Premier League Weekend Review: Back Redknapp's knowledge to keep Rangers safe

Just my cup of tea...Harry Redknapp prepares for the Premier League
Just my cup of tea . . . Harry Redknapp prepares for the Premier League

QPR instantly instantly joined the list of relegation favourites after their dramatic play-off win over Derby. Ralph Ellis pinpoints the reason why they can defy those odds...

"They had barely finished doing the lap of honour on Saturday night before QPR were installed as 2.9215/8second favourites for relegation next season. But if there is one reason to lay that, it is the ability of their manager."

There's a great clip on YouTube of Harry Redknapp getting angry at Sky's Rob Palmer for calling him a wheeler and dealer. "I'm not, I'm a football manager" is Harry's response (with a few expletives thrown in).

Now given the sheer volume of transfers that Redknapp has been involved in at various clubs throughout 30 years in the hot seat, it's maybe not surprising that reputation follows him. Chuck in his East End roots, his ebullient character, and the image as a market trader forms all too easily.

But that facade ignores an essential truth about the man who took Queens Park Rangers back into the Premier League on Saturday - he is both as knowledgeable and tactically cute as any boss in the game.

Tony Pulis tells how when he was starting out in management as Harry's number two at Bournemouth, on long drives to watch other players and teams they would play a game. Pulis would have the Rothmans annual open on his lap and pick names at random. Redknapp, doing the driving, would instantly give a rundown on their career plus strengths and weaknesses. These days you could use the entire European Book of Players and still not catch him out.

And then there's his football knowledge, gained from 1,361 games (and counting) in the dugout. One article in the Wembley programme gave a glimpse. Joey Barton was talking about the man management qualities, how he'd been brought back from exile in France and encouraged to be a leader in the dressing room. But he also discussed Redknapp's tactical nous.

"The second leg against Wigan he made a subtle tweak that changed the game for us," said Barton. "There was nothing we could have done as players, but we had a leader who had been there, seen it, done it, got the T-shirt."

They had barely finished doing the lap of honour on Saturday night before QPR were installed as 2.9215/8 second favourites for relegation next season. But if there is one reason to lay that, it is the ability of their manager. He has the contacts and charisma to persuade top players to join him. He has the football knowledge to bring the best from them.

At Wembley, Rangers didn't deserve to beat Derby, whose youthful side were full of zest and imagination. They were digging in for survival even before Gary O'Neil's red card. Redknapp had just played his second substitute, bringing on Bobby Zamora in an attempt to be more positive, and found himself facing different circumstances almost immediately.

It took him two minutes to hatch a plan, sending on Karl Henry to reinforce midfield, but taking off Clint Hill and keeping Zamora as well as Charlie Austin on the field so he still had some attacking threat. It worked perfectly, as Derby found ten men more difficult to break down than 11 and then switched off in the vital last minute for Zamora's winner.

There's a myth that the play-off winners are automatically doomed to go back down. Only half the last 12 have suffered that fate, and only three of them finished rock bottom (QPR are 4.77/2 to suffer that fate).

Redknapp will get busy in the summer reshuffling his squad for the task ahead, and will drag the best from whatever players are available to him after August. He will certainly do some deals during the summer - but once the season kicks off, to go back to that YouTube rant, he will prove he is an "effing football manager".

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