So long, Mark Hughes. English football just got a lot better.
On Tuesday night, Harry Redknapp will make his debut as manager of Queens Park Rangers, which everyone who follows English football has been begging for since QPR's first loss of the year. It's a bit of a step down for Harry, but it's also about the best job he was going to get. Let's revisit how this came to be.
Ten months ago, Redknapp was English football's golden boy and a shoo-in for the England job. Tottenham Hotspur were soaring, Fabio Capello was just about to get himself relieved of his duties, and the press was crying out for an Englishman to take over the Three Lions.
In the post-McClaren era, calls came from across the country for an experienced foreign manager to take over England. When a very experienced and very foreign manager failed to turn a flawed team into world beaters, everyone's tone changed, and it became glaringly obvious to everyone that an Englishman should manage England, surely. And the cyclical England manager narrative goes on, forever and ever.
For the first time since McClaren guided Middlesborough to the UEFA Cup final, the English people had an Englishman they could believe in to take over their national side. What Redknapp lacks in modern tactical sense and apparent book smarts, he makes up for with a no-bullshit personality that endears fans, media, and players alike to the idea of him as the manager of their team. His team produced results in the Premier League because Redknapp was at least smart enough to know that he was (and still is) no tactical mastermind, and that football is not an inherently complicated game.
Sure, there are complicated situations, and Redknapp gets found out when they present themselves. When it comes down to a match against an opponent superior in natural talent, that also has a well-drilled opponent with a perfectly laid out tactical plan, he can't mastermind a plan to mask his side's deficiencies and pull out a surprise victory. He can, however, put players into positions they're comfortable in, motivate them, and get them to play up to their talent level.
When Redknapp arrived at Tottenham Hotspur, they were in the drop zone, playing well below expectations. He didn't do anything magical to turn them around, unless selecting his most talented players, not playing them out of position and teling him that he believed in them constituted magic. That's really all his Tottenham side needed back in the 2008-09 season.
Redknapp has made his reputation as a master man manager and motivator, but his main asset as a manager was compromised when Capello stepped down as England manager last winter and Redknapp was immediately annointed by the English media as his obvious successor. A proud Englishman who dreamed of capturing the job, Redknapp was unwilling to say that he didn't want the job. A professional wanted to respect his then-boss Daniel Levy, Redknapp said that he had a contract at Spurs as long as Levy held him to it. There was not anything particularly wrong with his stance.
That is, except for the averse effects it had on his Tottenham squad. Shortly after the news came out that Capello had left England, Tottenham went to Arsenal for a North London Derby and collapsed after a brilliant start to the match. It was the beginning of the end of Tottenham's love affair with their manager, as well as their brilliant season. For the rest of the year, Spurs played relegation-qualify football, the Gunners closed the double-digit point gap between the two clubs, and Chelsea won the Champions League, rendering Tottenham's fourth place finish meaningless.
Given Tottenham's collapse, The FA had legitimate questions about Redknapp's ability, even though they certainly made an indirect contribution to that collapse. Roy Hodgson was named England boss, Redknapp was fired by Spurs, and the media's chosen son completed his tumble from national superstar to the unemployment line in a matter of three months.
It took until this November, but Redknapp is back, and deservedly so, because the blame for Tottenham's collapse shouldn't fall squarely on his shoulders. His inability to motivate his side last spring contributed to their demise, but how could he speak to them the same way in March as he did in December? A combination of factors beyond anyone's control led to Spurs' (and ultimately Redknapp's) downfall. Redknapp, Daniel Levy, Tottenham's players, The FA, the English media, and in a convoluted way, Capello, John Terry and the police, were all partially responsible.
Redknapp was revoked of the ability to speak to his team with any smidgen of authority, thanks to the actions of nearly a dozen people, all converging on Redknapp and Tottenham Hotspur to derail everything that they had built from the beginning of last season until the day Capello left the England post.
Now, he's back, and Queens Park Rangers will improve under his watch. Will they improve enough to dig themselves out of the massive hole they're in? Possibly, but it's a tall task. Redknapp is going to need to secure approximately 36 points over the next 25 games to save his team from relegation, meaning his team will need to win a little more than one-third of their games and avoid defeat in well over half of them.
But even if he isn't successful, isn't this appointment a win for football, as well as people who just generally enjoy fun things? While Mark Hughes was a brilliant player, he's been horrendously boring as a manager, even when he was helping Blackburn secure top-half finishes with average talent.
Redknapp is more entertaining on the sidelines and in interviews, he's more likely to say something utterly brilliant or incredibly silly, and his team is going to play a more entertaining brand of football than Hughes' sides ever have. With him at the helm of QPR, the Premier League is unlikely to have any flat-out poor sides this season. He's going to get Djibril Cisse and Adel Taarabt scoring goals, he's going to get his players behind him, and he's probably going to drop f-bombs on live television by accident.
No matter what happens on Tuesday night or over the remainder of the season, the Premier League is better for having Redknapp at the helm of QPR.