One of the more surprising managerial appointments last season was Harry Redknapp taking the manager position at Birmingham City.
I like most others assumed he was holding out for a Premier League job. With his experience and reputation in the game, there would have been plenty of Premier League clubs happy to take him on. As any fan knows though, football is full of surprises and when the announcement of Harry Redknapp as the Blues boss was made, the collective football wisdom thought it was a great signing for a club who has been out of the top flight since 2011.
A manager who knows the game well, has been there and done it. Could he be the man to finally turn the decline around?
At this point, I’m going to make a pretty bold statement. I’ve never really bought into the “Harry Redknapp is a great manager” school of thought. I think he’s a decent manager, but that’s it. Good, certainly not great. He’s got plenty of promotion experience – in a 34 year managerial career Redkanpp has been promoted three times (Bournemouth, Portsmouth and QPR). He’s also taken a few teams down a division too though (Bournemouth, Southampton and QPR). Three up, three down. Let’s call that a draw.
Redknapp in the transfer market
For a lot of football fans, Redknapp is seen as the ultimate transfer market wheeler-dealer. Historically, he actually uses the transfer market pretty well and has successfully picked up plenty of bargains over the years.
He’s resurrected careers (before Redknapp started playing him as a winger, rather than a full back, Gareth Bale was a struggling youngster who was nearly sold to Middlesbrough for £6 million!) It was also Redknapp who managed to squeeze the last few years out of big names such as Kanu, Scott Parker, Stuart Pearce and Paolo Di Canio.
No transfer deadline day is complete without an impromptu Redknapp interview from the driver’s seat of a Range Rover!
Circumstances are a little different for him in this job – gone are the days of the multi-million pounds transfer deals of the Premier League. In this role, he has to use every ounce of his considerable experience to shop around for bargains. He’s added 9 names to the Birmingham squad so far this year, allowing 7 others to ply their trade elsewhere.
Importantly, he hasn’t lost any of the bigger names from the squad.
Will Redknapp guide Birmingham City to promotion?
The Blues are certainly not off to a convincing start. Despite adding 9 new faces in the summer transfer window, they’ve only managed 1 win from their first 5 fixtures and find themselves in 20th position – two places above the drop zone.
A lack of goals has been their major undoing so far. They’ve conceded 6, which isn’t a shocking amount, but they’ve only managed to find the net 3 times in 5 games which is a big worry. Redknapp is a manager with an attacking reputation, but so far this is yet to be seen in this Birmingham side.
What’s more alarming is that their start can hardly be classed as a nightmare – they’ve played three of the teams who will be fighting the drop this season, Bristol City (winning 2-1), Bolton Wanderers (drawing 0-0) and Burton Albion (losing 2-1).
September looks far more daunting, with six fixtures to play, at least four of which are against teams who are expected to be challenging for promotion. If they don’t pick up at least a couple of wins in September, they’ll be miles off the pace before the race has even started.
Is it a case of too many transfers, too soon? Only time will tell, but with three defeats from their first five games something has to change very, very quickly if Birmingham City are to make a charge up the table.
It’s certainly not beyond a Redknapp team to do something like this – in a 34 year career he’s guided Spurs to the last 8 of the Champions League and won an FA cup with Pompey, but with the limited resources at his disposal and a pretty huge turnaround job on his hands, might this be a step too far for Redknapp?
Can the ship be turned?
Momentum is key in football – a team on a winning streak is full of confidence and can climb a league quickly. At Birmingham, there seems to be a losing culture. Avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth last season and a slow start this season – it’s going to take a miracle to challenge for anything this season, with or without Harry Redknapp.
September will be the key month for this new-look Birmingham team. It’s far too early to call any of these games six-pointers, but if they lose to all of their play-off rivals this early, they’ll be a long way behind the leaders and will have a huge job ahead of them if they want to catch up.
Whilst nothing is impossible in football (Leicester City won the Premier League having battled relegation the season before), I just can’t see Redknapp guiding Birmingham to promotion this season. It’s a competitive league and there has been a lot of money spent by other clubs. The slow start could prove to be a big problem later on in the season.
A mid-table finish would be a big success, given how close they came to relegation last time around. A play-off place would be nothing short of fantastic.