by Jack Howes
Yesterday Harry Redknapp had one of his usual interviews with Sky Sports News. He does these chummy interviews with Talksport or Sky Sports News more than almost any other manager and this willingness to chat to the media has undoubtedly helped him personally become popular with the journalists and pundits who monopolise the coverage of football in the UK.
Fans are often irritated by his habit of blabbing about transfer targets when it would be better to keep quiet. But yesterday his comments were less about transfers and more about his own personal contract situation, and the timing and tone of his comments were scandalous.
The comments I as a lifelong Spurs fan had most trouble with were “You don’t let players run into the last year of their contract if you think they are any good and you don’t let managers run into the last year of their contract if you think they are any good. That is the situation so it is up to the club.”
Now these comments are bad enough. A highly paid employee using the press to implore his own chairman to give him a new contract is unacceptable. That stuff should be kept in-house and should not be aired publicly. Talking in the press about such things breeds uncertainty in the players, in the fans and doesn’t create a positive atmosphere around the club. Contract negotiations being dealt with in the newspapers is no way to run a football club.
What makes these comments so poorly timed is the fact that Daniel Levy, chairman of Tottenham Hotspur and the man who runs the finances and negotiates all the contracts and transfers is in America currently due to his mother tragically passing away. For Harry to be talking in the press about a new contract for himself when his boss, the person who decides whether to give him a new contract is in another part of the world grieving over a deceased parent is a shocking thing to do.
Now Harry may not have known Daniel Levy’s exact circumstances, though I highly doubt he was completely unaware of what was going on. But to make these damaging comments (and Harry did specifically say “It is up to the chairman. If he doesn’t want to give me another contract, it is his decision”) at this particular juncture is at best crass and careless, and at worst the words of a completely insensitive scoundrel obsessed only with his future and not bothered by the damage he is inflicting on both the club who employ him and his boss who is currently in a state of mourning and perhaps not in a position to defend his interests.
The timing sticks in the craw, because Harry could have made these comments at any time. He makes these comments not at a time when they would have received less attention and when Levy was in a position to deal with his complaints, but at a time when Levy is out of action and mourning the death of a loved one. Also a month ago he said “I don’t go running to him (the chairman) for a new contract”. His comments definitely have the feel of running to the chairman for a new deal.
He also makes these comments when transfer dealings and contract negotiations are in full swing. How for example does Jan Vertonghen feel reading in the British press that the manager of the club he’s set to sign for might be about to have a change of manager? Not to mention the players who have only 12 months left on their contracts as well who hearing this may well have their agents rushing to Levy wanting contract extensions and money.
He also says about rumours of him perhaps going to manage some oil-rich club in Qatar “No. I don’t speak to anybody else, it’s not my job. I am under contract at Tottenham. I keep seeing something about Qatar but I’ve never been to Qatar in my life.” This I presume is true. But he doesn’t mention there how last year he said he almost went to Dubai club Al-Ahli FC and that he said the Chelsea job would be ‘a dream job’ last month.
What adds a further bitter taste is the fact that Redknapp has brought in agent Paul Stretford to represent him in contract negotiations. Stretford is Wayne Rooney’s agent and the person who is believed to have advised him to hand in a transfer request to Man Unuted last year. He is a controversial figure who according to Andy Cole (a player he used to represent and was friends with) ‘wasn’t motivated by friendship but money’.
Nothing unusual there, football agents are not renowned for their altruism and philanthropy, but there is Stretford’s repeated dealings in court to consider. He admitted in 2010 when he first had Rooney as a client he didn’t explain to Rooney and his father what documents they were signing and what effect signing would have. The prosecuting barrister called this ‘absolutely extraordinary’.
Stretford has also been banned from football by the FA for 18 months (9 months suspended) for misconduct and amongst other things making false/misleading statements to police and in court proceedings. He’s been sacked by his former employer Proactive Sports Management for ‘gross misconduct’ and in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson is “Not the most popular man in the world – certainly at our club”. Not the sort of figure a fan wants to see loitering around your club.
There are other things Redknapp said that I have problems with. He said “Things couldn’t have gone better since I’ve been there” which is nonsense. Spurs have just finished 4th and due to Chelsea’s subsequent victory in the Champions League final missed out on Champions League football.
This is after we were two points off the top of the table in mid-January and were 10 points clear of 4th place in mid-February. 3rd place was the least we could expect from that position and to then say after a collapse to finish 4th ‘things couldn’t have gone better’ is simply insulting to fans of the club. Also this is completely hypocritical given his comments about Spurs ‘going for the title’ and ‘being the top London club’ throughout the season.
His comments about how Champions League football is overrated in its ability to entice players to clubs is what appears to have grabbed the headlines. On this he has a point. See how Man City signed the likes of David Silva and Vincent Kompany without Champions League, or even how Atletico Madrid kept hold of Aguero for so long and promptly signed Radamel Falcao as a replacement without Champions League football. Spurs supposedly being close to signing Vertonghen and Loic Remy illustrates the point further.
But it’s his association with Stretford, an agent previously banned by the FA for misconduct and the sheer insensitivity of his comments virtually demanding a new contract that anger me. He’s guilty of at best being careless and insensitive, at worst guilty of rank insubordination, greed and selfishness. Redknapp has a lot to answer for, and hopefully an apology to Daniel Levy is on its way.
Condolences to Daniel Levy and his family for the loss of his mother.
Harry Redknapp quotes: