Harry Houdini leading another club to financial ruin?

"Money Money Money"
“Money For Nothing”

Queens Park Rangers supporters were quite happy when it was announced that Harry Redknapp was the new QPR manager. After all, wasn’t it the same Harry who had led Tottenham from a disastrous beginning to a quite respectable eighth place, just missing out on Europa League qualification? Also, wasn’t it the same Harry who had also against all the odds led Portsmouth to their second FA Cup trophy in 2008? Well, QPR supporters knew that if Harry could do the same thing with Tottenham, surely, he could do the same with QPR, who are more or less similar to the Tottenham team of 2008 in terms of quality.

As of 18th of March, 2013, QPR have twenty three points from thirty games, seven points away from Aston Villa who are in 17th place. They are equal on points with Reading and four points behind Wigan who have a game in hand. However, they should be in a higher position not just by comparing their squad with other relegation contenders but also by the fact that they spent a massive amount of money (22 million pounds) on players to avoid the drop. The arrivals of Chris Samba for 12.5 million along with Loic Remy for 8 million showed that Redknapp and Tony Fernandes meant business.

But these figures mask the true details behind these two high-profile transfers. Chris Samba is reportedly being paid 100,000 pounds p/w and Remy is being paid a similarly large amount which is around the 80,000 pounds p/w mark. Spending 22.5 million to avoid relegation is in itself a large amount but at the same time, adding around 180,000 pounds p/w to an already inflated wage bill adds to the financial woes of QPR should they get relegated. However, this pattern of high wages seems uncannily similar to Redknapp’s years in charge of any of his former clubs. Redknapp has already led three clubs into financial trouble, the question is, will QPR be the fourth club in his hit list?

Harry Redknapp began his QPR career in typical fashion. From lambasting the former manager, to hitting out at certain players in the team who were earning ‘far, far too much money for their ability and what they give to the club.’ Redknapp did everything to absolve himself of any blame should QPR end up relegated in the end of the season. And when the January transfer window was on the horizon, Redknapp also added that he was adamant that he wouldn’t ‘take down the owner’s pants’ regarding wages of any incoming players. Well, he certainly got his value for money by forking out 12.5 million for Samba, a player who Mark Hughes himself thought would be too expensive. Redknapp also did the now, customary act of buying players from his earlier clubs, getting Jermaine Jenas on a full transfer and Andros Townsend on loan. A smart manager would have decided that the best thing to do would be to make the existing team into a unit before making any drastic changes. However, Redknapp’s policy of adding new players instead of trying to coax the best out of his existing squad could really hurt QPR’s financial stability, in both the short and long run.

Bournemouth was the first club to see Harry’s “expertise” in the transfer window when he was allegedly involved in many dodgy dealings, increasing club debt from 150,000 in the late eighties to a staggering 2 million+ figure in 1992 (which was a lot in those days).  He did make some amount of profit in transfers, but ultimately it was for naught because he drove up the salaries of players to a financially unsustainable level which put them into administration along with suffering a points deduction for two consecutive seasons.

‘Arry then moved onto West Ham United, displacing Billy Bonds as manager. He was instrumental in promoting future English stars like Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard among others and also boosted the careers of ailing stars like Stuart Pearce and Paulo Di Canio. However, his reign at West Ham did have considerable failings in the transfer market, especially in foreign players. Players like Marco Boogers (who was bought for one million despite Redknapp admitting that he had never seen him play) along with Florian Raducioiu (whose displays Redknapp himself said was “worth two bob”) added to West Ham’s troubles. Redknapp displayed his impulsiveness in the transfer market when Redknapp bought in Iain Dowie to replace the injured Boogers, effectively ending his career as a Hammer.

It was at West Ham that he got his reputation as a “wheeler-dealer” and as a “cheque-book manager” possibly because of his involvement in as many as 134 transfers. The Rio Ferdinand transfer was probably the highlight, with Redknapp pocketing a cool 300,000 pounds that he received as a bonus. However, this was given by then-owner, Terry Brown on the condition that Redknapp would not use the money in transfers, something which Redknapp promptly ignored, getting in ten more players. Players like Titi Camara (“I’ve got a £10m striker for £1.5m”) added to ever-increasing wage bill which hugely affected West Ham later.

From West Ham, he went to Portsmouth but left it soon after having arguments with owner, Milan Mandaric over various staff appointments. His next move was at Southampton, something which hugely infuriated Pompey fans with some sections calling him “Judas” and telling him to “rot in hell”. At Southampton, he was given the task of escaping relegation, which he failed to accomplish, leading Southampton down to the Championship for the first time in twenty seven years. Similar transfer dealings and the loss of revenue due to relegation led to Redknapp resigning from Southampton. Southampton’s financial woes continued until they were bought over by a Swiss consortium.

Just weeks after his resignation, Redknapp came back to “his spiritual home”, Portsmouth, again tasked with helping the club escape relegation. He sensationally helped them escape from relegation, taking Portsmouth from 16th place to 17th place, and as a result Portsmouth were in the Premier League for one more season. This escape was aided by Alexandre Gaydamak who bought over the club and subsequently provided money for transfers, something which Redknapp took full advantage of. In came ex-Tottenham players, Defoe and Kaboul, Benjani and the talented, Andres D’Alessandro. The huge pots of money enabled Redknapp to take Portsmouth to 9th place the next season, just short of European qualification. In 2007, Redknapp brought in David Nugent and John Utaka for 6 and 7 million respectively. Both bombed sensationally with Utaka scraping his way to double figures in ninety appearances and Nugent doing slightly better with 16 goals in 75 appearances for Portsmouth. Utaka was earning close to 80,000 p/w over a four year contract which was more than what Cesc Fabregas was earning at Arsenal at the time.

Expensive signings like Utaka’s led to Portsmouth’s wage bill rising to nearly £55m which was at the time, around 90% of the club’s turnover. Such signings are what the Redknapp policy is all about, get players for “cheap” deals and then pocket in small amounts from each contract signed. Such impulsive transfers would even put a certain Russian oligarch to shame but Redknapp continued his policy at his next club, Tottenham Hotspurs. Transfers like Ryan Nelsen, Louis Saha, Sebastian Bassong, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Steven Pienaar served as a pure waste of money, something which owner Daniel Levy doesn’t like doing. Bassong was bought for 8 million and ended up making just 45 appearances in three seasons at White Hart Lane. Another expensive transfer, Roman Pavlyuchenko was bought in for 13.7 million in the transfer window. In the 2009-10 season, despite being linked with a host of clubs, he was not allowed to leave.

Despite such expensive mistakes, Redknapp is still for whatever reason considered one of England’s best managers, even at one point being considered for the national job (which thankfully went to Roy Hodgson). In over 30 years as a manager, barring the FA Cup, he has hardly won anything of note and it can be noted that he actually effectively put Portsmouth into administration when he did win the FA Cup with them. Harry Redknapp is not only disloyal (examples of his disloyalty can be easily found when he flip-flopped between arch-rivals Portsmouth and Southampton) but he is also sneaky and dishonest (from getting into agreements with chairmen over a share of profits from transfers to contradicting his own statements in interviews). He is a man who clearly cares more about money than anything else and is being kept alive in the football world only through media hype.

Let’s hope that his stint at QPR will be his last and that the world of football will finally be rid of Harry Houdini whose magic tricks only make money disappear and then reappear in his own pocket.

Credits for financial figures go to  blogger,  Swiss Ramble.

The Author

Shubhayan Sengupta

Shubhayan Sengupta writes on European and Indian football, although not both of them at the same time.

15 thoughts on “Harry Houdini leading another club to financial ruin?

  1. Utter nonsense. I’m not exactly a huge fan of Redknapp but to blame him for clubs heading towards financial ruin is just moronic beyond belief. The absolute only person/people to blame are the owners who have full control over the finances and decide how much to give a manager.

  2. Chris Samba is not on 100k a week and this amount has been refuted by the club (TF himself is really miffed at the ridiculous press guessing of players wages) Click here to read.
    When a club loses the best performing defender (Nelson) he had to be replaced, so the Samba purchase was a important and much needed transfer. The amount of money spent is small fry in the premier league. All managers have a wish list of players from massive superstars at the top to desperately cheap players at the bottom and they go through these lists with the board. All managers want top players but different budgets and different owners curtail those ambitions. QPRs massive budget and team problems are the fault of the board and Mark Hughes (who spent far more on players than HR has) who has to be the one of the worst managers QPR has ever had the misfortune to have had at the helm. I see your points about HRs failed transfers but every club and manager has had failed transfers.

  3. interesting article and quite true, although Roman Pavlyuchenko was bought by Levy when Ramos came in, along with Fraizer Campbell on loan when Berbatov went red, no?

  4. “QPR, who are more or less similar to the Tottenham team of 2008 in terms of quality.” …

    … really? you really think this? wow!?!?!

  5. What a load of rubbish! I’m sure you realise that as a manager you don’t hold the purse strings? At west ham (my club) he signed a few duds but who doesn’t. He signed Paolo for 1.5m, which is an absolute snip. He had players like Rio sold by the club and didn’t receive the finances to replace so had to buy cheap replacements.
    At Portsmouth he made £15m on Diarra in a year, doubled what he paid for muntari and bought defoe for 7m and sold him back to Spurs for 15m a year latter.
    As for QPR, Mark hughes has paid players like Nelson, Hoilet and Green far more than what they are worth, but once again, blame the chairman for paying superstar wages to average players.
    Absolutely dreadful article, you failed to mention all of the players that Harry has made large profits on or who have been incredibly successful, and seem to think that he has put a gun to the head of the respective chairmen to pay ridiculous wages. these guys are succesfull business men and multi millionaires, not gullable idiots!

  6. The fact he profited off selling players like Defoe, Kaboul, Crouch for example via his own sports management company between his reigns at Spurs and Portsmouth should be an indicator of some of the length’s he goes too. He was culpable as any person with Portsmouth when they were in financial ruin and then had the gall to say we need to help them out despite overspending causing their demise and profiting from it. Good read I have to say overall.

  7. For a guy who claims he can’t read or write, he sure knows how to make a buck. Wonder who’s the saviour – he for the club or the club for his bank account. Thank goodness he’s out of my Spurs. Fortunately we have Levi who saw through his guise and ejected him in time.

  8. Not to mention the profit he made on Glenn Johnson. But lets not be naive here. The owners gave Harry the reigns. And for those people who keep harping on about Pompey asking people to help them out… we may be the first but i doubt if we will be the last as long as the FA runs football the way it currently does. Its all about money and the fans are the fodder..

  9. And you sir, have just vindicated my argument. Defoe followed Redknapp to Spurs and knowing old ‘Arry, he must have pocketed atleast a little of the so called 15 m spent.


  10. What a load of twaddle, so all these astute chairman, who in themselves are business men couldn’t see thru Arry the con man dont make me laugh, great personality and great man manager and any Spurs fans that think otherwise are really scummers in disguise

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