Wednesday, 1 February 2012

'Arry Redknapp: England’s finest? Do me a favour...

The most startling revelation to come out of the 'Arry Redknapp tax evasion trial so far is not that the former Portsmouth boss was paid £4.2m a year to manage a club which now can't pay its players. Nor was it the claim that the man touted as being the next England manager ‘writes like a two-year-old’ and ‘can’t fill in a team sheet’ (and people complain that Fabio Capello’s English isn’t good enough….)
No, it was BBC News 24’s assertion that 'Arry is “the best English manager of his generation”.  Now, at first glance, in a world where most of us were brought up by MTV and an academic challenge is a few multiple-choice quizzes at GCSE, that seems like a reasonable statement. 

An FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008, a League Cup runners up medal with Spurs in 2009 and better than either of those achievements, fourth place in the Premier League the following season, again with Spurs, is a fine set of achievements.  Ooh, and let’s not forget victory with England at Soccer Aid in 2008. And, who else is there to consider?

England's best? Don't make me laugh...
'Arry’s 65 next month, so the only Englishman of a similar age working in the Premier League at the moment is Roy Hodgson and he’s shit isn’t he?  Okay, he might be a two-time UEFA Cup finalist as a manager and maybe he was the LMA Manager of the Year in 2010 (an honour never bestowed on 'Arry) but he's never won Soccer Aid.

It took those balanced and open-mined Liverpool fans just 31 games to see what a fraud the man who took Switzerland to third in the FIFA world rankings is.  After all Hodgson bought the ridiculously over-priced Paul Konchesky and you’d never catch King KKKenny displaying such a spectacular lack of judgment in the transfer market.

Clearly Hodgson’s no match for 'Arry and the only other English manager at work in the Premier League is Alan Pardew and he’s 50; the same generation as 'Arry?  Perhaps not.

OK, so, case closed then?  Er, no.  Amazingly enough, give it more than a couple of minutes’ thought and what you’ll discover is that while the Beeb’s assertion might have been expressed with confident authority it was, like a lot of things confidently expressed by the media, in fact a big bag of wank.

Firstly we should ask what exactly constitutes 'Arry’s generation.  Familial generations are traditionally defined as the average time between a mother’s first offspring and her daughter’s first offspring.  This used to be around 16 years but through the process of industrialization and the rise in the requirement of cheap female labour followed by the increasing emancipation and education of women (which strangely still saw the terms ‘female labour’ and ‘cheap’ used in conjunction) this increased to about 25 years.

Going by this logic, then, Arry’s generation is quite a broad spectrum which could, not unreasonably, include someone like the late Sir Bobby Robson after all Sir Bobby was only 13 years older than Arry.  Indeed, their playing careers overlapped by two seasons and their managerial careers by a massive 21.  While 'Arry was helping Bournemouth increase their deabt to £4.4m between 1983 and 1992, Sir Bobby was leading England to the World Cup semi-finals and winning the Eredivisie (twice) with PSV.  By that time, he’d already called Arry’s FA Cup and raised him a UEFA Cup with Ipswich.

And, while 'Arry was not wheeling and dealing in anyway whatsoever at West Ham (134 players traded in seven seasons), Sir Bobby was scooping Portugal’s Primera Liga with Porto before moving on to domestic and European success with Barcelona and taking Newcastle to third in the Premier League – a feat 'Arry may achieve this season but is yet to do.  Sir Bobby’s was sacked by the Magpies in August 2004 (just a few months before 'Arry took a punt on the Southampton job) and it was his last role as a manager. 

And then there's Brian Clough.  Two League titles, two European Cups, only 12 years older than 'Arry and active during a decade of 'Arry's managerial career.

I guess it’s a moot point whether Sir Bobby and Cloughie are of the same managerial generation as 'Arry, after all Sir Alex Ferguson (70) can hardly be lumped in with Burnley’s Eddie Howe (34) just because they’ve managed for several years at the same time, but I think it’s worth pointing out, for those blinded by 'Arry’s media-friendly personality, the achievements of other Englishman who were working as managers at the same time as 'Arry.

So, maybe managerial generations are a lot shorter in length than familial generations.  How about we go for, say, five years?  We’ve covered the useless Hodgson so who else is there?

Well, how about Graham Taylor.  Under two years older the Arry, Taylor, like Hodgson, is a bit shit.  After all, he failed in the Impossible Job and never won a major trophy.  So we must ignore the facts that he managed Lincoln to the Fourth Division title aged just 32 before taking Watford from the Fourth to First Divisions in just five years and then leading them to second place in the top flight and an FA Cup final.  During the same time Arry oversaw one promotion and one relegation with Bournemouth.

Taylor also worked his particular brand of magic at Aston Villa in the late Eighties, getting them promoted to the top flight and leading them to second spot in 1990.  And let’s not forget in 1998 he won Division Two, again with Watford, and followed that with the First Division play-off final success the following year.  But he’s never won Soccer Aid.

What about another ex-England manager, albeit a caretaker one?  Step forward Mr Howard Wilkinson.  Well now, just under three years older than Arry, he’s won the Big Enchilada - the League title - with Leeds back in 1992.  I don’t know about you but that trumps 'Arry’s FA Cup for me although like Taylor, and unlike 'Arry, he’s never won Soccer Aid, so I guess it doesn’t count.

While we're talking ex-England managers, what about Terry Venables?  He’s four years and two months older than 'Arry, so I reckon that places them in the same managerial generation. Three promotions in seven seasons with Crystal Palace and QPR in the Seventies and Eighties saw him move to the Nou Camp where he led Barcelona to their first La Liga title in 11 seasons and the European Cup final the following year.  After his sacking by Barça, Venables took over at White Hart Lane during which time Spurs finished third in the top flight in 1990 and won the FA Cup the following year.  There’s also the small matter of a European Championship semi-final defeat with England and crucially, Venables, like Arry, has won Soccer Aid.

Now, 'Arry, this is what you call a trophy
Still not convinced?  OK, I’ll take one last shot: Howard Kendall.  A blast from the past, eh?  Alright, he’s never won Soccer Aid but like his namesake Wilkinson he’s won the title – twice in three seasons with a runners up spot sandwiched between.  Add to that the FA Cup in 1984 (plus final appearances in the following two seasons) and the European Cup Winners’ Cup (another blast from the past) in 1985 and all this while 'Arry was pottering around the Third Division with Bournemouth. 

That Everton team was pretty awesome and they were favourites to win the European Cup in 1985, a trophy they never got to contest because of the Heysel ban.  Had they done so and justified that favouritism by continuing English teams’ success in Europe it would be hard to argue 'Arry was better, instead the team eventually broke up as several players and Kendall himself left for clubs unaffected by the ban.

So, 'Arry's not so much the best of his generation but the last man standing. Oh, but hang on, I’ve made a massive schoolboy error haven’t I?

All these achievements, the titles for Wilkinson and Kendall, the FA Cup and the La Liga triumph for Venables came before the Premier League was launched, so they count for nothing do they?  As we all know football only began in 1992.  It’s a whole new ball game now.

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