Why Redknapp and O’Neil got it all wrong

by Ashleigh Rose

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Eggs in one basket

While watching the Tottenham Aston Villa game this weekend, I actually found myself unusually wanting both teams to lose. Not because I have any underlining hatred for either side, but its just I’m still so disappointed in Harry Redknapp’s and Martin O’Neil’s complete ’eggs in one basket’ approach to the end of the season. Now both O’Neil and Redknapp are manger’s I greatly admire and would equally love them at the helm of my club or my country but the way they and their clubs have treated their UEFA Cup campaign for this season is such a let down. Let’s remember this is a Villa side who were so desperate to get into Europe last year that their season started weeks before anyone else in some remote Finnish town against a team you would struggle to even pronounce. Now here we are nine months later, and O’Neil is sending the reserve team out to compete in UEFA Cup game in Moscow while his big stars watch at home, resting up in front of the TV. All so that Villa can concentrate on that precious fourth spot that would guarantee Champions League football for the first time – which of course is the be all and end all of modern day football. The result though? Those rested players have seen their six point lead on fourth place diminish and are now a place below thanks to an inferior goal difference and with games against Liverpool and Manchester United next up. Well done Martin! I’m sure those fans who travelled all the way to Moscow to see their side give up their European adventure are even more pleased with their club now. And as for Spurs, yes their Premier League survival now seems assured, all be it the expense of two cups, but they are now all of a sudden keen on seventh place which could lead to another stab at Europe that they can throw away when something else becomes more important next season.

But where does that leave the rest of us? Fans and players of clubs like my own QPR would dearly love a season in Europe but have to sit and watch on while clubs like Villa and Spurs surrender their place in the tournament. Their not alone either, I still cant quite believe that Bolton did it last season for their game against Atletico Madrid, because lets be fair, when are Bolton going to taste European football again? UEFA’s answer though seems to be making the UEFA Cup a more glamorous affair next season, with a revamped tournament including a name change to the Europa League. Europa League, how two-bob does that sound! I mean is Europa even an actual word? It’s unlikely to make a difference anyway.

Oh how I now hope that Manchester City go on and win this season’s competition. Then how would Villa, Spurs and the rest of em feel then, seeing a club who didn’t treat the competition with the disrespect that they did, happily parading a bit of silverware that could have easily been their own.

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  • http://reassessthepress.wordpress.com Sam

    You make a very good point.

    It defies common sense that a team so elated to make it into Europe the previous season, is so quick to disregard the tournament once they get to a promising position to win it.

    It would be interesting to see just how much the decision to concentrate on domestic form was made by the manager compared to the chairman, and how would these clubs young players feel who may not get another opportunity to taste European football for years, if ever again. Spurs’ situation is slightly more understandable because they had the chance to win silverware and made a good stab of it with their best available XI, but teams like Villa should see success in Europe as the best way to propel themselves into that ‘top four’ rather than overlook it. Get recognition on the continent, and you attract more support, better players and obviously have the financial rewards.

    It would be justice for City to go onto win and show Villa and Spurs what their missing, but as a United fan, I’d rather they went out at the next stage valiantly, thank you very much. Good article.

  • James Webb

    I think the spurs situation was slightly different to the Villa one. Having already played 1 game on the monday against Hull and with a Carling Cup final on the Sunday. There was no way that Harry would be able to play his best team against Shaktar. With the club in a precarious position in the league the Hull game had to take priority and given a bit more luck infront of goal or if we could actually take penalties the decision to play a second string in the UEFA would have been justified by beating Man U on the Sunday.

    Villa have sacrificed the UEFA cup to chase a champions league spot in which looks to be backfiring badly. The defeats in Europe have consequently affected morale and 5th place seems more likely unless Everton continue there good form. Saying that I expect them to be more interested in securing 6th and getting to the FA Cup Final.

    Spurs are now closer to West Ham in 7th than the bottom three and with 7th getting a place in Europe Harry’s decisions would be totally justified.

  • Matt Quinn

    For god sake!!! Why cant people understand O’Neills decision??
    Its not rocket science.
    We have the smallest squad in the premiership. Even though we had been on a winning run, our team had looked tired since christmas. We started the season a month or so before every other premiership club.
    Despite all this, we are having our best season for years and could possibly get champions league football. Yes, its nice to win a trophy but for long term success and plans, the champions league would mean so much more to Villa. Next season Arsenal will get their act together again, Man City will be up there and Spurs will probably challenge too. This is Villa’s best chance for years… O’neill was 100% right to sacrifice the UEFA cup. If we had been mid-table or something, of course O’Neill would have played a full strength team in Europe… however, with the position Villa were/are in- he unlike some people- was looking to the future and had long term plans. Its not that hard to see that his decision made sense.

    Plus- it hasnt backfired. We still look tired. Imagine how tired they would have been playing an extra game in Moscow.

    Spurs- on the other hand- i cant understand. They have sacrificed the UEFA cup to…. try and get in the UEFA cup. Now that doesnt make sense at all. (Think about it James Webb)

  • http://reassessthepress.wordpress.com Sam

    I understand your argument Matt, especially as a Villa fan I have to respect that you would rather make it into the Champions League and suffer from a small squad. Its a shame Agbonlahor is getting so much flack lately because he has been one of the sparks of your season and is still so young.

    But what happens, if you manage to finish in fourth, if in the qualification match for the Champions League, you get knocked out before the group stage – a la Everton a few years back – and find yourselves back to square one. Against CSKA Moscow, you had Marlon Harewood (maybe not prolific but a handful on his day) on the bench for most of the game, and were only 90 mins from the last 16.

    I guess it was weighing up how best to use your small squad and O’Neill felt that was in the league. But when I see the form Villa have been capable of producing during this season, I would have fancied them to give their European counterparts a real run for their money – and would rather they represented England in the tournament, rather than City!

  • James Webb

    Sorry Matt but Spurs sacrificed the game against Shaktar to put a strong side out against Hull and attempt to win some silverwear. I’m sure any club would have done the same in the situation. Imagine sending our reserves to Wembley and losing against Hull for the sake of place in the next round of the UEFA that would have been ridiculous.

    Yes Villa have the smallest squad but they were only in two competitions at the time and since losing the UEFA cup games the morale of the squad has dipped and now it looks as though they have sacrificed the UEFA cup for a place in next years EUROPA cup !!

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    good point about morale, once a team starts to think about defeat then naturally they will start to lose games. It’s the oldest sports psychology in the book. Defeat is not an option. PMA.

    Look at Arsenal, everyone wrote them off, they didn’t buckle, kept on going, not playing brilliantly but didn’t lose. We are now back in 4th, a semi final of the FA Cup, the easiest possible draw in the champions league. Momentum builds if you do not think about defeat…

  • Matt Quinn

    Morale wont have dipped from the UEFA cup loss. None of the first teamers played.

    If Villa grab 4th everyone will be saying its a masterstroke by O’Neill. Even if we dont get 4th, then i totally agree it was worth the risk. The players we could have attracted would have been so much higher… also UEFA cup counts for very little.

    For instance, we were in the UEFA cup this year and Gareth Barry still wanted to leave. He said he wanted to play Champions League football. Middlesboro got to the final the other year- thats hardly helped them in the long term has it???

  • Matt Quinn

    Ps. Darren- I think you may struggle against Villarael. Theyre a good little team.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    We can’t possibly play as bad as we did in Rome. I think the players learnt a lot from that night. Not to mention we are in ascendancy and just hitting form at the right moment.

    We’ll have Fabregas back by then. Bring in United in the semi’s!

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