Jim White

FA delay not helping Harry

Jim White

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If, as everyone seems to think it will, the FA is bound to appoint Harry Redknapp as the next England manager, you wonder why it hasn't done so already. It is, so we are led to believe, an open secret he wants the job.

He is far and away the best-qualified Englishman for it. So why not get on with it and stop faffing? Give him the job and bring a bit of continuity to bear on things. After all, there is a major competition coming up in but three months' time. It might not be a bad idea to give the man in charge a bit of time to prepare.

Unless, of course, the FA has different ideas. Maybe it is looking elsewhere. Perhaps it has its sights in a completely other direction, one which the rest of us have overlooked in the sentimental assumptions about Redknapp. You never know, it could just surprise us all, with a left-field appointment, someone no one expected. Someone rather good.

Or, of course, it could just be obfuscating to give the impression that it has been exploring every avenue and not simply giving the job to the first man the press tells them to. It could be that its natural instinct is to earmark the job for for the nation's darling all along, but protocol demands a delay to give the illusion of seriousness.

Either way, it is doing Redknapp no favours. His every working moment at Tottenham is put into new perspective by the speculation. Every press conference begins with him saying that, no, there has been no contact from the FA and in any case his focus is very definitely on Spurs. And in every match his tactical nous is put under fresh scrutiny.

Was bringing on Sandro the smartest thing to do against Arsenal? In a difficult England game in the latter stages of a competition, would he make a similarly poor decision? Can a manager who does that really be the best we have?

And his record against the other sides in the top seven in the Premier League (three wins, three draws and four defeats), it is being said, does not suggest he is exactly the man to turn around England's perennial struggles against the leading nations of the world.

Whatever the reason for the delay, Spurs have not exactly been thriving since the Harry for England bandwagon went into overdrive. It started well with a pulsating victory against Newcastle. But that has been followed by a turgid FA Cup draw with Stevenage and last weekend's humiliation at the Emirates. All the chatter, all the gossip, all the assumptions: none of them are doing the manager or his club any good.

In other words, it could be said Redknapp is suffering from tapping-up syndrome, the oddly undermining effect on form that comes when a player is coveted publicly by another club. Something of which he, of course, is never guilty as a manager.

For once, the Rugby Football Union, an organisation not renowned for its surfeit of common sense, seems to be doing things rather better in its recruitment of a new England coach. Twickenham has published a shortlist, and is about to embark on an interview process. We know who is going for the post, with the interim coach Stuart Lancaster at the head of an interesting queue.

But from the FA there is nothing, silence, obfuscation. No transparency, no clarification, just a fog of secrecy. And into the information vacuum has poured all sorts of rumours. The fact that Jose Mourinho has apparently been house-hunting in London has not exactly cooled the speculation. And Sven, he hasn't got a football job at the moment. Nor has Glenn Hoddle. Or Kevin Keegan.

Now, it could be argued that the FA is under no obligation to be open about its process. That in the world of football, where most of those you would like to employ are already in a job, the rules insist you cannot go around publicly coveting other people's employees. It is the FA's decision and its decision alone and it would be pilloried if it got it wrong so it cannot be faulted for taking its time. As long as it knows what it is doing, that is all that matters. All this is true.

But in the meantime it is doing no favours whatsoever for the man who, all common sense suggests, will end up with the job. If nothing else, if he does finally find himself appointed, the continuing prevarication will only imply he was not the first choice. Which is hardly a ringing endorsement.

What Redknapp could do with, to restate his reputation as much as reassert his credentials for the job, is a morale-restoring victory on Sunday against Manchester United. Well, that's easy then. Spurs have not beaten United since 2001.

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