After kicking off his career in Birmingham with an L, it didn’t take Harry Redknapp long at all to get a bit salty.
After Gabby Agbonlahor’s goal tipped the Blues towards relegation, Redknapp had a bit to say: “He’s come on and had 10 minutes. That will keep him happy here for another year.”
The comments, in regards to Gabby’s current career with Villa, are extremely unfair - not because they are not correct (although Gabby played over 40 minutes - not ten), but because Harry Redknapp is likely the managerial equivalent of Gabby Agbonlahor.
Firstly, can we actually say Redknapp has been successful at all? Redknapp has sat at the highest chair of English football for an age and always appears to be a whisker away from managing the English national football team, but based on what? Redknapp has been the ‘nearly-man’ for most of his career and despite a good spell at Tottenham and an FA Cup with Portsmouth in a stint that was underlined by dirty money, Redknapp has done fuck all. Kind of like Gabby.
Redknapp? He’s right about Gabby - but those comments shouldn’t come out of your mouth during your first post-gamer as a manager. It is petty, it’s bitter. When you fail, you need to look inside - rather than point fingers. That seems to be the case for everyone of Redknapp’s ilk - including Neil Warnock and Tim Sherwood.
Gabby Agbonlahor hasn’t performed to a ‘decent’ level for a while and was set to be kicked out of the club until Steve Bruce arrived. Gabby has suffered two pretty severe injuries, especially for a 30-year old footballer, this season - so to come back with such gusto is a pretty remarkable feat. Not one player performed to the level and intensity of Agbonlahor in Sunday’s derby, which is pretty damning of Villa - but Steve Bruce seems to be making the most out of Villa’s ‘broken things’ including Alan Hutton and Nathan Baker - who have enjoyed their best football under Bruce.
What’s strange about Redknapp’s remarks is that they are so very cutting - Steve Bruce, the man who knows Gabby best had a lot to say as well:
“Gabby tried everything he possibly could to be fit and I'm delighted for him. He showed what it means to him, he showed passion. As soon as he came on he's making a challenge, he's tearing after somebody. He lifted the whole stadium. He changed the whole atmosphere inside the stadium as soon as he walked on to the pitch.”
Gabby has his flaws, and they pile high - but we cannot argue with Bruce. He knows the player more than anyone - which makes Redknapp’s statement so odd. He chose to lash out at a player he doesn’t know.
‘Arry also grabbed a few laughs when he spotted Villa hero Gary Shaw, before remarking that he was a ‘proper fackin’ player’. In Redknapp’s world, there are proper players and proper managers who work proper hard. It’s a show of great respect, yes - but it’s also a slight to both the Villa team of today, and even his own team. Are there not proper players on either side? Players like Gabby Agbonlahor who came on, got scrappy, fought a bit and won the game? It’d be lunacy to compare Shaw and Gabby - but come on, if there was ever a performance that smacked of 70’s bravado, it was Agbonlahor’s on Sunday - a performance that would have been respected by Redknapp, had it been Gabby lining up for the Blues.
Redknapp is a figure to be respected, but that respect can only get you so far - especially when it seems that Redknapp’s talents as a leader and tactician are quite limited. We see Redknapp all over the ‘jobs for the boys’ culture of English football - from his protege Tim Sherwood treating his job at Swindon like a hobby through to Paul Merson talking rubbish on Sky Sports. It seems that in Redknapp, we have a totem of English footballing identity - a clueless, wandering, highly-paid relic.