There is no English word for Fremdschämen. Reading Harry Redknapp’s serialised autobiography in the Daily Mail, one is wont to think the time may be right to coin one. For Redknapp, charming and dense as ever, has reminded us all once again, how he was “the people’s choice” to become England manager in the spring of 2012. And boy, how we cringed.
I am a very ardent believer in the virtues of democracy, but we can only thank God that the West’s ideals of universal suffrage have not infiltrated the selection of national team managers.
Instead of hearing the people sing, the FA gave the job to Roy Hodgson. Redknapp proved the FA right – promptly being sacked by Tottenham and then relegated with new club QPR.
Eighteen months later, he still cannot understand why he was beaten to the punch by Hodgson.
Maybe he forgot that, during that time, he was also defending himself in court against charges of tax evasion, having set up an offshore bank account in Monaco under the name of his dog.
At that time, he told the judge “I am the most disorganised person in the world – I can’t even fill a team sheet in”.
Perhaps he didn’t consider that the FA had a straight judgment call. Either he was as ditzy and disorganised as he suggested, or he was knowingly cheating his country out of thousands of pounds.
I, for one, am more inclined to believe the former. As, more importantly, was the jury. But if it comes down to whether he’s illiterate or a master criminal, one conclusion that can safely be drawn is that he wasn’t ideal for the England job.
Or maybe he struggles to see how a manager as popular as he is could be beaten by someone quite as dull and dutiful as Roy Hodgson?
Better not to mention the fact that Roy Hodgson had managed Switzerland at a World Cup, taking them to third in the world rankings, had won seven Swedish titles with Halmstad and Malmö, and had been made a Knight of the Order of the Lion for services to Finnish football. Popularity doesn’t count much against that sort of thing, I’m afraid, Harry. Try running for public office, instead.
Redknapp’s success was based almost entirely on his wanton profligacy in the transfer market. Hodgson’s is almost entirely based on making a lot out of limited resources (indeed, at bigger clubs such as Inter and Liverpool, he was generally less successful.) The FA's appreciation that, for the current England team, one of Europe’s finest talent economists would be more suitable than the bastard offspring of Del Boy and Felix Magath, was a rare moment of wisdom on their part.
The one reason Harry did state was that the football his teams play is far better than that played by Hodgson’s sides. Had he become England manager, yelped Harry indignantly from the pages of the Mail, he’d have had Brendan Rodgers as his assistant coach, and England would be passing the ball properly. Just like Spain.
Redknapp does indeed promote attacking football. But at the end of the day he is a man so English there are Baked Beans in his blood flow – he is not the natural successor to Rinus Michels. Besides, Hodgson proved beyond all doubt that his teams can also play attractive, attacking football when they did just that against Montenegro on Friday.
Should England, as expected, qualify for the World Cup when they line up against Poland on Tuesday night, it will be a testament to the achievements of Hodgson. Into a football nation traditionally crippled by its own delusions of grandeur, Hodgson has brought a healthy sense of realism. England are finally aware of just how mediocre they are.
That is something that Harry Redknapp could never have achieved, had he become England manager. The dear old romantic still believes England to be a powerful footballing nation. After so many years of proving themselves everything but, such a mindset is just a little embarrassing.
Kit Holden (@kitholden) is English and is currently working as an intern at Tagesspiegel-Sport. He also writes on German football for The Independent.