At the time it seemed an inspired appointment. The FA dillied and dallied for the best part of three months, but when they announced on 1 May that Harry Redknapp was the new England manager a nation rejoiced. The written press, in particular, was ecstatic at the decision, having long trumpeted Harry’s credentials over lesser lights such as Roy Hodgson, a man with no FA Cups to his name and who had only managed three national sides previously.
Perhaps the only set of fans with any reason to lament Redknapp’s inevitable elevation to national messiah were Spurs supporters, who had watched in horror as the great man allowed uncertainty over his long-term position as Tottenham manager to wreck a promising league campaign. Immediately after Capello’s resignation on 8 February, Tottenham steamrollered Newcastle at home, winning 5 zip. They thus cemented their third-place position; 7 points clear of Chelsea in fourth and 10 points ahead of Arsenal in sixth. At that point they seemed nailed on for Champions League football in 2012-13. Everyone knows what happened next.
Never mind. Soon after the season ended Spurs supporters were jubilant when Pep Guardiola made the surprise decision to suspend his planned season-long sabbatical and accept Chairman Daniel Levy’s offer of taking up the reins at White Hart Lane. “The prospect of working with such great players as Gareth Bale and Luka Modric was too great to turn down. I am excited to continue the football traditions of Tottenham laid down by Sir Bill Nicholson,” stated Guardiola. “I have already spoken with Lionel Messi and he is keen to join me in north London,” he added.
So, it was with their new manager that the Three Lions set off for Polkraine with spirits high and the nation behind them. New assistant coach Jamie Redknapp made no attempt to dampen expectations when he claimed on the eve of the tournament that, having seen his cousin (and new England captain) Junior Lampard help defeat Barcelona and Bayern in the Champions League already that season, the continentals held no fear for a squad brimming with talent and experience. Indeed, with Rio Ferdinand and John Terry forming the heart of the defence, Joe Cole adding some sparkle on the wing and Peter Crouch providing the cutting edge, Team England seemed destined for glory.
Such expectancy only added to the shock and disappointment as England were bundled out of Group D with three consecutive 1-0 losses, each characterised by defensive naivety and dodgy officiating. The eventual tournament winners France overcame the loss to injury of their most potent striker Karim Benzema after John Terry’s crude tackle in their opening game, defeating Germany on penalties in the final. John Terry’s red card in the France match, and subsequent three match suspension for dangerous play, has given the former England skipper extra time off to prepare his defence for today’s trial at Westminster magistrates court.
However, Redknapp knew the real reasons for England’s early exit from the Euros: “Despite taking a triffic squad over to the tournament we were undone by Lady Luck. Once we lost JT we were really down to the bare bones. And as for those chances that fell to Crouchy? Well, my Rosie – God rest her soul – could’ve stuck ‘em away.”