England courting Redknapp as Capello resigns

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THE timing seemed just too good to be true. Harry Redknapp, the people’s choice as the next manager of England, cleared of tax evasion just as Fabio Capello enters into talks with FA bosses over his future.

To those advocating a change of manager before Euro 2012, a possible succession at the helm of the national team seemed tantalisingly close.

As the day dragged on, however, and no smoke signals could be seen emanating from Wembley, it seemed that maybe peace had broken out and Capello would remain in situ until the end of his contract in July.

Never mind that the FA and their manager had been set on a collision course since the explosive interview that revealed for the first time the difference of opinion between the Italian and his paymasters over whether John Terry should remain captain of the national team.

No, diplomacy seemed to have won the day following the summit talks between Capello and FA chairman David Bernstein.

All that changed, of course, shortly after 7pm last night when the bombshell news came through that the manager had resigned.

A reign that had begun amid a sense of hope following the failures of the Steve McClaren era had ended in acrimony and disappointment.

The abiding image of Capello’s four years as manager would after all be, as many feared in the wake of the 2010 World Cup, that horror show against Germany in South Africa.

England may have enjoyed two impressive qualifying campaigns under the Italian and claimed some notable results, most notably in Croatia when Theo Walcott seemed to have announced his arrival on the international stage.

But it is the clueless efforts in Bloemfontein that Capello will be most remembered for in the years to come.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, even if the timing of yesterday’s verdict at Southwark Crown Court as Capello met Bernstein at Wembley did seem spookily symmetrical in terms of pointing a path for English football to take.

Certainly, the FA will do well to resist the clamour that was already building before last night’s dramatic turn of events for Redknapp to be the next England manager.

When the jury returned after more than five hours of deliberation to declare Redknapp not guilty of tax evasion, they might as well have confirmed him there and then as Capello’s successor. Redknapp being the right man for the job was a decision many fans of the Three Lions came to long ago, as did this column last season.

The manner in which Spurs took to Champions League football was hugely impressive and showed that after almost three decades paying his dues as a coach and manager, Redknapp was ready for the step up.

Not only is he English, a key requirement in most eyes. But he also ticks the boxes marked ‘can manage at the highest level’, ‘plays decent football’ and ‘is able to get the best out of his players’.

In fact, the only potential bar to Redknapp’s coronation seemed the court case that came to a conclusion yesterday after 13 days of spell-binding drama. That and whether Spurs would be willing to do the country a huge favour by letting the 64-year-old leave his post at White Hart Lane.

The first hurdle has, of course, now been successfully negotiated courtesy of a ‘not guilty’ verdict.

Redknapp leaving with a grateful Tottenham’s blessing, meanwhile, will surely not now be a problem because, on current form, he is about to deliver Champions League football for a second time in three years.

One of those who knows from experience the challenge of being England manager is Sven Goran Eriksson and he is adamant Redknapp is ready.

He said: “I think Redknapp will be a very, very good choice. He is English and knows his football. You need to be an experienced manager used to dealing with the big names and some knowledge about international football would help. I think Harry has all these things.”

If public opinion is to count for anything and the FA turn to Redknapp, the big question is when the appointment takes place.

England host Holland at the end of this month and that may well be a touch too early for Redknapp, not least because of the riches that Spurs are chasing along with an outside chance of landing the Premier League title.

Even stepping in for just a few days could prove problematic, especially if Spurs suffer a shock result either side of the friendly against the Dutch as that would lead to unnecessary pressure being piled on Redknapp and his club’s players. No, surely, the best option is to allow Stuart Pearce, who was surely only part of Capello’s coaching team to provide the experience required to lead the national team one day, to take temporary charge.

Then, with the next friendly against Belgium not coming until after the domestic season is over, Redknapp will be free to step in and, hopefully, work the magic that has transformed Spurs over the past four years in Ukraine and Poland.