x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Could Harry Redknapp go the distance in Ukraine?

It pains me to predict that loveable Englishman Harry Redknapp will not end up managing the Ukrainian national football team.

Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp.
Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp.

It pains me to predict that loveable Englishman Harry Redknapp will not end up managing the Ukrainian national football team.

Although the former Tottenham Hotspur coach has made all the right noises - "they are an up-and-coming football country with some very good young players, some great teams and great stadiums" - I cannot help but smell a red herring. Or, given its geographical location, perhaps a pickled one.

Aside from a brief American adventure during the 1970s (three years at the Seattle Sounders) and an even briefer spell at Oxford City, this is a man with a proven record of picking clubs within commuting distance of his home on England's south coast: Bournemouth (seven miles from home), Southampton (39 miles), Portsmouth (57 miles), West Ham United (121 miles) and Tottenham Hotspur (137 miles).

Call me narrow-minded but I cannot see Kiev (1,447 miles, and some sea) falling into that category, especially with those roadworks around the Carpathian Mountains. Talk about a nightmare at rush hour.

No, not going to happen. It seems far more likely that his conveniently public "interest" in the job is designed to improve any looming offer from Queens Park Rangers (149 miles), when Mark Hughes's borrowed time finally expires.

So why the disappointment that he will not be donning a fur hat and giving interviews while leaning from the cab of an idling tractor?

Well, partly because it would put him in line for a clash with Roy Hodgson's England - the job he was a supposed certainty for - in the World Cup qualifiers next September. That would be fascinating.

However, it would be even more fascinating to see if Redknapp could thrive outside the comfort zone of home.

For all of his achievements - saving Bournemouth from relegation, finishing fifth in the Premier League and winning the Intertoto Cup with West Ham, winning promotion and an FA Cup with Portsmouth, securing Champions League football for Spurs - there remains a rather grudging attitude toward Redknapp in his home country.

Many fans, particularly those in the north, will argue that Redknapp's abilities have been overstated by his pals in the London-centric media.

Frankly, I have never bought this conspiracy theory. Firstly, history is littered with managers mercilessly destroyed by press packs they bent over backwards to please. Steve McLaren springs to mind.

Secondly, even if Redknapp has cultivated friends in the media, is that not a wise thing to do in this modern era of trial by press and television? Like it or not, media management is part of the game.

That said, there is something vaguely unsatisfying about his record, a certain lack of staying power: the promotion with Bournemouth was lost after two years, the European success of West Ham was not sustained, the glories of Portsmouth funded by non-existent cash (which Redknapp was not to know) and tainted by his willingness to flit between Fratton Park and St Mary's Stadium without a care for local sensitivities.

So although I do not buy the full conspiracy theory that Redknapp is a media-protected dud, it would be interesting to see how he fares in a country with no residual affection for avuncular Cockney with a CV of flash-in-the-pan success.

I say all this with no axe to grind. I hope he does take the job and prove that England were wrong to snub him so publicly.

International football with Redknapp on board ignites my interest in way that seeing him at Loftus Road - another relegation dogfight followed by a purple patch then the exit door, yawn - does not.

But, no, he won't. Better to be a big fish in a small pond than a pickled herring in a frozen wasteland, eh Harry?

sports@thenational.ae