Harry in no hurry for England | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerHarry in no hurry for England

Posted: Monday, February 13, 2012 | 08:19 AM

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Harry Redknapp is the frontrunner to replace Fabio Capello as England manager. (Olly Greenwood/Getty Images). Harry Redknapp is the frontrunner to replace Fabio Capello as England manager. (Olly Greenwood/Getty Images).

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In the uncertain, unpredictable world of professional soccer, one thing is certain. One does not turn down, arguably, the job of English manager. Saying no to the Football Association guarantees the invitation will not come a second time. So what is Harry Redknapp to do?

It is irresistible. It attracts grown men like moths to a flame. The job is virtually impossible. But they can't help themselves. The temptation is just too great to turn down.
The challenge does not change. Each, in turn, believes he holds the key to success and that is what drives them. They are all certain in their own minds they can thrive whether others have ultimately failed. They can deliver a winning team.
England expects. It always has done and always will do. History, it seems, is no barometer when emotion gets the better of rationale. The chance, however remote, to stand on the mountain top and admire the view has beguiled men of experience and good standing for decades.
This time will be no different. The once-in-a-lifetime chance to become England manager is beckoning. It must be grabbed confidently with both hands. The candidates have served their time, proven themselves adept at management over a sustained period and earned their interview with the Football Association.
It is not an opportunity to be spurned. In the uncertain, unpredictable world of professional soccer, one thing is certain. One does not turn down, arguably, the biggest job in international football. Saying no to the FA guarantees the invitation will not come a second time.
So what is Harry Redknapp to do? The job is his if he wants it. He must be as honest with himself as he was with the tax man. He has unfinished business at Tottenham Hotspur and feels a deep gratitude to club chairman Daniel Levy for hiring him at a time when that very public court case was hanging over his head.
I first met Redknapp at a pivotal time in both our careers. It was the mid-1980s when Harry was making his debut in management at AFC Bournemouth and I was learning the ropes in sports journalism on the south coast of England. He was always welcoming, informal - and very, very talkative.
Often, it was all I could do to get to the end of a question before Redknapp had launched into his reply. From time to time, he would meander as his mouth raced ahead of his brain. But sooner or later, Harry would get back on track and make his point. Above all, our conversations were honest and unscripted.
There was no question I could not ask and none he would duck. He loved the game and was happy to discuss it until the proverbial cows came home. He had then -- and retains now -- an openness refreshing in an era where some managers hide behind the lame excuse of "didn't see" or "didn't hear."   
The top job never comes at the right time. Fabio Capello's sudden resignation leaves the FA without a coach, not to mention a captain less than four months before Euro 2012 kicks off in Poland and Ukraine. If FA chairman David Bernstein could unveil Redknapp as England's new manager tomorrow, he would. But it's not as simple as that.

Loyalty to Spurs runs deep
Redknapp's loyalty to and ambition with Spurs runs deep. He has pulled a once-proud club out of the Premiership dumpster and lifted it to heights not seen at White Hart Lane since the glory days of the 60's. At the very least, he wants to guide the team back in the Champions League next season.

If the FA wants him, it will have to wait. The Harry Redknapp I knew all those years ago would not abandon his post regardless of future prospects. Despite his offbeat, apparently laissez-faire approach, he is, I believe, extremely focussed on achieving a top-three finish at club level before considering the call of his country.
Yet it is exactly that relaxed manner which could work for England this summer. There is no denying time is tight. The EPL season concludes May 13th and England's opening game against France takes place less than a month later on June 11. By no means ideal. But Redknapp's easy-going nature and knowledge of the players involved would make the transition a relatively painless exercise.
More than a few of them are personally acquainted with his management style. Redknapp has always championed the Buy British brand and combined homegrown talent with a sprinkling of impactful foreign imports. His current roster features England internationals Scott Parker, Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon, Ledley King, Michael Dawson and Kyle Walker.   
Redknapp, then, is the anointed one. He is English, he is a player's manager and, perhaps most importantly, he understands the culture in a way Capello refused to embrace. The Italian's disciplinarian approach, though necessary, was rejected by the players and led to a lethargic meltdown at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Redknapp not only option

Redknapp, though, is not the only option. He may be on a shortlist of one as far as England fans are concerned. But it is not inconceivable he may refuse the FA's advances. He has everything he needs at Tottenham, so why would he risk his reputation by taking on the England job which has thwarted so many of his predecessors?

Bernstein and his fellow executives have a duty to look further afield. They have had quite enough of Italians or Swedes running their show, making it clear the next England manager will be English -- or at least British. Given the criteria, there are two other men who should be in the conversation.
Roy Hodgson would be the thinking man's England manager. In stark contrast to Redknapp, Hodgson rarely shoots from the hip. He's a thoughtful man who, invariably, gives a measured response. And similar to his Spurs' counterpart, Hodgson can always be relied upon to give an honest assessment of his team's performance.
Hodgson is well ahead of Redknapp in terms of international experience. He is multilingual and has coached all over Europe -- a significant asset for an aspiring England manager. Despite his failure to launch at Anfield, Hodgson can be proud of his achievements with Fulham and is currently making West Brom hard to beat on a limited budget.
Sam Allardyce should also be mentioned in dispatches. "Big Sam," full of grit and passion, worked minor miracles at Bolton and Blackburn and currently has West Ham in pole position to bounce back into the Premier League at the first attempt. Like Hodgson and Redknapp, Allardyce has a knack of getting the best out of what he's got. 

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