How far is H Redknapp to blame for Portsmouth’s demise?

H Redknapp has publicly stated that he does not feel himself responsible for any of the events subsequent to his departure at West Ham, Portsmouth or Southampton.

My question in this piece is dead simple.  Is this view reasonable, or she he  be held responsible in relation to his second spell at Portsmouth?

Portsmouth is an interesting topic, not just because they might well be the first EPL club to go into liquidation, but also because the manager, the chairman and the owner from Redknapp days are all under investigation by Customs and Revenue.

This in itself is proof of nothing.  All of these people might be found not guilty of anything.  But I observe the cases with additional interest, because of the unifying factor: Portsmouth under the managership of H Redknapp.

The Redknapp policy on joining a club has been to introduce a fair number of changes, moving out current players and bringing in his own men and it is the result of this process I want to have a look at.

My first example is an obvious one: John Utaka, who was and remains Portsmouth’s record signing.   He is on a salary of £80,000 a week – and that salary was arranged under H Redknapp’s stewardship.  So adding together the cost of his salary and his transfer fee, the costs of this unused player would be enough to get the club out of trouble.

So it is interesting to see what H Redknapp said of J Utaka.   He said, John “will give us an awful lot up front. We’re bringing in people who are ready to play and it will make us stronger.”

Of course one could argue that this is just a one-off. After all our own Lord Wenger brought in Christopher Wreh, and played him in a cup final.  Within a year he couldn’t get into Bournemouth’s reserve team.   Except that Wreh cost £300,000 and was considered the fourth choice striker in the club and on a modest, short term contract.

H Redknapp brought in Utaka to play along another big signing, David Nugent.   Nugent and Utaka together cost £13m, a lot for a club like Portsmouth.   But Nugent never got a regular run in the team, only played 18 games in three years before going out on loan.

But I admit, it would be unfair to single out H Redknapp, when we can look at Ryan Babel  £45,000 a week), David Bentley ( £50,000 a week), and others.

To defend the managers who make such signings people do normally point out that everyone makes mistakes.   But by and large Arsenal (if that is to be the comparison) make mistakes occasionally and even less commonly with expensive players.  Even when that happens they move the players on.

And of course for Arsenal the losses can be balanced against the income from huge successes, like Anelka, Overmars, Vieira and Henry.

What H Redknapp did at Portsmouth was to take the wage billto over £50m a year often with players who have nowhere to go and no reason to leave.  Rather amusingly he is now stuck with trying to offload the likes of Bentley who the Tiny Totts gave a whacking six year contract to.  But still he did score a great goal in the reserves against the Arsenal under 18s least season.

H Redknapp’s argument was that it was not his fault that money was wasted – it was the stupid club owner who let him have the money.  It is an interesting concept, which seems to suggest that he is willing to ignore the fact that Nugent and Utaka were both expensive, both got long contracts, both got very high wages, and both were then hardly played.  Or perhaps if I broke into H Redknapp’s house in Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset, I could argue that it is fault for having a weakness in his defence system.

But is it then just a conincidence that H Redknapp’s ex-clubs have problems?  Perhaps it is too much to look at the administration, points deduction and other problems of AFC Bournemouth since he left, but the fact is that Bournemouth along with West Ham, Southampton and Portsmouth have all gone through troubled times since he left.

Perhaps it is all a coincidence, just as it is a coincidence that three members of the Portsmouth hierarchy are under investigation.

We can only wish H Redknapp well at Tottenham and hope that he will continue at his current club using the techniques, methods and skills, that he has used so effectively at his previous clubs.  And perhaps we can be thankful that no-one ever let him loose in our club.


Making the Arsenal is the story of Woolwich Arsenal in 1910 told through the diary of a Daily Chronicle football reporter. You can read more and buy it here.

There is also a Making the Arsenal web site, which is currently following their financial collapse 100 years ago.  You can go to the site here.

31 Replies to “How far is H Redknapp to blame for Portsmouth’s demise?”

  1. Great read, Tony. Personally, I’m of the opinion he isn’t to be blamed. Ultimately, he is resposnsible for the playing side, and it is in his interest to bring in the best players (in his opinion) as he possible can. Naturally, the Chief Exec or whoever seals the deal, signs the cheque and does the wage negotiation and it is here that the errors have been made.

    Utaka improved Pompey, but his transfer was unsustainable. Redknapp did his job, the men upstairs didn’t do theirs.

  2. I disagree that Mr. R is (largely) responsible for money being “wasted”. There are others in the management team that sanction firstly the appointment of the Manager and then subsequent player purchases. Indeed Managers sometimes, as we are told, only join clubs on the condition that funds are made available.

    You also state that it was his second spell at the club. Therefore his practices were already known to the club and its owners.

    Put simply, if the upper management and owners did not control their manager in terms of what he offered incoming players as wages and what the club paid for the transfer – then that is their fault.

    Of course Mr. R is responsible for the recommendations he made in terms of which players to obtain and what he thought they were worth – and as you have pointed out all managers make mistakes – some more than others.

    I believe the situation that club finds themselves in reflects more the reckless actions of senior management and ownership signing players to contracts that they had no reasonable hope of paying for.

    After a club has gotten into financial difficulties – we can look back to the actions of senior managment / ownership that have taken what amounts to a gamble with the future financial security of a club.

    I also beleive rules need to be in place that place external constraints i.e. restrictions on purchasing players (such as pre-approval for transfers), on clubs if they meet certain “danger” criteria.

    When I think of some of the most recent i.e. last three years, transfers by premiership clubs put very simply – isn’t it cheating the other clubs if you sign a player when you haven’t got enough money to sustain the club?. By sustaining the club I mean paying its ongoing interest payments on debts, paying staff and player’s wages and other expenses and paying transfer fee installments, on time.

  3. No, Harry wasn’t responsible. Those who hired him, approved his recommendadtions and paid his salary were responsible.

    However, your point, more carefully put: Harry’s system was responsible. In the past few years, Harry built the reputation as the “turn around artist” amongst EPL coaches. And he does the turning around by racheting up the overall squad expenses. Indeed, he does so, with his own army of itenerant players (though this is very unlikely to have been deliberate; however, definately, he doesn’t mind raiding his older clubs for his favorite players).

    His reputation as a turn around artist got him taking over from Ramos in Tottenham and got the likes of Couch, Kranjcar and Defoe(he was even interested in our Traore!!)in (or back in) Tottenham. I am sure, since he joined, overall team costs must have gone up in Tottenham. With the rate he continues to be linked with every good player in Europe, the trend is bound to continue its march upwards.

    Thus, it so happens that clubs that couldn’t afford Harry’s system in the long term conned themselves into taking it on and they ended up losing their shirts – without as much as a glance of sympathy from Harry.

    Your final point, will his relationship with Tottenham end in the same way? Well, like with Benitez at Liverpool, if the management find it difficult to curb Harry’s appetite or cannot get him to try the Youth Development Menu (or unknown but cheaper player blooding menu) then, it is only a matter of how deep Totteham’s pocket is, how serious their desire for a new stadium is and, of course, whether or not they make it to top4 and stay there long enough to enjoy the additional income from playing in Europe. In time it may.

    This answer came straight from applying all that I have been reading in your blog. Did I do well as a “student” of so many months of your blog’s financial tutorials (smiles)?

  4. Harry is just as responsible as senior management for Portsmouth’s downfall.

    For me, to say that he is not responsible is like saying that Wall Street CEOs weren’t responsible for the crazy housing bets that have led to the current recession.

    Big clubs like big corporations are places where responsibility is spread out. But who pulls the trigger? Who gets all the attention from the press? Who is the leader who rakes in the multi-million dollar salary? In a football club, the manager; in a big corporation, the CEO.

    Harry came to Portsmouth with much fanfare. He promised winning football, the management gave him a blank check, he got some results, and then he ran away to a bigger club to leave Portsmouth in waste. Individually, like these CEOs, he did nothing wrong. He was simply serving his own self-interests, and was caught up in his own greed and stupidity.

    But individual actions, especially those of powerful ones like Redknapp, have huge repercussions for others. Arsene Wenger deeply understands this; too bad for Portsmouth (and Southhampton, and now Tottenham), good ‘ol Harry does not.

  5. Well said Tim. If Rednapp is NOT responsible for Pompey’s current mess, precipitated by his reckless approach to signing players at inflated salaries, then he should take no credit for their 07-08 FA cup success and their creditable 8th position in the League. Hence he should forfeit much of the humongous compensation package one can assume he now receives from the Totts since it was based on a false c.v. Coincidentally the Totts deserve a partial refund of that 5 million pounds payoff to Portsmouth for his release – simply they were had.

    While we are at this exercise in reverse logic, remember the cow jumped over the moon and the dish ran away with the spoon.

  6. Going off topic Tony ,Christopher Wreh ,a cousin of George Weah ,did his share in helping Arsenal win the double in 1998.If memory serves me right ,he scored in two 1-0 wins at the tail end of the season allowing us to catch and overtake Man Ure.His career did go downhill thereon and hit rock bottom many years later when he was rejected by a Malaysian team to whom he came for trials.

  7. Responsable ? If he had been given the job of groundsman, then not. But if you want to be a football manager you carry a big responsability and get lots of money for this.
    But off course he is not alone and the owners and the person that signs the cheques is also responsable.
    To say he has nothing to do with it is laughable. After all I think he demands the board for player X to be signed and the board agrees or not.
    So both are responsable. But I would advice Harry to keep the good work going and please don’t stop till you put Tottenham in the same trouble.

  8. Of course he and others are responsible.He was a senoir member of the Management team.You only have to look at all the so called members of his back room staff.Kevin Bond(doddgy guy)Joe Jordan,Ferdinand,Allenand of course Tim Sherwood (J.Redknapps brother in Law).How many does he need.Can you name that manyof Arsenals.And Mr.Sherwood who was part of a group who won over 10million on a betting scam when our Harry went from Southampton back to Pompey.
    The media love him,as he always will give a interview.Why is it ,that talksport never,never talk about Spurs in a bad way.They love him.

  9. I think Harry is merely guilty of associating himself with birds of a feather. Greedy so and so’s who rape the game for as much as they can. He was in charge of the West Ham team that had R.Ferdinand, F.Lampard, and J.Cole which West Ham were paid handsomely for, where did that money go? In a properly run club the manager cannot spend what he has not been authorised to, neither can he draw up player contracts. This is the responsibility of the board of directors. In my opinion Portsmouth have learnt nothing from Leeds a few years ago and Redknapp seems to cleverly align himself with clubs at a time when they would chop their own limbs off top get out of trouble, therefore giving into his financial demands

  10. Anyone got any info on Redknapp being on a %age of what some members of ‘his team’ earn…?? I heard it once somewhere….

    Scurrilous rumour or verfiable truth..??

  11. Both Mr. R & the board are responsible. But Harry is the sole creator of this mess.
    Some managers are great at getting everyone to agree with their useless plans. Harry’s the master!

  12. nice article, but you should have (partly at least) acknowledged the Guardian article from yesterday on which your post is clearly based:
    but in any case, Redknapp is as responsible as the Pompey board. We are lucky that neither Arsene nor the board lose sight of the bigger financial picture in which the club has to operate. The spend-now-big-and-worry-about-the-consequences-later-brigade (SNBAWATCLB – the natural opposition to the Arsene knows brigade) should try to understand that spending without care can plunge the club into a dire situation. Just read that Manure would have made a loss of epic proportions without selling the greasy one – looks like fat wayne will have to be sold as well in the near future to balance the books again…

  13. I still do believe that there are some directors of some clubs who think they don’t have to care about the economic situation or climate.
    The more clever ones have read this blog for some time and know the danger.

    Doesn’t the silence on the transfer market, not only at Arsenal, but for the rest of the teams tells us something ? A lot of loan deals or free transfers but not many real money transfers going on. Or did I miss something ?

  14. speaking about financial profligacy, there’s news today about Man U and its 500 million pound bond offering…

    isn’t this just delaying the inevitable?

  15. Tim, that all depends on the terms of the new bonds if they are able to secure them. What they are attempting to do is lower their interest payments, as the original deals were done when interest rates were higher therefore crippling them now. What I find more interesting is that according to the numbers quoted on sky their borrowings are almost 6 times their turnover, nevermind pre tax profit. I read an article after their previous years results (before Ronaldo was sold) which stated that they only stayed in the black because of extraordinary operating profit, which could not be expected to be repeated again. Reading between the lines their costs are around the £120m mark with a turnover of only £93m, therefore dont be surprised to see Berbatov being sold in the summer and more youth playing next season. For a club of their size to be half a billon pounds in debt is an absolute scandal

  16. Emve – yes you are right, I should have acknowledged the Guardian which made me think of this piece – although of course they didn’t feature Harry as a central character. My fault.

  17. Like others I’ve been banging on about this very subject for ages, including just last month on this very site Arry comes along and says “If you give me the money, I’ll get you into the …” (next division, Europa Cup, Champions League etc). His new club, desperate for success, look at Arry’s most recent apparent success and take a gamble. They take out loans, borrowing money against future income, usually with the stadium and other club property as collateral. That future income usually means next year’s TV money, assumed to be what it will be if they get all the success they’re hoping for. So if last year they finished outside the Champions League places, they assume that this year they will qualify and that next year all that extra TV money will come rolling in, enabling them to pay not just the balance of the transfer fees they spent but the hugely increased weekly wage bill they now have, never mind the interest on the loans and overdraft. The man apparently running Portsmouth at the moment acknowledged this just yesterday, saying that they’re paying Champions League wages without the income to justify it. When Arry says it’s not his fault he’s half-right. He didn’t borrow the money but part of the responsibility of being a good manager is knowing where the money’s coming from and whether it’s secure.

    The obscene amount of money now pouring into Man City ought to have Daniel Levy quaking in his loafers. The Totts were banking on nudging Arsenal (hah!) out of next year’s Champions League and now have a wage bill now to suit. Arsenal’s strength has been offset by Liverpool’s weakness but the picture has changed. They thought they were competing with the tight budgets running at Villa and Everton. When Arry made his promise to the Spuds they hadn’t banked on Man City’s unlimited funds creating a much stronger rival. If the Totts don’t make it into the Champions League next year, watch out for the fire-sale – and this time Arry will have nowhere to go.

  18. @Wonderman — thanks for your comments. good stuff. i do wonder what kind of investor would be willing to buy into these bonds, considering the Man U’s unsustainable business model. definitely not a rational one. i guess Man U are banking (sorry for the pun, couldn’t help myself) on their fans…

    hmm, looks like Tony has a new entry on this…

  19. @tim unfortunately I suspect the term ‘Manchester United Brand’ will start to be banded about with increased regularity and the usual suspects will be cowered into ‘investing’ as if they allow Man U to sink they will be told that the premier league will go with it. Remember we live in a time of ‘fear creation’ with no rationale or proof behind it. In reality we need a big club to fall on it’s sword, Man U are close as are Liverpool, that would hopefully adjust the expectations of not only the premier league but the leagues below ( I mean I read Palace want £5m for Victor Moses ????). As Arsenal fans we should be really proud of the way our board have conducted themselves in such difficult financial times we will soon be seen as the blueprint to running a football club !

  20. Wonderman: haven’t Spurs got a wealthy benefactor of their own, just a very secretive one? They’d have debt to turnover ratios similar to United given their spending, lack of commercial side and lack of Champions League revenue if they didn’t, surely?

  21. Ultimately it all comes down to the chairman. It is he who hires the manager and then gives the go ahead on the signings and contracts.

    I have no symphony for any of these clubs who are in trouble because of the morans running them, or the idiot fans who cheer when their club spends beyond its means and complain when they don’t. If the guy who runs your local grocery store put himself on the same package as the chairman of Tesco’s and then went broke what would you say to him? What were you thinking? What did you expect? Are you some kind of prick? It is exactly the same principle.

  22. We should go easy on him. After all, he had to suffer that unfortunate incident at the Vatican and I hear his mother was a very disreputable character indeed.

  23. @Phil: I have never paid much attention to the finances of the spuds other than wondering how they have managed to continue spending so much money ?? However as you asked I did a bit of searching, you are partially correct. Spurs are 85% owned by an investment vehicle called ENIC International Ltd owned by Billionaire Joe Lewis, I would’nt call that a wealthy benefactor as based on their last set of numbers they are in exactly the same position as Man U. On turnover of £113m they made an operating loss of just under £20m this is turned into a profit of just under £37m by the sales of intangible assets …namely the player registrations of Keane and Berbatov totally £56.5m. The profit of £37m is further eroded by £4m of net finance costs. They have circa £80m worth of debt on their balance sheet, with a net value of £62m. They did the same trick the year before…so you have to wonder what will they do this year ??? We on the other hand have debt of over £240m on an income generating asset ( our wonderful stadium) which on last results yielded £70m operating profit which was required to pay £20m of interest ! I hope this helps

  24. Great finds there Walterman. Those figures back up what I thought. The next set of figures will include repurchasing Keane and Defoe amongst others. Last Jan was expense at Spurs and I am unsurprised to hear Levy saying spend what you earn via sales. I’m curious as to whether they are profit-making if we forget about player purchases and sales, as that is what defines where they will ultimately end up, in my opinion.

  25. Sir Harry Redknapp; was a phrase coined when? He reminds me of the snake oil salesman. You see as Tony has quite rightly pointed out it isn’t the first time this snake oil salesman has painted his plot. If it were, then I guess you would have to agree coincidence. But, the facts point to a Dirty Arry! This guy is where he belongs at a new club with new ways to sell to his employers…Unfortunately or fortunately the same story will be told after Dirty Arry leaves; it was their fault! They gave me the money so I spent it and the best I can show for it was 8th position in the EPL! “Sorry they are broke but I left the club the same (EPL position) than when I came into this organization. Oh about their finances, well this is none of my concern. I am Just the manager.” Well said Sir Dirty Arry!

  26. A lot of this has been raked over before. However, a few points to note:-

    1. The financial difficulties at AFC Bournemouth were long after Harry left. The club was financially stable after the following manager – Tony Pulis – left. Everything went downhill thereafter.

    2. Southampton were in the toilet financially when Harry went there. He didn’t make many signings, because they didn’t have the finances to do so.

  27. Well, all I can say, is that Redknapp’s clubs have been mighty ‘unfortunate’ in retrospect!

    Any manager surely has the whole history of the club to take care of, not just the next six months.
    It’s simply not good enough for someone like Redknapp to accept millions from a Chairman for the transfer market if that action is going to, in the long run, cripple that club.

    The only man in football that comes close to having such a litany of disasters behind them is Venables……but there are many individuals in football, and the country as a whole, who can never resist a cheeky cockney!
    Salt of the earth they are Gov!

    One thing’s for sure, Harry and Terry are never going to go without.

  28. Good article-Arry has a huge responsibility for the current state of Portsmouth FC’s finances-who else spent the money? and mostly on players who weren’t worth half what they were being paid. As soon as the pot of gold ran out Arry could not leave fast enough-and as you imply not for the first time.
    Arry and Spurs-a match made in heaven – keep spending Arry!

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