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Tuesday, 04 September 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: Harry has a new game as Redknapp makes his Match Of The Day bow


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All in all, it’s fair to say that the summer of 2012 will be looked back on with a great deal of fondness by the vast majority. Sure the weather failed to resemble anything remotely “summery”, and we may of had to put up with the usual bunch of sycophantic ne’er-do-wells in the Big Brother house. Those irksome aberrations aside, there was much to savour; the glorious spectacle of the London Games and the countless fresh heroes it produced; a flawed, yet courageous pursuit of European glory from Roy Hodgson and his fledgling England side was refreshing in its industrious exertion; and best of all of course, Joey Barton finally took the hint and left the country.

We should remember though that the past four months or so haven’t been kind to everybody. One man who may be thinking the Mayans were onto something with their 2012 prophecy is the Del Boy of football himself, Harry Redknapp.

Back in the crisp, Spring mornings of March and April, ‘Arry had the football world at his feet. Another pundit-defying season at Spurs was in full swing; he was the heir apparent to the top job in the English game, and every football journo from The Sun to the Croydon Gazette was in his pocket. His supreme fortune was even spreading amongst the family: son Jamie was the jewel in Sky Sports’ crown and daughter-in-law Louise was a Sunday morning fixture on the BBC. Harry’s stock was so high, that it wouldn’t have surprised me to hear that he would be running against Boris for London Mayor.

However, fate intervened and since those heady days, Redknapp’s woes have multiplied almost daily. England went the other way, Spurs slumped and eventually he was ousted, Jamie was supplanted by Gary Neville as Sky’s top dog. Even Louise felt the brunt and is now back in her natural environment behind a Superdrug checkout. A plague of misfortune and anguish surged through the Redknapp household, leaving a trail of devastation, disappointment and ads for The Sun’s Dreamteam. Harry finally hit rock bottom on Saturday however when he was resigned to his new football career: sat next to Alan Shearer on the Match Of The Day sofa.

He was finding it hard to adapt from the very beginning. Sources at the BBC tell me the excitement of the previous evening’s transfer deadline had awakened old habits in Harry, and he turned up on Saturday morning for rehearsals with Jermain Defoe and Titus Bramble in his car. When the evening finally came around though, Harry put in a pretty good shift in his debut performance. Host Gary Lineker certainly thought so when he triumphantly announced that, “we have a great looking Match Of The Day!” Although at that point he may not have realised which Redknapp the BBC had acquired. On second viewing of Harry’s haggard features, Lineker may have altered his opening gambit to: “we have a strange, weathered-looking Match Of The Day”.

Not that Harry should care. I’ve narrowed down his decision to go into punditry full time to two possible reasons. Perhaps he feels the time is right to step back from the frenzied rigmarole of club management and emulate his son’s broadcasting career; although that is like going to the toilet to emulate your flatmate’s massive turd. Or maybe the only reason Harry is at the BBC is so he has something legitimate to put on his tax return in April. Whatever his reason, we should enjoy it while we can. He is the perfect tonic to stale MOTD veterans Hansen, Shearer and Lawro with his supreme knowledge of the current game and homespun insight. He even has his own catchphrase already: “I like the look of the boy”, he utters when describing a host of players, even for veterans like Brad Friedel who is only about a year younger than Harry himself.

He also had a pretty good set of fixtures to watch too. One of the regular joys of MOTD comes when some of the lesser lights of the Premier League get the headline slot and first up this week was Sunderland’s visit to Swansea and a superb game it was too. Swansea maintained their impressive start to the season with a hard fought point against O’Neill’s talented side, and it is wonderful to see Michael Laudrup’s effortless class rubbing off on his team. It also struck me that with the likes of Chico, De Guzman and Michu, the Swansea team sheet now reads like a cast list for a low budget Spanish soap. Away from the Liberty stadium there were other notable games for Redknapp to get his teeth into. Steve Clarke’s continuing success with West Brom; another defeat for Mark Hughes’ QPR that may prompt him to bring in another 17 players on loan; and of course most difficult of all for Harry, Spurs. Another uneven performance from his former charges, and one with which he must have looked on with a smidgeon of glee. He was fair to AVB and Tottenham though, and even promised that they would be “top 4 – no danger!”. I’m a little more sceptical about AVB’s prospects however, and the way things are going, Harry might have to shuffle up on the MOTD sofa next week to make space for another ex-Spurs boss.

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