x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A few home truths needed in England

The pro-Redknapp campaign is just another swing of the Goldilocks pendulum, another comforting lurch to the polar opposite of the last incumbent.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp gives a thumbs up after being cleared on Wednesday.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp gives a thumbs up after being cleared on Wednesday.

Wednesday was a strange day for Harry Redknapp.

The Tottenham Hotspur manager woke up facing the possibility of going to prison on tax evasion charges.

Instead he was acquitted and - thanks to the sudden but not entirely unexpected resignation of Fabio Capello - went to bed as the man most likely to become the next coach of the England national football team.

Frankly, I am not sure which is preferable. Yes, confinement with a bunch of unsavoury individuals would be unpleasant, as would the complete loss of dignity and privacy.

On the other hand, prison would be no picnic either.

Of course, Redknapp will take the England job because to lead your national team is the pinnacle of success, the fairy tale ending, right?

Well, yes and no. If the England job is a fairy tale, then it is Goldilocks and the Three Bears, with the notoriously picky fans and media in the role of Goldilocks.

First we tried the porridge, aka Kevin Keegan and Sven Goran Eriksson: "This one is too hot (headed), but this one is too cold!

Then Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello starred as the beds: "This one is way too soft (on his players), but this one is too hard!"

Now the crowd has decided that Redknapp will be "just right". They believe they hold this view because he has done well at Spurs and Portsmouth. They are wrong.

In reality, the pro-Redknapp campaign is just another swing of the Goldilocks pendulum, another comforting lurch to the polar opposite of the last incumbent.

Capello, you see, was just too foreign for English palates. Not acceptably foreign, like Sven Goran Eriksson, who came from the cold, industrial, Protestant half of Europe, but one of those real foreigners, with the fiery temper and the hand gestures and the overbearing mother.

If he had won tournaments, of course, we could have forgiven his persistent Italian-ness.

But he did not, and criticisms of his managerial style were always coloured - sometimes overtly, sometimes discreetly - by a xenophobic undertone.

For instance, although he was not the first England manager to struggle with divisions between players, in Capello's case we said "it is because he does not understand our culture".

Although he was not the first England manager to serve up dour tactics, in Capello's case we assumed it was "typical Italian defensiveness".

Even the straw that broke the camel's back - Capello's outspoken support for John Terry to keep his captain's armband until after his trial for alleged racism - was analysed from this perspective, with one pundit suggesting it was because "racism is more acceptable in Italy".

You know we are living in strange times when asserting the historic legal maxim of "innocent until proven guilty" is viewed as some kind of bizarre Italian quirk, like wearing shoes without socks, or eating ice cream while driving a moped.

Redknapp's achievements are dwarfed by Capello. The crowd love him, however, because he is the antithesis of foreign. With his London roots, his pasty skin, his chummy manner belying a whopping ego and ruthless edge, Redknapp is as English as they come. Even his favourite pet is a British bulldog, albeit her bank account is in Monaco.

Redknapp is our favourite uncle, our jovial landlord, our cheeky milkman. He is home, and after an ill-fated adventure with a baffling stranger, we have decided there is no place like him.

"Kick racism out of football!" we English cry - especially when it helps us to oust a foreigner.

sports@thenational.ae