As the serialisation of Harry Redknapp's autobiography begins, it's predictable that he had a few words to say on the decision to appoint Roy Hodgson as England manager. Even by his own standards, however, the attack is about as subtle as his tax arrangements.
While claiming he has no grudge against Roy Hodgson, Redknapp then goes on to criticise the appointment because he would've "wanted England to play with as much technical ambition as Swansea", was "the people's choice", "got quite a few text messages from... Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry", and that "I wouldn't trust the FA to show me a good manager if their lives depended on it" and Hodgson "is more their cup of tea."
Of course, some may point out that Roy Hodgson has done a wonderful job in placating and pandering to past-it players. And England are certainly playing like a mid-table Premier League side. But the line of Redknapp's attack seems odd - in the professional courtesy of refusing to criticise the man (well, directly anyway) Redknapp misses out the key reason why it's not outrageous to suggest he should indeed have been given the job - he's a better football manager.
If Hodgson learned anything from his Liverpool tenure, it appears to be that he has worked out how to be a disappointing failure in as quiet a manner as possible, rather than shouting it from the rooftops as he did at Anfield. His stint at England has so far risked a failure to qualify from a very weak group and some utterly insipid displays. Many feared that Redknapp's chumminess with the media would lead to criticism of him being taboo, and yet Hodgson has had an easier ride than almost any England manager in the past forty years.
It's often overlooked because Redknapp is such a ridiculous man, but Tottenham Hotspur were, under his tenure, a fun and exciting team. Faced with a group of standard 3pm kick-offs to watch, they were always the one most likely to provide entertainment. It's worth asking the question whether André Villas-Boas has actually done any better - considering the massive upgrades the squad has had, they're a fairly workmanlike team, with attacking their greatest weakness.
Redknapp failed at Queens Park Rangers, but that job was always something of an anomaly. It seemed to seal Mark Hughes' reputation as one of the worst managers around, despite the fact that he has more successes than failures in his track record. A rum assortment of ne'er-do-wells, rogues, and semi-retired paycheque-collectors seemed to be a good fit for Redknapp, but alas, the atmosphere around the club appeared to be so poisonous that relegation was a certainty.
Redknapp's reputation has always been based on his man-management and psychology. There have been high-profile exceptions in the former case, but until he entered Loftus Road, his teams rarely suffered from lack of motivation. Again, this was masked by the absurdity of the man himself, but he could be thought of as a sort of idiot savant - he appeared to be a basic chump, but in doing so was speaking a language that could be readily understood by players. "Faaahh***in' run around a bit" is merely a coaching manual on pressing in fewer words. How would Jurgen Klopp have reacted to John Terry's "let's just all have a beer" speech in South Africa?
Of all the great managers of recent years, José Mourinho, Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola have shown themselves capable of inspiring tremendous loyalty in their charges, being thought of as father figures. Redknapp is one of the few that have been able to come across the same. Yes, Maynor Figueroa probably was quite keen to work under Steve Bruce again, but it's hardly the same.
Either Redknapp's failure was down to a dulling of his wits, which was also responsible for assuming such a thin disclaimer would avoid Roy Hodgson and other stuffed suits taking offence, or he too has taken a leaf from his players and moved into semi-retirement. Ferguson did something similar, picking needless fights and burning bridges out of boredom as his time drew to a close.
It's an oft-repeated claim that people get the leaders they deserve. In taking a gamble in ditching Redknapp, Spurs landed the uncertainty of André Villas-Boas, who could do not better with a superior team. But England, for better or for worse, deserved Redknapp. If not the fans, then certainly the players. The man doesn't come out of the extracts at all well, but then, he is borderline illiterate, which must make writing an autobiography quite difficult.
Talking about football often reveals the truthfulness of the old adage: "A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing." Much of the people pointing out where the England team had gone wrong prove it entirely. Just as anyone who bases his knowledge of European talent from Football Manager and claims Mamadou Sakho is a world-class talent offers a less accurate depiction of the facts than an ignorant, casual watcher claiming "Who's this idiot then? Never heard of him, must be useless", the painfully old-school Redknapp was a lot closer to being able to make England fun and watchable than the men who have appointed themselves to the task.
Exciting, technical football wasn't invented recently. England have had players and teams that suited that description before, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Redknapp might be capable of it. The 'little bit of knowledge' approach has led to England spending millions for the privilege of having the latter-day Charles Hughes organise their sides to repeat their old failings. Considering the players available, things have probably not been worse for England. In lieu of a revolutionary spirit, a reactionary one would have done. And anyway, in revealing his correspondence with senior players, Redknapp has at least shown that he's learned to text recently. It's great to see old dogs learning new tricks, isn't it?