Sell-by date

Wheeler-dealer Harry Redknapp was unable to keep the wheels in motion at Upton Park, as Darron Kirkby explains

If the timing of Frederic Kanoute’s runs had been half as good, we wouldn’t have found ourselves in such a mess in the first place. But within three hours of season ticket renewal forms dropping through letterboxes the length and breadth of Essex, West Ham an­nounced that Harry Red­knapp had left the club “by mutual con­sent”.

According to Redknapp, a dispute with Ter­ence Brown over funds for new players “got a little out of hand” after he told the chairman that £12 million was needed for new players over the summer for the team “just to stand still”. Redknapp also claims he was at odds with the chairman over how much of the Rio Ferdinand money he had spent – £15 million said char­tered accountant Brown, £8 million count­ered Racing Post columnist Redknapp, whose figure seems about right.

But there have been rumours all season that the board had lost faith in Redknapp’s judgement in the transfer market. The evid­ence provided by the likes of Christian Dailly and Titi Camara, not to mention Scott Minto and Gary Charles in the not-too-distant past, is pretty conclusive in support of the board.

Redknapp’s strength has always been his ability to pick up players on the cheap and sell them for a profit. In his seven years in charge, West Ham resembled a bring-and-buy sale as Redknapp bought 60 players and sold 61 – making a profit of £11.1 million in so doing. Even taking the £18 million fee for Ferdinand out of the calculations leaves a net investment of only £1 million per season.

But there is more to managing a Premiership side than being a competent wheeler-dealer. Redknapp is an old-school manager who learned his trade when players had steak and chips and a tot of brandy before a match. Paolo Di Canio has blasted his training meth­ods and other overseas players have said that all they ever did at Chadwell Heath was play five-a-side matches. And there wouldn’t be too many dissenting voices even around the Boleyn Ground at the opinion that Ferdinand has become a far better player in only seven months at Elland Road. As far as substitutions were concerned, the only time one was made with more than ten minutes to go was when a player left the field on a stretcher.

As West Ham fans, good runs in the cups, mid-table security and entertainment are all we ask for. Well, we went out of both cups at home against poor sides – one a lower-division side, inevitably – and mid-table looked an increasingly impossible dream as the season. went on. In 15 of our 19 home league games we scored a total of nine goals. And the general consensus of opinion among the long-suffering residents of the Boleyn Ground is that we were entertaining for 90 minutes in just one match, against Char­lton, with brief spells against five other teams. Hardly a good return on a £625 season ticket.

But it mustn’t be forgotten what Redknapp achieved at West Ham – if the club had fin­ished in the top half of the table this season it would have been the first time it had managed such a feat for three consecutive seasons in its history. He also guided the club to its second-highest placing in the top division (fifth) two seasons ago. And how can any West Ham fan ever forget the triumphant Intertoto Cup cam­paign of 1999?

It’s also hard not to feel sympathy for Red­knapp for the way he managed the team with one arm, his cheque-signing one, tied behind his back. When he found another gem in Fin­nish defender Hannu Tihinen – who was man of the match in the FA Cup vic­tory at Old Trafford – the board refused to stump up the £4 million to make the loan deal permanent.

So instead of replacing Ferdinand for less than a quarter of what they sold him for, Red­knapp was forced to paper over the cracks with Christian Dailly. Still, the Dr Martens West Stand, which is currently being built at a cost of about £20 million, is sure to look nice – perhaps they might even splash out on some gold embossment on the seats when Frank Lampard and Kanouté are sold for £20 mil­lion. And all the time we are paying seat prices which only Chelsea and Tottenham come any­where near to matching.

From WSC 173 July 2001. What was happening this month