Citing an imminent knee operation, which will leave him unable to “give 100%” as manager of relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers, Harry Redknapp tendered his resignation last Tuesday. This leaves Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey to temporarily helm the club, who are currently languishing second from bottom in the Premier League in only their first season back in the top flight.
Redknapp’s star has certainly faded somewhat since achieving fourth place with Spurs three times during his four-year tenure at White Hart Lane. Redknapp surprised many upon joining QPR in 2012, having been overlooked for the England manager’s position in favour of Roy Hodgson. Redknapp blamed this supposed oversight by the FA on the many court cases the infamous ‘wheeler-dealer’ of English football has been embroiled in over the last ten years. These accusations include defrauding, false accounting and even a bizarre incident involving a racehorse by the name of ‘Double Fantasy’. Although Redknapp was declared not guilty in all of these investigations, he has hardly emerged as a paragon of ethical sporting practice.
For many, including large swathes of The Hoops’ fans – and no doubt Southampton fans, for whom Redknapp still remains a Judas-figure after leaving the club for local rivals, Portsmouth – the writing had long since been on the wall. In the 2012/13 season, which saw QPR relegated to the Championship, the club had a wage bill that actually dwarfed that of last season’s La Liga champions Atletico Madrid. Despite significant investment in the squad last summer following their dramatic playoff final win over Derby County, Redknapp’s team have lost every single away game they’ve played this season, and have managed only a paltry five wins. Oscillating between 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 formations, Redknapp seemed uncertain of what tactics and playing style to adopt for his team – which seems puzzling for someone who has been in management for the best part of the last 40 years.
The bizarre, and very public, outburst that Redknapp levelled at one of his own players last October seemed to be the nadir of his spell in the dugout at Loftus Road. During a press conference, the blustering East-Londoner ranted that his own midfielder Adel Taraabt was “about three stone overweight”, lambasting him for not wanting “to run and train”. This drama veered over into farce when Taraabt responded with pictures, revealing a stomach that was anything but overweight, and even proceeded to criticise Redknapp’s managerial style. Redknapp could only lamely retort that “even I could suck my stomach in for a picture and look okay”. He even went so far as to bemoan the state of English football as a whole: “What’s the game coming to?” is all the visibly emotional managerial luminary could conclude after lamenting the lack of effort his highly paid players were putting in (one might equally ask “what’s the game coming to?” when a manager being paid £3m a year, who can barely muster an average of one goal per game, is still beloved by many amongst the English press).
For someone so willing to publicly shame his own player’s performance with such alacrity, Redknapp made no significant signings over the January transfer window. The pressure on the QPR boss only seemed to mount, as rumours of a sacking were Redknapp to lose his January 17th game to Manchester United bubbling to the surface. Redknapp kept his job despite the loss, angrily blaming the rumour on an ‘insider’ within the club. A few days later, club chairman Tony Fernandes came out in support of Redknapp, declaring him “the best man to get us out of the position we are currently in”. But as gilet-clad, fellow Spurs alumni Tim Sherwood has become slated to replace Redknapp in the past few days, it is hard not to read into the serendipitous timing of his resignation.
It does not seem so much a case of the rats leaving a sinking ship, as it does the captain navigating his vessel into disaster, only to escape himself in the last remaining lifeboat.