IT happened with the England manager’s job. Now it’s happening with the Tottenham job. It’s the Vertigo inversion.
In Vertigo, James Stewart plays a detective who gets a lover to dress as a woman he has become obsessed with. (Being a Hitchcock film, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but we’d be here all day if I tried to go through the entire plot. And besides, I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it yet, even though you’ve had long enough, given that it came out in 1958.)
When it comes to appointing a manager, though, football club chairmen seem to go the opposite way. Rather than developing a type, as Stewart’s detective did, they go for someone who is as unlike their previous manager as possible.
And so with England, the cool, sophisticated Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson was replaced by the down-to-earth, player-friendly Englishman Steve McClaren, who was in turn replaced by the no-nonsense Italian disciplinarian Fabio Capello. (If this pattern continues, Capello’s eventual successor will probably be either Gok Wan or Trisha.)
I can’t help but wonder, therefore, if the ‘go for a manager who is nothing like the last one’ theory might explain why Tottenham have decided to replace Juande Ramos with Harry Redknapp.
Ramos was a master of European football – winning the UEFA Cup twice with Sevilla – who couldn’t adjust to life in the Premier League, and who was so unsure of his English that he was still sending out Gus Poyet (himself not a native English speaker) to do his TV post-match interviews almost a year after arriving at White Hart Lane.
Redknapp, on the other hand, has enjoyed just three competitive European games in 25 years as a manager, but is as media-friendly as they come. Indeed, he can probably rival Terry Venables when it comes to counting his friends among the London press. (I expect Redknapp to be eulogised in several national newspapers tomorrow.)
Tottenham needed to do something, having made the worst league start in their history after selling Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane, and replacing them with players who haven’t – yet – made an impact.
The appointment of Redknapp is more than just a change of manager. It’s a change of management structure. Gone with Ramos is director of football Damien Comolli. Redknapp will, it seems, be given a free hand to build a team.
Tottenham’s chopping and changing of managers over the past five years has, to an outsider, been little short of comical. Remember Glenn Hoddle? He was sacked six games into the season in 2003, leaving director of football David Pleat to stumble through the rest of the campaign, guiding Tottenham to the giddy heights of 14th.
Then came Jacques Santini, fresh from a two-year spell as coach of France. He lasted 13 games at White Hart Lane, for reasons no one has ever been to explain satisfactorily. (Maybe it was personal problems, maybe it was a bust-up with sporting director Frank Arnesen. Maybe we’ll never know.)
Martin Jol was promoted from the assistant manager’s job only as a caretaker initially, but actually turned out to be quite good, taking Spurs to within one win of Champions League qualification in 2006.
Then came the fall-out with Comolli – a man who had a successful record in finding players when working as a European scout for Arsenal, but who Jol claimed was having too much of a say in who was signed for the Spurs first-team squad.
Redknapp won’t have that kind of interference to worry about. And he won’t have to worry either about the sort of murmurings about lack of leadership coming from Jonathan Woodgate towards the end of Ramos’ reign.
Tottenham’s new boss will certainly show plenty of leadership. And it will work brilliantly. Until it doesn’t. And then it will be time for someone completely different.