BOBBY founder Rob Shepherd and columnist Roy Dalley met at Wembley Stadium way back in 1978, when they were a couple of teenagers plugging telephones into the press box for the national newspaper journalists of the day. In later years they would find their own readers with a variety of Fleet Street titles, and share a pint or two along the way discussing the issues that preoccupied football supporters and reporters alike.
Which got us thinking: What would happen if BOBBY gave them a topic to debate, got the drinks in and turned on a voice recorder…?
With QPR lingering at the foot of the table with only one win so far this season we thought we’d start with; What does the future hold for Harry Redknapp..?
DALLEY: Alright Shep? You’ve hardly changed since that Graham Taylor documentary. Well, perhaps a few more worry lines, though I daresay that’s not because of a former England manager, rather the manager England didn’t want: Harry Redknapp. I know he’s your mate, but I think his current problems at QPR suggest the FA got it right when they overlooked him in favour of Roy Hodgson… ?
SHEP: All good Royston! Obviously it’s been a poor start by QPR but despite what the Football Manager computer game generation seem to think, football managers are not magicians! Yes, of course the role of a manager is vital and while top bosses can make silk purses out of sows ears – as Harry has done in the past – there is usually a limit to what a manager can do with the player resources and budget he has at his disposal. Where would QPR be right now if either Louis Van Gaal or Manuel Pelligrini was in charge?!?
That said, maybe Harry is coming to the end of his managerial career and Rangers could do with the adrenalin rush a new manager can bring to a struggling club …and that should be good news for England. If Harry was free and available then I think the FA should waste no time in moving Roy Hodgson into the role of Technical Director and appointing Harry Redknapp as manager of the England team. Then maybe England could have shot at winning Euro 2016, rather than merely turning up to make up the numbers and satisfy the sponsors. Oh, what can I get you Roy..?
DALLEY: I’ll have the usual, and don’t forget the little umbrella… But what kind of England would we be watching if the FA took your advice (which they won’t!)..? I don’t want them to “knock it up to Crouchy”, I don’t want Defoe to come back from Canada, not now, and I certainly don’t want Rob Green in goal. A very slight exaggeration, perhaps, but I get the feeling Harry hasn’t kept pace with football’s evolution. Yeah, I take your point about the train-spotters and their fetish for statistics, but we are producing more technical players at long last, and they need proper stimulation, not just a pat on the back…
SHEP: Garcon! That will be a namby-pamby cocktail for Royston here and a cheeky Rioja for me. Disagree Roy; you’re being sucked in by the myth that the ‘modern’ game is producing more technical players… and another media myth that Redknapp is an off-the-cuff coach, a bark-bollock and bite merchant. More technical? Tell me which current England players are more ‘technical’ than Moore, Charlton, Hoddle, Gascoigne, Waddle and Barnes..? I could go on. They might eat more pasta these days but half of ’em can’t pass to each other!
As for Harry keeping pace with football evolution; People only say that because he has old school ways. And what’s wrong with that? But he HAS embraced many of the changes the game has seen and to suggest he is a long ball merchant is tosh Roy. Harry always encourages a passing game. And by the way he has been more tactically flexible and diverse over the years than Hodgson.
DALLEY: A fair riposte… one that requires the removal of my jacket and a quick slurp, methinks. Fair play Rob for your continued support of Redknapp, particularly at a time when QPR are bottom of the League with one win in seven and a goal difference of -11. To me he has the air of a man who has simply lost his desire. It’s often trotted out how a football team is a reflection of its manager, and QPR are a rather slow, ponderous and unfit team compared to many, perhaps all, further up the table. I read extracts of his latest book the other day (yeah, I know taking stuff in isolation is hazardous but…) he seems rather bewildered by the game’s evolution in this country, by the modern footballer, even by the more abstinent lifestyle of many of these new athletes. He finds it disheartening to see one of his players sitting quietly through a day at the races.
My point is I think he’s failed to keep up with football in the same way he’s failed to embrace new technology. Listen, I know he was schooled at the West Ham Academy in the days when that phrase actually meant something, and I know a few decent players have emerged elsewhere in the country over the past few decades – but not enough of them! Perhaps a call from his country might perk him up a bit, though I daresay his early retirement is probably more likely…
SHEP: Early retirement!?! I think Redknapp is doing well to still be going at the top level at the age of 67 after over 30 years in professional management. I don’t buy into this technology argument. The ball is still round and a size5; the goals are still eight yards wide and eight foot tall. The box is still 18 yards from the goal-line. The half way line is still in the middle of the park, the byline is still there, the corner flags. Fundamentally the game is still the same. The grass is greener and better than many of the mud heaps they used to have to play on. That should mean the passing and dribbling is better, but you can’t say it is. Players are more athletic I grant you, but then the game seems to be producing too many athletes and not enough footballers.
As for tactics; well it’s not as if they didn’t exist back in the day and despite hype to the contrary Redknapp is more tactically astute than he is given credit for. In my book he is more flexible and adventurous than Hodgson on that front. As for embracing more technology, I am not sure what you mean. Do you think a manager needs an Ipad to show players what he wants to do or speak to them via twitter? On other ‘scientific’ front Redknapp has always made sure he has a broad church of backroom staff working with him. The recollections in his book resonate with me because from where I stand the game is becoming ever more sterile with money and branding seemingly more important for players and clubs. And where has the fun gone? Maybe though Roy you are right that Harry could do with a new challenge… sadly though I don’t think a call from the country will come. It looks like we are stuck with Hodgson through to the Euro 16 finals.
Right Royston, we are running a dry ship here, and it’s your round…
DALLEY: Yes indeed, Redknapp has every right to feel satisfied with his life’s work. The sad fact is his one major trophy as a manager is one more than any other English manager in decades. Blimey, who was the last Englishman to win silverware? (It’s not Howard Wilkinson is it!?) Quite apart from that his personality and, yes, much of the football played by his teams, has illuminated the game. And, of course, Transfer Deadline Days will never quite be the same without him. But I daresay England’s young lions are in safe hands with Hodgson for the time being…
Another Rioja on the way Shep, together with something from the jukebox. How about a bit of Sham 69…?
Look out for more from BOBBY columnists @robshepherd5 and @RoyDalley or suggest topics for them to discuss by contacting them via Twitter.