Monday, 11 April 2011

Me and Harry - it's complicated


I wasn't overjoyed when Harry was appointed.

I wasn't dismayed, but I didn't see it as a great choice or huge step forward.

I considered his managerial record (one very streaky cup win in 30-odd years) to be far from stellar - and thought his kudos was based as much on a likeable persona and media smarts as much as footballing achievements.

I also thought that his behaviour at Portsmouth and Southampton was pretty shabby. I'd suggest that if he'd done the same thing to more metropolitan clubs, with higher profiles, then he'd have been more widely and vehemently castigated. And been a more toxic proposition.

But, in his first four games, we got 10 points out of 12, including wins against Liverpool and Man City and that draw at the Emirates.

Having made my indifference clear from the start, I was asked/told that I must now be convinced. I wasn't.

Then, after a spate of signings in December, he took us to the League Cup final and eighth in the league. So, I must be convinced. I wasn't.

And then last year, Champions League qualification. The holy grail (to some). Nope, sorry, still not convinced.

This year's frantic and stirring European campaign? God, this is embarrassing, but no, not really.

It's odd. And, like I say, complicated. Because I'm not one of those intransigent fixed position fans who has his favourites, has his views and won't let actual evidence change any of them.

So I know I probably should be onside by now, and say that he's been great for the club. I actually want to. But, well, I'm just not convinced.

He has done great things, I won't deny that. Well, he's got us into the Champions League, anyway. But, then again, we weren't exactly miles off before, with a worse squad. Jol was an extra 30 seconds in the microwave from cracking it. And Ramos, well, the league form went to shit, but he did deliver a trophy, and I'm pretty sure that still means something.

So let's maybe not overplay his achievements. Although, if we don't bend a knee in gratitude, we are likely to cop a bit of flack from Harry himself.

And that's one of the reasons why I'm still not convinced: he just seems so consistently and suspiciously defensive when he talks about fans: Spurs fans, Portsmouth fans, Southampton fans, West Ham fans...

He shakes his head and incredulously asks what 'they' expect, insinuating that 'they' should think themselves lucky he was/is there at all - and implying that what went before and/or after was pretty paltry compared to the riches he's delivered.

In Spurs case, of course, when he's in this mode, he always refers to the club, not just the fans, as 'they'. As in his sarcastic, 'Yeah, cos they were always qualifying for the Champions League before I got here weren't they?'

It's the type of refrain we've heard a few times this season, usually when someone dares to question whether or not this talented squad is fulfilling its potential. It's a legitimate question and, equally, Redknapp's line of defence has some merit. But the tone and tenor of his delivery really grate.

He doesn't seem 'a Spurs man' at times like this, and certainly doesn't seem simpatico with the views and, indeed, spirit of the fans.

Outsiders see Spurs fans as arrogant and deluded, warped by a weird and inexplicable sense of entitlement. Impatient for success and angry about 'under-achievement'. Unaware, basically, of their actual position in the modern game and, therefore, unable to gauge what is and isn't success - unable, in fact, to recognise it let alone enjoy it when it comes along. Because it's not the sort of success we think we deserve.

But that's not my view or my experience of fellow fans at all. All that bollocks about the Carling Cup being Mickey Mouse? Strap some big ol' ears on me and tell Minnie I'm coming home drunk. I fucking loved winning it.

I think most of us know what level we're at, how easy it would be to sink considerably lower and how hard (but not impossible) it's going to be to inch up just a little higher.

Harry, I think, sees us like outsiders see us, believes in the slack-jawed, loud-mouthed, arrogant and ignorant cliche. And that's pretty insulting.

(And, yes, we do have those types, so does ever club. But the majority of 'us' are realistic, sanguine and generally pretty stoic after decades of, largely, disappointment).

Then there's the almost obnoxiously cosy relationship he has with the football media. It seems to be based largely on Harry being 'old school' and 'a proper football man'. These two phrases are, of course, almost entirely meaningless and certainly worthless. He's been around a long time? Great. He still pretends to forget to remember to call linesmen 'referee's assistants'? Brilliant.

There's nothing wrong with him being experienced, of course, and it's fine that his style and demeanour, on a personal level, reflect the age in which he grew up. It's equally fine that this chimes quite conveniently with the manners and mores of the majority of the press. It's just this 'Good ol' Harry' thing can really stick in the craw after a while, and it might, just might, shield him from a level of, shall we say, more phorensic analysis and crticism than the indulgent codswallop they often serve up on his behalf.

If I was to deconstruct this, I might say that I'm not convinced by Harry because he refuses to pretend all our fans are wonderful (the managerial equivalent of not kissing the badge, which absolutely should be applauded) and that he's matey with the media. And that I'm an idiot.

Maybe that's it. And maybe I am just being willful about this.

He has, after all, taken us to our highest ever PREMIER league position (caps for benefit of those who get confused about when football was invented) and delivered some cracking performances against big sides at home and abroad. But, yeah, sorry, I'm still not convinced.

I don't know if we'd do better without him and I don't know if this is as far as he can take us. I don't know if this is fair or ridiculous. But I do know it's complicated.

And I do know that if we beat Real Madrid 5-0 on Wednesday night then I will delete this post, abandon this blog and divert my energies instead into learning the art of sculpture so that I can build a statue of the great man with my own bare hands.

25 comments:

  1. Good read as usual.
    Much the same as me - never really thought he was a long term plan, but not in the "Arry Out" camp.

    My concern now is that as looks likely he will be the next England manager next year, what does that mean for Spurs next year?
    Will players stay or sign knowing he is off....

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  2. God no, hard to believe there even is a "Harry out" camp.

    Does make next season an odd one, though. Like you say, 12 months of limbo. Even Ferguson, with 20 years service and the aura of a demi-god, lost control and authority when everyone knew he was going.

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  3. Excellent article, sums up fairly nicely how I feel. I seem to be finding more and more Spurs fans feeling this way... and many non-Spurs fans feeling confused as to why we "slate" Harry so much. Any who do from now on, I'll point them in the direction of this article. Cheers.

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  4. You are me if only I could write in such entertaining fashion. This is EXACTLY why I don't, have never and never will like him.

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  5. Thanks Matt. And yes, it is hard to understand, especially from the outside, I guess. Maybe it's something us Spurs fans just... feel.

    And than you Bentleysbird. Welcome to the blog!

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  6. Excellent. I feel a bit of a heretic when I criticise 'Arry but I'm definitely from the camp that feels we would've got where we are anyway if Martin "for sure" Jol had stayed in charge.

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  7. If you include myself isn't that 5 people who agree with you totally? Out of the 20 or so people I spoke to at the game on Saturday they would all agree too.

    I don't think there's a Harry out brigade at all. It's a we should be doing better brigade that splits fans. You either believe it's true or believe the team we've got isn't capable of a run in the champions league and finishing in the top 4 ( easily) again this season. I believe many of those fans also still think inter and ac Milan are the forces they once were and therefore our victories over them were miraculous. Good they were as any victory in Europe is but miraculous? If we played in Italy we wouldve won the scudetto already.

    As for other fans wondering why some of us don't believe redknapp is a Demi god they'll soon realise why when he takes charge of England. Either that or show him standing on the touchline on Saturday with his fingers crossed, hoping we held on to the win instead of actively making changes to make sure we did.

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  8. Loved Martin, Kellsborojack. Not saying we should have kept him or that we'd be better off, but what a fine man. Will always be thought of fondly in N17.

    Hi Tom, and yeah, it's an odd one isn't it, no one's saying Harry's doing a bad job, just that maybe, maybe, he's not doing as great a job as he and the media make out - and we don't need to be grateful for a bit of a run on the Champions League (that ended with a right thumping) and being just outside the top four.

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  9. My main gripe with Harry is his tactical expertise or lack thereof. Not making substitutions, failing to beat crap teams week in week out and having clear favourites within the team despite them frequently not playing well, are just three reasons to hate 'Arry.

    However, you can't argue with his results. I think that like most managers in football you ultimately can't win with fickle fans. And let's be honest we're top of the league when it comes to fickle supporters.

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  10. Sorry but I have to sign-up to the "Totally agree with you" brigade. But I don't think even you will actually become a convert after our 5-0 win tomorrow.

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  11. I agree Sam, you can't argue with the results - and yet for some reason we feel compelled to! It's an odd, borderline dysfunctional relationship...

    And Frank, I swear, I will buy a Harry T-shirt, a Harry mask, a Harry mug and a Harry car sticker if we win 5-0 tomorrow.

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  12. Great read. I was actually chuffed when Harry took over, but I had a bit of a rose tinted view of him growing up. Dad is a West Ham fan and always raved about Harry, so I grew up thinking he was great. To be fair at West Ham he was a "great" manager, but at Spurs, a team with big ambitions, he may just be an "okay" manager.

    Question is tho, who would we prefer?

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  13. Oh my God, what is this? I've landed in a parallel universe where no one remembers years and years of coming 14th. You all seem to believe that this excellent squad somehow formed itself and Harry just happens to be in charge of it, and now he's fucking it up. My 11 year old will watch us play Real on Wednesday. When I was his age, we were just about to be relegated. Such small portions and such short memories...

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  14. Same with my old man! Cardiff and West Ham, actually - but yeah, a huge fan of Harry. And I'm not anti-Harry, and I totally appreciate his achievements. It's just... y'know, complicated.

    Who else is the key question. But it's one we'll need to have answered by this time next year - even if we haven't made the answer public.

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  15. Hi Tim, there's nothing wrong with my memory, honestly. I remember several relegation battles. And, as I hope is clear, I'm aware of Harry's achievements. I'm also absolutely not calling for him to go, not at all. I certainly don't think he's 'fucking it up'.

    The fact is, though, he will go. And I think it's also true to say that, as a group, considering how well we've done, Spurs fans have an ambivalent, interesting and, yes, complicated relationship with Harry. COYS.

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  16. I'm with you Dave... but I'm also with Tim. My biggest problem with Harry is that (as you point out) he is resolutely not a Spurs man. It grates every time he refers to us as 'them' (if you see what I mean). He has, however, created a fantastic platform for whoever comes next. That appointment is unbelievably important - and I'm not sure that I trust Levy and Co to get it right.

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  17. Excellent blog which I have only just discovered today. I do understand your comments, and sympathise with some of them, but the bottom line is that we are having a purple patch right now. And you've got to give Harry a fair bit of credit for that.

    Yes, we've had a few ups (5th place with Jol was great, the Carling Cup Final win over Chelsea was wonderful) but my God we've had a LOT of downs in recent years too (The managerial spells of Hoddle, Ardiles, Francis, Gross... and too many others to mention).

    You might think it's simplistic for me to say, "Enjoy the moment" but maybe, for once, we should. I honestly think it could be years before we play in the Champions League again. So let's enjoy this rare moment in the sun. Heck, I'd take losing 4-0 at Real Madrid over losing 4-0 at Coventry City any day.

    I know he's got his faults (show me a manager who doesn't) but I think Harry deserves a break.

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  18. I kind of agree. And I certainly agree that we should enjoy tomorrow night. Last CL game for years? Quite possibly. Last CL game ever? It really could be... Unless we win 5-0 of course.

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  19. A lot of what you've said is what I've felt since he's been at the club, but with his record I daren't admit it. His record pre-Spurs is very sketchy and isn't worthy of the 'wheeler-dealer' label, I actually think he's quite frivolous, and like you say he owes much of his reputation to a good relationship with the media.

    But! From the word go he has done exceptionally well. I wasn't happy he sacked off the UEFA Cup and the League Cup this year, but having qualified for the Champions League and performed wonderfully in it I think he is beyond criticism until thing go really wrong.

    Having said that I think we could be doing better this year. We have a better squad, but are doing worse in the league and given the relative quality of our squads I don't think being 16 points behind Manchester United is acceptable.

    Regarding his relationship with the fans. I think it was after the Milan game when asked about the achievement he said something like 'if you can't enjoy that you shouldn't be in football'. Who the hell didn't enjoy it? Very defensive and a bit of a dickhead sometimes.

    http://www.youllwinnothingwithyids.com/

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  20. Brilliant article.

    It is strange though that we can't seem to take to him like we did with BMJ.

    Imagine how popular BMJ would be if he had taken to the Champs League.

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  21. It'd be statue time, right?

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  22. Fantastic Blog - Great writing. I stumbled across this site about a month ago & I've really enjoyed reading all the back articles. So thanks for doing it and for giving so much of your time.

    Ref 'Arry, I am not a great fan of his & never have been. The better players at Spurs now are the ones that were here when he arrived. The lack of a plan B (tactically)drives me crazy, and the inability to recognise areas where we get caught time and again is baffling. I feel like the kid in the Emperors new clothes half the time I am watching Spurs!! I agree that results, particuarly against the 'Sky top 4' have been better and more consistent since he arrived and maybe my dislike stems a bit from the 'Good old 'arry approach he gets from the press' which seems to be sending him ever further up his own arse in my opinion.

    Having said all that, I am often guilty of knowing who I don't want but not knowing who I do so... regarding his almost certain appt as the next England boss when Capello goes, it is a bit of a worry that current players might stop playing for him, and incoming targets might think twice about joining our cause. You are totally spot on to refer to the retirement that never happened at Old Trafford about eight or nine years ago, I reckon.

    I hope that Spurs restore some pride tomorrow night and beat Madrid. It might well be our last Champions league game for quite some time given our tough run in and the fact that the kindest thing I can say about our form since Christmas is that it has been patchy. I don't think mentally our players will recover from another tonking by Mourinho's lot. If we are to produce a second successive storming end to the season we need to find some form and confidence from somewhere and a victory over 'Real' would do that.

    COYS

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  23. Thanks Dave. I think that's an interesting point about tomorrow's game. A good win might not have any significance re the Champions League, but it might give us the confidence to tackle the huge challenges we face in the league.

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  24. Ps. @ImranRonnie

    So true. Something about Martin Jol on the touchline used to reassure me and make me feel like everything was gonna be okay!

    I know it's crazy, but if BMJ was in charge tomorrow night I'd put a tenner on us ;)

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  25. I loved Martin Jol too and it would have been great if he had got us in to the Champions League. But he didn't. And Harry did.

    Also let's not forget that Jol's sides were equally capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory too. This isn't something Harry brought to the club (it's been in our DNA for decades).

    I'm sure there are Man Ure fans who don't necessarily like Ferguson. I'm sure there are Gooners who wouldn't want to share a pint with Wenger. But if a manager has done the business on the pitch, maybe it doesn't matter whether we love his personality or not.

    Yes, you could argue that we should be doing better on the pitch than we are. But come on, look at our record in the past 20 years. We've underachieved far worse than this in previous years.

    Let's not forget that we loved Ardiles. We loved Hoddle. Didn't make them great managers though did it?

    I have a feeling that, when Harry leaves and we return to our mid-table obscurity, we'll look back with great fondness on this period in Spurs' history. Harry ain't perfect; but he's done better than his predecessors.

    One final point: For all the talk of Harry 'not being Spurs', he does share the fans' passion for skilful, pacey, attacking football. Some of our play has been exhillarating in the past couple of years. You can't get much more 'Spurs' than that.

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