Loving, hating Harry Redknapp
Redknapp. He's like Marmite spread across your toast. Half of you would really like it and the other half would not be so keen and would much prefer jam as an alternative (not certain what jam is meant to be representative of at this time).
Happy with Harry? Staggered that I'm asking this question six games into the EPL. I'm going to humour all the discussion currently musing around on the various blogs and forums.
Obviously many of you are not or have never been (happy with Harry). Some of you are more supportive than others. Both sides have strong opinions. It's massively subjective for a number of reasons. It's the perception of the fans that adds (removes) credence to Redknapp's tenure. Half full, half empty ethics.
Quick history lesson then.
Harry came in and did a job. One that involved the resuscitation of the club as it slumped half-dead in the deepest darkest hole at the foot of the Prem. Mouth to mouth from the boat race of Harry, not a pretty sight. But it fixed the problems that needed fixing. He hugged a few players, got confidence on the up. There was no twitching, just a wide smile, a cheeky wink and a thumbs up. And we pulled ourselves to the upper regions. Miracle worker? Or making the most of a win-win situation? Levy master-stroke regardless. Because it was a risk that worked. Is that risk now punching above it's weight?
Here's the first subjective piece of the debate.
Harry got the players playing to an acceptable standard and on occasions out of their skin. That's it. He hasn't worked a miracle. He took over the botched up job Ramos left behind and got them to work for themselves and each other. A unit. To some, this is simply the result of decent management and not the by-product of the messiah. He didn't get us onto a new level. He got us back up to the level we were meant to be at and instilled some self-respect. Across the divide, it was more than just a rescue mission. He was seen to fulfil a duty that so many others couldn’t quite get their heads around. Not only did he fix confidence and resurrect the team, he took us further (CL) when many had argued he was not cut out for either job. Especially the latter one, with aiming and taking fourth.
Onwards onto the second subjective piece of the debate. What level are we meant to be at then? I ask this because some people see claiming fourth again as the be all and end all whilst others want even more and plenty understand and appreciate we might find ourselves just outside the CL places but as long as we challenge until the death, it's nothing to be ashamed of.
We have been inconsistent for years. Mediocre (see the 1990's). Previous modern day managers have all failed to match expectations. The Jol period was (is) the foundation we have managed to build on, be it that some of the structure collapsed when we hired a Spanish cowboy to finish the job. But there was no genuine push or challenge after 2006 that would suggest we had genuinely turned the corner. Flirted with the dream, with the ideals. Nothing more. Think of the pre-Jol era. Depressing. Jol got us back into the game, but then many cited at the time he had limitations. Wasn't good enough for the big occasion. Had to be replaced. Déjà vu, eh?
Harry is the first manager for a long time to truly get results for us. Statistically, his win ratio is unequalled (yes it's only been 2 years). We've looked the part on the field in terms of style and application (eventually) during the recovery of 2009 and the epic journey of 2010. 4th and CL football. The impossible dream achieved. Of course, the landscape of the domestic league is a very different place to what it was back in 2006. It's far more open now. Not to say that a manager should be marked down on points just because Liverpool are crap.
However, just because we finished 4th doesn't mean we should be resting on our laurels. And the argument is that in more capable hands, this team would be doing far better than it is at the moment.
Harry rebuilt a lot of the damaged parts. He gave Levy that quick fix of stability. But how long do you give someone to see if they can continue to build on the newly laid foundations? Is there a lack of patience because of the need to see instant and continuous results? Or should we attempt to remember how long it's taken for us to get here?
The divide is with the people that embrace time and those that want to travel through it at pace.
The third subjective piece would be the one that splits me at times. And actually forms part of the previous one.
I appreciate the challenge at hand. If we're going to progress we need to be ruthless. On the pitch and off it. Levy has a strategy, be it one that concerns redevelopment off the pitch. What he wants on it is consistency. What we need is something more than that. There is no point plodding along. But he's astute. He's already made statements about not over-extending ourselves.
And we all know that the Prem is looking like it might well birth a time-share on 4th spot between 2/3 clubs. Still, you would hope deep down the ambition is to destroy the other contenders and claim it for ourselves. Why just aim at the target when you can see it's bulls eye? But that's me the fan, wanting and needing, always that little bit more. He (Levy) knows that patience is a virtue and prefers to make sure it's a steady rise to the top. No cutting corners. No massive unnecessary risks. Although the risk here could be the lack of risks.
So how does this split me exactly and divide the rest of you?
Harry has his limitations. I questioned him, at times, last season in terms of tactical prowess but still he mastered some superb victories - high pressured victories - at the death of the season. He's not daft. And he has proved people wrong, time and time again. But is he good enough for the Champions League? Good enough to push the team and pioneer its evolution? Can he adapt at this stage in his career? Learn from mistakes? Change his ways if it means improving the team? Is he out of his depth? Is it even fair to be posing these questions when the true test of his skill has yet to begin?
Harry works best when Harry has to fix things. Although, this current problem (if that's what our current form is) is one made from the hands of Harry and not inherited. There's no hiding place or quickie catchphrase available to divert and deflect. Some believe we just got lucky last season. If that's luck, bottle it the f**k up.
So on the one hand, you have us stable and looking in the right direction, but on the other, if he's not going to be here long term then what else is he capable of bringing to the table? Some of us, they want that sacrifice. Club before loyalty to a servant.
The subjective piece here is whether we go ahead and sacrifice the present, to guarantee the future. It's a bit wishy-washy mainly because you can do something about the present in terms of changing things, but you can't predict what's ahead and how it will effect the progress of the past two seasons. This, ties back into what level we believe ourselves to sit at and also if Levy is willing to take another risk. The last risk was forced upon him. Some of you would rather see it being premeditated this time round rather than reactive because there's no other choice.
I know one thing for certain. Stability. It's imperative.
My gripe with everything I've covered is the complete lack of consistency with how we think it's all meant to work. There is plenty of drastic cut-throat fan opinion at the moment. And quite a bit of see no evil hear no evil going on too. So where do you stand on this?
We have stagnated if you review our low-key performances and lack of oomph six games in, if you take it from the second half of the City game to the present day. But it's not quite an implosion or an epic failure. We've had the good with the bad and been average overall. It's disappointing in terms of the standard of our football in comparison to what we know this team has achieved on the pitch. Disappointing we've dropped points to team we 'should' be beating. We are missing the vital traits of intensity and spirit. Disappointing we look over-stretched defensively. Missing Defoe too. And that pride thing that set us on our way back in the post-two points from eight games days. That has gone AWOL.
Panic will no doubt rear it's head if we fail to get out of this lazy slump in the next month. We might find ourselves struggling with confidence in a far more evident detrimental way. But next month hasn't happened yet. And as much as I would want us to be outstanding from the off, this is a first time experience for our squad and for Harry in terms of EPL and CL. There is some vital, urgent re-tuning to be had. He's a manager. It's his job to fix it up. We need to look the part in the league.
Harry now has to adapt tactically and motivationally to the challenges ahead and within this, the divide between both sets of opposing views might well close up a little. But in terms of support (personally) I'm nowhere near the state of mind that would have me calling for his head on a plate. I'll admit I'm wrong if it all goes full on pear shaped, but then last season I can remember plenty of near suicidal fans screaming message board abuse at how Harry was mucking up our season. There are some that are incapable of handling the pressures from one game to the next.
Perhaps a learning curve is not an acceptable reasoning tool. But considering we have not been here before, I'm not sure we have a choice other than to support the team and just wait and see. That isn't exactly a mind-blowing assessment of matters. But what else? What would the alternative be?
Do we have impossible expectations with no room for compassion and the memory of a goldfish in terms of the past? Or is it that compassion is no longer welcomed in this particular high-end arena we wish to stay in? Or is it far more simplistic than that. We're not world beaters but it's obvious we can be playing far better and it's obvious how. If it's the latter, can we perhaps wait until the 15th game before we start burning effigies.
The lack of a world class striker is the biggest negative for both manager and fans. The injuries, not the best in terms of preparation from one game to the next. We've lost key players. But it's football. You don't always buy the players you want and you don't always have all players available for selection.
I guess it goes back to the subjective matter of what you want from the team at this specific moment. Do you think we are under-achieving, this early in the season, and that it's not acceptable and that all the evidence points to it being a problem that can not be sorted long term? A fatal tumour that can not be operated on because our surgeon doesn't have the necessary tools and experience? Or do we simply need another mouth-to-mouth to save the day?
Overly dramatic, yes. Well all this just about sums up how fragmented and fickle we are as a collective.
As for myself. I can see what isn't working and expect to see improvements. I know I'm adding fuel to the fire by opening a platform for discussion. But it's the type of discussion that's unequivocally made in Tottenham. And let's not pretend it's not going on. It's a slice of the now. And we can refer back to this at the end of December and laugh (cry) about it.
So go ahead and burn the place down...