Jim White

Harry’s game makes the difference

Jim White

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This week Lesley Douglas, the Controller of BBC Radio 2, resigned. Although she had nothing directly to do with the prank phone calls of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, although she had not heard their broadcast before it went out and had no idea that her star presenters were soon to join the national register of Sachs offenders, she felt obliged to go. It had all happened in her territory, she said. And as such she was responsible.

At the same time as she submitted her resignation letter, Daniel Levy, the Tottenham Hotspur chairman was announcing his club's latest financial figures to the media. They registered a healthy profit, the best in England outside the top four Champions League clubs.

Yet the rude health of Spurs' bottom line masked a distinctly less chipper recent situation where it matters for a football club: on the pitch. Asked why he had not felt the moral urge to resign following the total collapse of a system of management in which he had invested so much time, effort and prestige, Levy refused to countenance it. Never mind that his club had been driven to the bottom of a league its followers feel they ought to be lighting up, never mind the millions spent on players, never mind the sizeable pay-offs to the several managers let go, never mind the huge transfer fee to Portsmouth to buy in the latest manager to do some fire-fighting, Levy had no intention of going.

And as for the system Levy insisted on pursuing against all available evidence for all those seasons of under-achievement, well it has been chucked away without a backward look. There is to be no director of football while Harry Redknapp is manager, the chairman insisted. As if the very idea was absurd.

Asked why the shambolic mess and muddle over which he had presided for so long was not a resigning issue, Levy applied a very different logic to Lesley Douglas. The only responsibility he had to take was the responsibility of sorting everything out. Never mind that the everything was largely of his construction, he was paid to put it right. And you know what? Bizarrely and extraordinarily, he might just have done that. After much heartarche, agony and pain, Daniel Levy might just have arrived finally at doing the right thing.

You only had to watch the magnificent comeback engineered by Tottenham on Wednesday night against Arsenal to see what a difference a manager can make. These were the very same players who had looked so rudderless, shambolic and drained of morale latterly under Juande Ramos. Now suddenly there was Jermaine Jenas looking like a proper central midfielder. And there was David Bentley looking as if he might be almost as good as he thinks he is. Sure, the defence let in four Arsenal goals, but there will be better teams than Spurs who do that this season. The point was, there was real evidence of fight, of character, of a team. And that can only be down to the manager.

According to Levy, Harry Redknapp was always in his mind to replace Martin Jol. Given the undue haste with which Redknapp jumped at the chance to join Spurs last weekend, you can only think that Levy didn't make his desires sufficiently well known last autumn. But now Redknapp is at Spurs there has been an immediate uplift in fortunes.

That is Redknapp's gift: he is the kind of man manager who puts a spring in players' steps. Contrary to the look emanating from his bloodhound face, he exudes optimism. This is a man who always looks on the bright side and that simple dictum works immediately to change an atmosphere that is filled with gloom. His ill-starred tenancy at Southampton apart, he long ago mastered the art of the instant turnaround. He has been helped in this instance by the fact he has inherited good players and once he's raided a cash-strapped Portsmouth for a couple of reinforcements in January, the weaknesses in the squad will be quickly resolved. Four points in five days and suddenly things look rather cheerful at White Hart Lane.

Whether it lasts of course is always the question with Redknapp. He might be able to engender a short-term uplift but will he be able to deliver long-term upward mobility? His career has been characterised by sudden departures and unforeseen crises. And of one thing we can be certain. When and if the time comes for him to move on (or be moved on) there will be Daniel Levy, announcing to the world that it was always part of his Tottenham masterplan.

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