Redknapp's dysfunctional final season at QPR should have never happened
Since that incredible May day at Wembley, when Bobby Zamora secured QPR's return to the Premier League, Harry Redknapp was on a downward trajectory. Limping out of the relegation fight apparently due to an ongoing knee injury really is a disappointing end to his tenure at Loftus Road.
But, from the minute R's owner Tony Fernandes made the knee-jerk reaction to give Redknapp another crack at the Premier League, nothing has really gone right for the former Spurs boss and one-time favourite candidate for the job of England manager.
When Rangers copped for the 90-million-pound promotion via the most spectacular spectacle imaginable, Fernandes should have hugged Harry tightly, lauded his friend for guiding his club back into the promised land and parted ways -- like he should have done with great servant Gary O'Neil, who was instead nudged out the back door.
O'Neil's unceremonious axing in July as the club jetted off to Germany for their preseason tour was the first of a handful of actions by Redknapp, with the backing of Fernandes, to repeat all the club's old mistakes of placing reputation over substance.
Richard Dunne was almost instantly knocked down the pecking order by the sensible signing of Steven Caulker and the ludicrous deal to bring Rio Ferdinand to the club.
It seemed with each step forward there was another step back. The club gave Armand Traore a two-year deal, then tried to sell him to Crystal Palace. Danny Simpson was flogged to Leicester as he didn't fit into a 3-5-2 formation that lasted a match and a half. Exciting youngsters like Coll Donaldson and Jack Robinson were signed but then disappeared out on loan while ageing Niko Kranjcar and injury-prone Sandro were brought in. Jordon Mutch arrived at the tender age of 23, looking in need of a kick-start to his career and got it six months later when he was sold to Crystal Palace.
It was never a miracle that Redknapp got Rangers promoted, it was the bare minimum considering the funds and players at his disposal. Yes, he has to get rid of a lot of deadwood and his side were seen as a major side to beat in the second-tier and teams sat deep and frustrated them, but they should have done better than to finish fourth, 22 points behind champions Leicester.
Things seemed to pile up on top of the 67-year-old very quickly. On the preseason tour he was jovial and helpful, hiding out of shot during one televised interview with defender Clint Hill and instructed his trusted centre-back to make it clear to the club's money men that they needed seven summer signings. Ferdinand and Caulker joined the tour and there was a buoyant mood, despite the 3-5-2 formation failing even then against third-rate opposition.
But back in Blighty, after a couple of defeats, most severely the one against West Ham, Redknapp attacked the trip to Germany. It was the worst preseason of his half-century career, it was amateur week against pathetic opposition. It was very surprising to anyone that had been on that tour.
Another odd thing happened on that tour. During an interview, a player was asked what impact Redknapp had had on his career since his arrival in November 2012 -- a glowing reference was expected. Instead, the player appeared anxious and asked for the camera to be turned off so he could explain himself. The player said he did not get along with Redknapp and that he did not want to lie or gloss over the truth as he had seen his teammates do as a matter of professional courtesy. He explained his reasons calmly and said he was not alone in just not having a great relationship with his boss. It was a startling and frank admission from someone who did not, on the surface, seem to be at odds with their boss.
That off-air moment was to be prophetic, however, as Redknapp clashed with two players later in the season. Managers clash with players on a daily basis, but at QPR, it appears almost everything happens in the glare of the media, whether it be a Christmas non-party or a not-so-secret failed transfer.
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The spat with Adel Taarabt was grotesque and sad because Redknapp did like the midfielder, he did want to nurture him, but what they said about each other in a public power struggle wrecked their relationship beyond repair. And later, in a much smaller but revealing episode, Shaun Wright-Phillips was critical of Redknapp's handling of him. Everyone told Wright-Phillips to leave QPR, from Redknapp to his own dad, Ian, but he opted to stay and see out his lucrative contract. Wright-Phillips is a popular figure in the dressing room, and Rangers players who watched him toil at training each day were not impressed, probably thinking that one day that could well be them.
In the end, Redknapp, once adored for his openness and gregariousness, was failing to win people over anymore. Fans, players, pundits, journalists and ultimately his bosses grew tired of hearing excuses instead of solutions. You almost felt sorry asking him why his group of players lost every away match they played for him, as he plainly had no clue and looked disinterested in finding an answer. He appeared tired, though he bristled when quizzed on his motivation and reminded us that he rose at 5:30 every morning to do the job he loves.
In the end he looked forlorn, denied the funds he had been asking for since the summer, starved of the loans he assured us he was getting in January and undermined by the appointment of Les Ferdinand as director of football operations, who took over transfer dealings.
In the end, perhaps Redknapp had the final laugh in the face of an owner who began to marginalise the manager's importance and question his contribution. Just days after Ferndandes said "This is Harry's squad of players, so he is the man to move us forward," Harry was gone. The day after the transfer window shut, no less, leaving no time for his successor to remodel the failing squad.
In the end, it should never have really begun. The lasting memory of Redknapp with Rangers should be that playoff final, that game of games and day of days. It was really all downhill from there.
Wally Downes Jr. is a reporter for Hayters sports agency in London and a contributor to ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @WallyDownes_Jr.