, Harry s end game
Redknapp’s Birmingham exit
AT 3.45pm on Saturday, September 16, something happened which ended Harry Redknapp’s reign as manager of Birmingham City.
We were beating Preston North End 1-0 and the crowd of 21,168, including the away fans, were impressed with the performance of Harry’s team.
It was only the third game that he had had the chance to select a team which included all his new transfer window signings.
In his manager’s column in the match day programme, he stated :“We’ve signed some fantastic players and this team is beginning to take shape. And it is a team you supporters will get excited about, which is important.”
At half-time, the Bluenoses were believing Harry’s comments. Could this, at long last, be the start of a new beginning for the Blues which would see us challenging for promotion to the Premier League?
Fifteen minutes later the same team came out and gave the fans the most appalling display I have witnessed since we were demolished 8-0 by Bournemouth immediately after the Board had sacked Lee Clark.
On reflection, this was worse because against Bournemouth at least the players kept going as the crowd exited St Andrew’s. There was a similar crowd exit on this occasion as all eleven players capitulated to a good but not excellent Preston outfit, going down 3-1. This was our eighth league game under Harry this season. Our haul of points was four from a possible 24 and that’s why we were second bottom in the Championship. More revealing is the fact that those four points had been gained in the opening three games of the season and we had lost the last five. As usual, we fans have been served the usual excuses for poor performances: “Injuries to key players” (the number of hamstrings that have been pulled this season must be some sort of record!) ,“this team is still predominantly the previous manager’s” and, of course ,“players need to get used to each other and new tactics”. Although these platitudes are annoying, they are true, but what happened to the motivational skills of Harry which helped us to win a final day relegation battle in 2016/17? Did they leave when Kevin Bond replaced Steve Cotterill? If a team can perform as well as the Blues did in the firsthalf of the Preston game, how can an acclaimed, experienced manager let it fall apart in the second-half without showing some animation and passion from his technical area as the opposition scored three?
This is why I believe something happened in the home dressing room which fundamentally destroyed the spirit of the team which then subsequently delivered such an abject display.
The only time I have seen it happen before was in the second half of the 1956 FA Cup Final as a ten-year-old sitting with my Dad in front of a 10-inch Marconi television, viewing the match in glorious black and white with no replays or punditry.
Blues were red-hot favourites to beat Manchester City as we had finished sixth in Division One (still our highest top level finish) and had got to Wembley without playing at St Andrew’s.
At half-time the score was level and we had everything to play for – and then something happened.
In his biography entitled “Gil Merrick”, the legendary Birmingham goalkeeper records the following:
“At half-time we were 1-1 and we knew we were a team that was stronger in the second half; however, instead of using the 10 minutes at half-time positively, a huge row broke out between Arthur Turner (manager) and Len Boyd (captain).
“Arthur came storming in and laid into Len about getting hold of (Don) Revie, who was playing in a deep position for a centre-forward.
“Len gave as good as he got and the language was disgusting, but it took up the whole of the half-time break…..and it was a de-motivated side that left the Wembley dressing room.” Strangely, the defeat was also 3-1. I may well be wrong but let’s consider the circumstances. The owners had been patient with Gianfranco Zola, giving him over 20 games before finally sacking him.
So why sack Harry after eight league games of a new season when they had given him massive support financially to the extent of breaking our transfer fee paid record by bringing Jota in from Brentford for £6m?
In fairness to Harry, and as mentioned previously, the Preston game was only the third in which he had had the chance to field all his summer transfer window signings, and on paper they looked good.
David Stockdale (best goalkeeper in the Championship in 2016/17 – but yet to live up to that claim to date?), Maxime Colin and Harlee Dean from Brentford, Marc Roberts, the Barnsley captain in 2016/17, Jason Lowe and Isaac Vassell.
So big commitments from the Chinese owners in terms of fees and wages, so why act so quickly? I was having dinner at around 7.30pm after the Preston game when the news of his sacking was announced!
And what about the loan players that had joined the club on the back of Harry’s reputation? Jeremie Boga (Chelsea), Cohen Bramall, Carl Jenkinson (both Arsenal) and Liam Walsh (Everton)?
It does not make sense, which is why I hold onto my conspiracy theory.
Good luck to new boss Steve Cotterill and assistant Lee Carsley.
Let’s hope they can get the Blues climbing the Championship table – and survive longer than Zola and Redknapp!
Feeling Blue: Harry Redknapp
celebrates End of the road: Jordan Hugill the Blues putting Preston 2-1 up against
Good times: Harry enjoys keeping Birmingham up last season
Big signing: Jota