, Nick Clegg went for a walk across this country’s dales and tower blocks. He looked us square in the eye and decried that politics had let us all down. He called it “a trail of broken promises” and he vowed that should we vote for him and his party, fairness would be restored to a society that had been ravaged by the gluttony of the Thatcher years and the self-serving transparency of the Blair era. He believed his words and so did I.

In that same month a year ago, Peter Crouch took the chance that came his way and scored the goal that would propel Tottenham Hotspur into the stratosphere and fly in the face of those who believe that money is all one needs to succeed in the world. Manchester City’s avarice had been repelled. Goodness and virtue had been rewarded. Harry Redknapp roundly received praise for his ‘miraculous’ turnaround of a club long in the doldrums. Harry believed his words. So did the press. He even sang a song to hawk The Sun during the World Cup. I wasn’t so sure.

Twelve months later, Clegg’s Liberal Democrats find themselves decimated in the polling booths, ridiculed on a nigh-on daily basis by a right-wing press and the man himself appears drained of all the vim and vigour that made his optimism seem so appealing not so long ago. Having entered into a coalition government in which the Conservatives seem quite happy to bide their time until the uneasy alliance collapses under the weight of ideological incompatibility, Clegg has sat back and watched every significant pledge of his crumble for the sake of unity. In this marriage of convenience, it would seem that David Cameron is the Ibsen-esque patriarch, crushing the hopes and dreams of his wife as he and his cronies rub their hands at the latest Lib Dem gaff.

Twelve months later, having seen the European dream crumble to dust with an act of recklessness and a goal-keeping calamity, Spurs see their magnificent season receding into the distance. Needing a victory to maintain any kind of Champions League challenge at Eastlands on Tuesday, Crouch scored once more. Tellingly, it was at the wrong end. That one moment encapsulated Spurs’ run-in. One win in thirteen games, a goalkeeper shot of confidence, a serious injury sustained by the Player of the Season and the vultures circling around the club’s prized assets do not indicate a summer of quiet, happy satisfaction for Spurs fans.

Redknapp meanwhile does not see any huge cause for concern. On Match of the Day 2 last week he all but wrote off Spurs’ chances of finishing in the top four next season. Tottenham supporters are beginning to re-assess their own marriage of convenience with a manager who has never made any apology for the fact that he would be willing to move to greener pastures should the opportunity prove attractive. Unlike Nick Clegg however, Redknapp never makes any promises. By doing so, he needn’t ever be held to account. In fact, his default riposte to any kind of criticism from fans is to point to the fact that Spurs were rock bottom of the Premier League when he took over and we should more or less bow in gratitude for everything he has done for the club.

The Champions League was indeed a wonderful experience. To suggest that Spurs were incapable of reaching such a summit without Harry is folly. Martin Jol was close and had he not suffered at the hands of boardroom politics, he would have undoubtedly succeeded. Many who know me will attest to the fact that I have never let the sacking of Jol go. It rankles me. Because in Jol, I saw a manager whom I genuinely believe had the best interests of the club at heart. Redknapp however, for all the good he has indeed done, is always quick to mock Spurs supporters with pithy asides. Can anyone genuinely, hand-on-heart believe that he would see the job through if a better offer came along?

In that respect, Redknapp epitomises everything that was wrong with the governments of the last thirty years. He embodies the philosophy of the self-made working-class Tory who is quick to proclaim his roots whilst also looking out to advance himself at all costs. Spending lavishly on players that a club like Portsmouth simply could not afford, he and his acolytes vanished into the night as the south coast club fell apart at the seams. His response to the justified anger of the Pompey faithful was to shrug and suggest that they should feel lucky that he had brought them the greatest period of success in recent memory.  Tell that to the administrative staff that were made redundant or the four hundred local businesses that remained unpaid for undertaking work for Portsmouth whilst the club spiralled out of control with debts totalling £120 million. Boom and bust, played out on the football field. Blair and Brown’s proverbial chickens come home to roost. Redknapp may not have been totally responsible but he was certainly complicit.

As the summer approaches, Nick Clegg is in danger of losing all the credibility that he so successfully garnered for himself last May. He has probably lost that already. Nevertheless, in his face, you can detect a man who was truly caught between a rock and a hard place. I don’t think he has stopped believing in his core values. He is just trapped in a coalition government in which he is forced to compromise to the will of far shrewder and power-hungry partners. Much like Spurs fans are.

Don’t be surprised if over the summer you wake up to find Luka Modric modelling the latest brand design of Manchester United or Gareth Bale being unveiled as the latest addition to the galaxy of Galacticos. As for Harry, like David Cameron, he’s biding his time. His jingoistic friends in the press are clamouring for him to succeed Fabio Capello and it won’t be too long before England press conferences are reduced to sycophantic laugh-ins.

Spurs fans will stay put though. What choice do we have? The campaign to ‘Bring Back Jol’ starts here…

Dispatches From A Football Sofa has been nominated for the EPL Talk Football Blog of the Season award. If you would like to vote for it, just click on the link below. Thanks. Voting closes Sunday 22nd May.

5 Responses to “Marriage of Inconvenience”

  1. SpursSimon May 15, 2011 at 19:37 #

    I guessed right on the theme – do I win a prize!!

  2. peter white May 15, 2011 at 20:53 #

    I think its a bit harsh to suggest that there is something wrong with someone wanting to better themselves. I love spurs, I always will. But to be the manager of your country is the realisation of a dream. I wont hold it against him if he is offered the “top job” or accepts it. If he took the arsenal job……………………..that is dfifferent

  3. Steve HUghes May 16, 2011 at 11:42 #

    I have to say I agree with Peter that you’ve been a little harsh on Harry. I can see exactly what you’re saying and nobody likes it when a manager (and it’s almost always a successful one) starts acting like he’s owed something and he’d leave for a better offer. But as Peter says, as an English manager the job of coaching the national team is still the highest honour (just ask Brian Clough!) so it’s hard to begrudge him this. I remember being in Reading when Alan Pardew left for ‘bigger’ club West Ham, even though they were below the Royals in the league. It hurt the fans, but Pardew was ambitious and he took his chance. The best (and when I say best I mean successful) managers are rarely the most endearing. Loyalty is a rare commodity in the modern game, and while we have great respect for Tony Pulis and Dario Gradi, their trophy cabinets are permanently empty.

    Harry is never going to go down in history as a Billy Nic or an El Tel. He’s a West Ham fan for a start (or is it Arsenal?)! He’s a dodgy geezer, wheeler-dealer businessman who has a habit of getting the best out of his players. His record in the financial side of things is dodgy to say the least, but it is impossible to lay any large proportion of the blame on the manager for the fate of Portsmouth. The chairman is ultimately in charge of the club. Get a strong chairman and these problems don’t occur. Yes, the scene at Portsmouth with the money owed to businesses is an ugly one. But Redknapp received the freedom of the city – surely this shows they can’t blame him too much.

    I can understand the resentment over Jol. To Jol (unlike Redknapp), Spurs were by far the biggest thing that had happened to him. Of course he gave it everything, and the board treated him like dirt. But none of this was Harry’s fault. And when he took over Spurs WERE rock bottom of the league. You push someone in a corner and start criticising and they are bound to point out the facts. I think any manager, having turned around the fortunes of a club, would have the right to say that. He knows the end of the season has been disappointing and I’ll bet behind closed doors he’s furious. It never pays to wear your heart on your sleeve during TV interviews. Just ask Kevin Keegan.

    Anyway, of the two protagonists in this blog, I know whose shoes I’d rather be in. And it isn’t Nick Clegg’s.

    Vote cast….

  4. Luxury Player May 16, 2011 at 19:01 #

    I like your decision to call Redknapp a working class Tory. There’s no denying that Redknapp is an out-and-out opportunist and if, as you point out, a better offer were to come along he’d doubtless jump at it. I suspect that he’ll stay where he is for the time being, however, and try and steer Spurs back into the Champions League next season…in other words I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that Luca Modric and Gareth Bale will be off this summer.

    As for Redknapp’s ambitions at national level, I take it that you’re not a fan of the idea of Harry’s England

  5. Damon May 26, 2011 at 21:58 #

    pal, ur either an very ungrateful person or have very bad memory.
    Heres are what he did for us,

    – save us from certain relegation
    – Qualify for Champions League
    – beat Arsenal, Liverpool, Inter Milan and AC Milan in one season

    who else has done that for Spurs?

    i bet ur one of those who booed Keane(over 100goals for us and always tried his best) when he played for Liverpool against us at the lane.

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