Harry Redknapp is a gift that keeps on giving … wonderful interviews that make you wonder why anyone would ever hire this man to coach a soccer team.
AS published a conversation reporter Guillem Balague had with former wanted-to-be-England-manager Harry Redknapp about Gareth Bale. The exchange triggered flashbacks of me wondering why this man exists. It’s puzzling. Really.
When Redknapp joined Spurs in 2008, Bale was still a relatively scrawny fullback, a year into his Tottenham career. By the time Spurs sacked Redknapp, at the end of the 2011-12 Premier League season, Bale (now playing further up-field, because playing someone with Bale’s talent at fullback is absurd) had been given the keys to the car and a blank check to create chaos. A year later, he collected awards for the 2012-13 PFA Players’ Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year, and the Football Writer’s Association Player of the Year.
So four seasons, more or less, of watching Bale develop. Apparently, that makes Redknapp an expert. Let’s hear what he has to say. Keep in mind, these are real quotes from Redknapp about Bale. No one was harmed during filming, I suppose.
Redknapp on Bale’s value:
For any coach in the Premier League, there is not one player in the world, not even Cristiano or Messi, they would like to have more in their team.
Nah, not really. One quote in and it’s already a struggle to believe ‘Arry. Still, this is far from a crazy statement. But it’s close.
Redknapp on Bale’s troubles in Madrid and how he overcomes them:
Work hard, learn the language. He’s got to dive in head first. It’s no good for him to be going over whether it would be better if he came back home. He’s at one of the greatest clubs in the world, if not the greatest. This is a man’s world and he’s got to sort himself out.
THIS IS A MAN’S WORLD. OK. GOOD MANLY ADVICE.
Redknapp on handling a funky Bale at Spurs:
“Whenever he was a bit low and disheartened, I’d put my arms around his shoulders. ‘Give the ball to Gareth,’ I’d tell his teammates, in front of Gareth. ‘Today, every player out there was afraid of you,’ I’d tell him, ‘what a great player you are lad.” I’d repeat that and Gareth would always respond well.”
This explains a lot, both about Bale and about Redknapp. No wonder Bale is struggling. The coddled tend to have a bit of trouble adapting to an absence of cuddles. That’s one way to look at it. Another way: Bale needed that pampering in order to reach the level he’s at now. Although I doubt Redknapp’s replacement André Villas-Boas — Bale’s manager when he hit his heights in England — would have been so emotionally accommodating.
Harry’s management style is pick a work horse and bet the house. Details need not apply. Remember when Rafael van der Vaart was at Spurs? Remember, he said this about Redknapp: “There are no long and boring speeches about tactics, like I was used to at Real Madrid. There is a clipboard in our dressing room, but Harry doesn’t write anything on it. It’s not that we do nothing – but it’s close to that.”
Man-management at its finest. It sounds like what ‘Arry’s saying is that he needs to be hired at Real Madrid to babysit Bale.
Redknapp on how he’d play Ronaldo and Bale together:
“I’d field four midfielders – strong, aggressive men in the middle. That could be a potent 4-4-2 set-up; when the team was without the ball, Bale and Cristiano could drop back into the gap between the full-backs and centre-backs to make sure the opponents couldn’t play the ball about comfortably.”
There’s a reason why so many people refer to Redknapp as a man-manager. Because so often when you hear him talk about managing his teams, he sounds as if he’s 100% allergic to tactical knowledge. An eighth grader could give this answer. No offense to eighth graders.
Redknapp on what he’d do with Benzema:
Ah, I don’t know. When you have so many great players, things get complicated. In any case, the important thing is to make sure that nobody can say that you’ve failed.
Jesus Christ, ‘Arry. You aren’t even trying. But at some level, you have to admire it. If he gets to be England manager by saying “Come on, lad” to talented people over and over, it may wind up being one of the most impressive managerial feats of all time.
Read the entire interview here.