Friday, February 10, 2012

Harry Redknapp - checking (most of) the boxes

The odds are that Harry Redknapp will replace Fabio Capello. The Spurs manager has been heavily backed for the position by everyone from Wayne Rooney to former FA Chairman Lord Triesman. That Stuart Pearce has received the FA's blessing to take charge for England's February 29th match with Holland indicates that any potential decisions won't be made swiftly. Spurs fans can cling to the knowledge that 'Arry will pace the White Hart Lane sidelines for at least three more weeks.

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Redknapp is of course favoured for the job for many reasons, not least of which is because he's English. It's disturbing to see a football populace focused so firmly on nationality rather than talent; but with two of the country's past three gaffers being expensive “ringers”, much of the masses hope for a local boss to make good.

And well he might: Redknapp as a manager checks many of the boxes you'd want from a leader. He keeps thing simple (a must), doesn't delve too far into tactics or coaching, isn't a disciplinarian and isn't in John Terry's camp. He is a simple “player's coach” – but rather than being an enabler like Schteve McClaren, he is an empowerer.

He's even won things, too. He brought an FA Cup to Portsmouth, notwithstanding the trophy was part of a spending spree which nearly caused the death of the club. When nationalism, coaching and player relationships are considered, Harry Redknapp probably checks more boxes than any other potential candidate.

But checking boxes isn't enough.

Remember back to the schoolyard riddle that asks who you would prefer to run your country. The chain-smoking, possibly-alcoholic, philandering astrology buff; the manic depressive toff with a drink problem; or the vegetarian, teetotal war veteran? I'm sure you've heard this riddle – for the seemingly straight-laced decorated veteran is, in fact, Adolf Hitler. The former two are President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

If you apply the same logic to a real-world situation, then suddenly the picture becomes even clearer. Now, companies do much of their pre-research and vetting for employee applications online in a multiple-choice questionnaire. This is in order to minimise the time spent by Human Resources on screening applicants.

If you've ever filled in one of these surveys, you'll know what I'm getting at: they are able to completely misrepresent an applicant as an individual by breaking down a person's entire existence into yes-or-no type answers. And yes-or-no answers are rarely – if ever – able to describe a situation fully and truthfully. Although no-one expects the FA only to look at Harry Redknapp's resume, his achievements are of the type which lend themselves to yes-or-no answers. The CV of, for example, David Moyes does not – and there are those who suspect he would make an excellent England manager.

Sport is rife with examples of people who checked all the right boxes, yet failed miserably as a coach. In 1993, the Dallas Mavericks employed rookie coach Quinn Buckner. He had all the right attributes to become a wonderfully successful coach: driven, very smart, hard-working, knowledgeable, measured, came from a background of team and individual success, disciplined … and the Mavs won 13 games (of 82).

His mentor, the firebrand Bobby Knight, is considered one of the greatest coaches in basketball history. As a player at Ohio State he was a scrub on a middling team. As a coach, his record was even more surprising: he was arrested while leading a team to Puerto Rico; left Charles Barkley off the 1984 Olympic team (for Jeff Turner); was quoted as saying “if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it”; was nearly fired for allegedly assaulting a student and eventually dismissed for “a pattern of hostile behaviour”.

There's almost no question Quinn Buckner was as qualified to succeed as Bobby Knight.  But but didn't.

Of course, coming from a different sport, this is a flawed example. But the premise remains the same – that the candidate that checks the most boxes isn't necessarily the best man for the job. Just ask Liverpool fans what they think of Roy Hodgson, Inter their opinion of Gian Piero Gasperini or West Ham of their time spent with Avram Grant.

There was every reason for optimism on Fabio Capello's appointment to boss England; or at least there was until England broke him. There are just as many suspicions that Harry Redknapp would be an outstanding England manager, but it's possible he's not the best man for the job.

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