Armchair Pundit

Seriously, where’s Harry?

Alex Chick

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When England take on Netherlands tomorrow night, there will be a far bigger absentee than the usual bunch of injury cry-offs.

As the Three Lions walk out, the missing link may be tuned to his radio while driving home to Dorset.

He is the consensus choice of the players, the public and the media - so why isn't Harry Redknapp England manager yet?

I know, I know. He doesn't want to walk out on Tottenham at the business end of what could be the club's best season for decades.

So we all expect a swift installation in May, followed by a couple of weeks to learn everybody's name, then straight into Euro 2012. The perfect build-up.

In the meantime, we have Stuart Pearce keeping his seat warm while Redknapp is reduced to outlining ideas in his newspaper column in typically faux-self-effacing fashion ('Triffic job but it's not my job').

Isn't this rather a mess? Pearce has been let loose, making a whimsical squad selection headlined by Fraizer Campbell - a player five games removed from an 18-month injury layoff, and hardly considered true England quality even when fully fit.

Pearce also made some apparently arbitrary omissions, while insisting the snubbed players have nothing to fear.

But why decide that you don't need to see more of Rio Ferdinand or Frank Lampard - two players battling to maintain their first team spots - then select the totally unassailable Ashley Cole?

And why on earth leave out Joleon Lescott, whose partnership with former Everton colleague Phil Jagielka (missing through injury) is beginning to look like England's best bet in central defence?

When players start dropping out, as they always do - Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, Kyle Walker and Tom Cleverley - the squad begins to look very bare indeed.

In fact, we're 101 days from a major championship. Here's a novel idea: how about just picking the best players available?

Rounding off a thoroughly unbalanced squad, before Walker's withdrawal there were no fewer than five players capable of playing right-back - Walker, Glen Johnson, Micah Richards, Phil Jones and (at a push) Chris Smalling. Sure you don't want to give Tony Hibbert a call, just in case, Psycho?

And how about the national obsession, the captaincy? What if Stuart Pearce throws the armband Steven Gerrard's way, then Redknapp comes in and gives it to Scott Parker? A great boost for team unity, no doubt.

Losing Fabio Capello four months before a tournament was bad enough. Delaying the appointment of his successor for three or those four months is borderline criminal.

Where most of our rivals are putting the finishing touches to their preparations, England are literally nowhere.

Pearce is a fiercely dedicated coach who has worked hard to develop his skills, but last year's Euro U21 championship showed he is no great tactician.

Before his first game as caretaker boss at Nottingham Forest, he wrote down 11 names and proudly showed the team to his wife, who pointed out he had forgotten to pick a goalkeeper. How far has he really come since then?

Admittedly, strategic intricacies are not Redknapp's strong suit. Nor is writing team sheets, apparently.

Yet his brand of 'run around a bit' management may actually suit England's tactically-illiterate stars more than the precise instructions of Capello.

If that seems dismissive of Pearce, remember that Redknapp possesses what the caretaker lacks - a track record of making his teams better.

Redknapp has said he wants to finish the season with Tottenham. Fair enough. But why can't he do both jobs for a few months?

If he was reluctant to divide his time between club and country, surely the FA could have mixed pragmatism with some hardball.

The practical part would be to reduce his England commitments to the minimum - pick the team, nothing else. All other duties could be carried out by Pearce, Gareth Southgate or the ghost of Sir Bert Millichip.

Redknapp would then be invited to take the job or leave it.

Yes, it is extra work, but the man has just come through a court case that sapped far more of his time.

If his role is stripped back to the basics, he can do most of it during his daily commute from Sandbanks to Chigwell.

If Juergen Klinsmann could coach Germany from his California home, Redknapp can manage England from his car.

Is it ideal? Of course not. But it makes the best of a bad situation - far more than this bizarre interregnum with Pearce a lame duck even before setting foot in the dugout.

The Daily Telegraph's Paul Hayward last week wrote a persuasive article explaining why Redknapp might be wary of the England job.

But realistically there is no way he will turn it down. He has described it as "the ultimate" and campaigned for it for years. He said any Englishman who refused it was a "traitor".

If you offer Harry Redknapp the England job, he will surely take it. So why don't the FA hurry up and offer it?

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