Filed: Thursday, 26th April 2001
By: Rob Stavely
I want Harry Redknapp to leave West Ham. I don't say this lightly and I have given it a lot of thought. Maybe too much thought. I have come late to the "Harry Out" brigade but I can't justify him managing West Ham any longer. I won't change my position now, no matter what happens. What other Hammers do or think is up to them. I've made my decision.
In 1994, Harry took over at the club and without any doubt he saved West Ham over the next 3 or 4 seasons. We had spent the latter part of the 80's and early 90's being relegated and then promoted again. We had a dire side and the Academy tradition had virtually collapsed. All the best young talent was going to Arsenal and elsewhere.
Harry turned things around with a budget of £0. In the modern game to actually survive in the top league is a great achievement - but to do it without spending a single penny and balancing the books is simply a miracle.
Harry did just that.
His other great achievement was that he swore he would get the West Ham Academy back to how it was and how it should be. Harry and the likes of Tony Carr and Peter Brabrook carried this off with almost unheard of success. The youth teams of 1995-99 were some of the best ever-assembled in Britain, producing the likes of Rio, Lampard, Cole, Carrick and Bywater and others. The 1998-99 team of Cole, Carrick and Bywater was probably the best team ever assembled in youth football in England since the war.
The Academy was back and Harry ensured that we also got talent in from other clubs and this was done by any means necessary. We nicked Jem Defoe off Charlton because we saw that he was the best young English striker in football and that it was imperative we got him. Jem was an East London lad and Harry was true to his word when he said the days of local lads being signed by other teams was over.
Harry's other great strength were a raft of signings that were simply inspired. To get Hartson, Kitson, Lomas, Sinclair, Bilic, Rieper, Berkovic, Ian Pearce, Di Canio and Kanoute and others into the club for literally peanuts was astonishing. These players all repaid their meagre transfer fees thousands of times over. As we all know the signings of Hartson, Kitson and Lomas kept West Ham in the top flight just 4 years ago.
Really the peak of Harry's achievements came 2 years ago when he got West Ham into the UEFA Cup on league placing. Again don't forget this was done without spending a penny and balancing the books. We finished 5th but had to win the Inter Tota to get into UEFA cos UEFA is bent. But that wasn't Harry's fault. He finished 5th and that is something that the great Ron Greenwood could not manage even with 3 World Cup winners at his disposal.
So I hope no-one forgets what Harry has done for us. I never will. No matter what happens to Harry or the club, he will always have my respect for a lot of things.
But Harry has a crucial flaw that is now being cruelly exposed.
He is NOT a coach. He openly states that coaching is not really important and that you can't make a bad player into a good player. Now to a certain extent Harry is right that a bad player can never be a good player that but his general disdain towards the professional coaching of players is frankly a disgrace and has always grated with me.
Its is amazing really when you consider that of all the teams in the England in the post-war period and particularly the Greenwood 1958-74 era, it WAS WEST HAM WHO WERE REGARDED AS THE MOST TECHNICALLY MINDED AND WELL COACHED TEAM IN BRITAIN AND IN EUROPE AS A WHOLE !!! I have read comments from Greenwood where he states that people actually came to watch the Hammers train, which was virtually unheard of in those days. Greenwood stated that virtually everything they did on the training ground was ball work, developing new ideas and technique. This was because the coaches at the club, led by Greenwood himself had a license to try out new techniques.
Greenwood was simply a genius and taught his players that football was in essence simple game of passing, moving, exploiting space and goalscoring.
So Harry rejects West Ham's entire post-war ethos when he rejects the concept of coaching.
Listen to what Bobby Moore said of Greenwood's arrival at West Ham in the late 1950s.
"I've played under Ron at England Under 23 level. Things are going to change around here, this chap is incredible on the game". (Moore than a legend – page 57)
Bobby was talking about Greenwood's knowledge of the game and his technical and coaching skill. Moore really WAS an average player till Greenwood got hold of him. Bobby has said that himself !!! But Bobby finished up the best defender in the world and the greatest England player of all time.
If Redknapp thinks that Moore did that on sheer talent alone then he is sadly, sadly mistaken. Yet Harry really DOES believe that if you get 11 talented player out on the pitch, they will do it without being coached.
I think this is why Redknapp tends to glorify people like Stuart Pearce and Nigel Winterburn. According to Harry’s schema, these sort of players apparently don’t need coaching as they are "special". It frankly annoys me when Harry goes on and on every week about what a player Stuart Pearce is. Now Stuart will shed blood for a team and is as much a fighter as Dicksy ever was. But in the modern game IT IS NOT ENOUGH. That is why England have done nothing since 1966. The game has developed and players have to learn and develop or get left behind. England have been left behind.
Redknapp called Stuart Pearce the best left-back in the world a few weeks ago. But why ??? Pearce was never the best left back in the world. He was absolutely nowhere near it to be honest. He is simply a fiercely competitive player with very little footballing skill to be brutally honest.
The thing is Harry worked under Greenwood for at least 7 years and knows what West Ham are about. He played in West Ham teams coached by Greenwood. But I fear he has forgotten what he was taught or what is more probable ... he has rejected it big time.
I think that Harry's spectacular success in the transfer market and our amazing youth system have covered up Harry's great weakness. That he is not a football coach.
At the end of the day, if players don't have any ideas in their heads about what to do during a game then they will fail. That is the truth. If Joe Cole or Carrick look lost in games it IS BECAUSE THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO. And the reason for this is because they are not being coached properly.
I still firmly believe and know that we have some of the most talented players, not just in Britain, but in Europe, yet we are really, really struggling. This is wrong and has to be sorted like yesterday. These same players would be a major force under the likes of Ferguson, Wenger, Houllier, Cappelo or a top young English coach like Peter Taylor or McClaren.
You can be sure that every member of the Man U first 11 knows what to do in any situation that can possibly arise in 90 minutes (or 98 minutes in their case). They are coached to perfection and work as one unit. They have a plan and the carry it out. And if they don't carry it out, then Ferguson starts spilling blood until they get it right.
In contrast Harry's team goes out with a vague plan to attack the opposition and when things go wrong he and the team have no idea about what to do.
This is what Harry said after the Everton home defeat about how we are going to get out of trouble. "We might have to change it and tighten things up, even if we have to make ourselves difficult to beat rather than go for victories."
Really Harry ???
I thought that "making ourselves difficult to beat was inseparable from "going for victories."
What we need Harry is to have team that is composed of a strong, solid unit at the back, that is hardworking and creative in the middle and most important of all, absolutely clinical in front of goal. We have NONE of that at West Ham and it's not because we don't have the players. It's because we don't have the ideas and the right mentality.
And that is down to coaching and a professional mentality and nothing else.
So to sum up. Harry has reached the end of the line. He stabilised the club and got us back on track but he has taken us as far as he can go. He has nothing to be ashamed of. He did the job to the best of his abilities but it sadly isn't enough any more. Maybe he is the victim of his own success.
If you would have said to me in 1994, that by the year 2001, we would have seen the following at Wes Ham, then I would have politely advised you to stop taking the drugs.
1. Seen West Ham in Europe by virtue of our league placing
2. Have the best youth set up in Britain
3. Have 4 of our youth products in the England squad
4. Be building Upton Park to hold 40,000
5. Beat Man U at Old Trafford in the FA Cup with a goal from the most talented player in the club's history.
But that is what has happened.
But we are now in a rut that has been developing under the surface for some time. Although it is very, very unlikely we will go down this season, I really believe that Harry has to go. The time is right for him to step down. We now need new blood and some fresh ideas at West Ham if we are to progress further.
He's a good guy, he is funny, he's one of the games characters, he's West Ham and he will be missed. Nearly everyone in football loves Harry. Fans of other clubs love him too. He is a "diamond geeza" so to speak. I don't want Harry sacked. I have too much respect for him. I just want him to leave with dignity. However, I would also accept it if Harry went "upstairs" and or got involved with the scouting set-up or some other capacity at the club. I just don’t want him as head coach any more.
And I don't want to go to Upton Park and start chanting "Harry Out". I'd rather not go at all than to have to do that. But what is it going to come to ?
I hope my comments are not read as a knee-jerk reaction to our recent terrible form. We have been in worse positions that this before and I want to say that when we nearly got relegated a few years ago and Harry volunteered to resign after the Wrexham cup defeat, I was glad that the club turned that request down. Harry was the man to lead us then but after much thought I have finally realised that he is no longer the man to take us forward.
Harry for the sake of West Ham, please go now.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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