The creaking sound heard by Harry Redknapp this week was not his rickety knees but the closing of a rusty, underwhelming transfer window. Redknapp's struggling Queens Park Rangers failed to strengthen, the owner Tony Fernandes signalled no more cheque-book panacea and six hours later Redknapp was on the phone to resign, citing the need for surgery. Nurse, the smoke-screens.
Redknapp has suffered this knee complaint for some time, and it is undoubtedly a significant concern because he has been unable to walk his beloved bulldogs on Studland beach, Poole. Yet anyone with even the slightest acquaintance with the engaging 67-year-old will know that he is of the old school, of the type who shrug off pain. Redknapp has endured far more life-threatening trauma and battled on. The knee excuse does not ring true.
It is strange to depict Redknapp as surrendering so suddenly the fight against relegation. Maybe he was simply frustrated that the failure to recruit a striker meant QPR's hopes of survival looked even bleaker.
Maybe he was particularly hurt by Fernandes' pointed deadline-day tweet of "no more cheque book. We have good players. Bought all the players manager asked for in summer". That hinted at a lack of faith from his main employer.
Redknapp always appreciated the scale of the task in hand. "We knew when we came up we were going to be in a scrap,'' he said when recently discussing his employment prospects. This looks the end to a managerial career that began in 1983 at Bournemouth. Redknapp is an experienced, popular manager rightly respected for producing attractive teams down the years but there has been a sense of drift at Loftus Road this season. He has always talked enthusiastically about the job but in his words could also be detected a feeling of weariness, of a season too far.
"It could be any time," Redknapp said a fortnight ago of whether he must just walk away one day. He believed there was a mole inside Loftus Road, spreading damaging words about his capabilities. The retirement of his friend, Sir Alex Ferguson, made him even more aware of time's passing. His knees hurt. Players like Shaun Wright?Phillips grumbled. It was time to go. It was a sad moment as English football boasts too few home-grown managers of stature.
Redknapp nurtured prospects like Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand at West Ham, motivated a group of disparate players at Portsmouth that unexpectedly won the FA Cup, and built the Spurs of Gareth Bale that reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League. He insists that he is not finished as a manager but yesterday felt a final curtain. He had tired of the fight.
QPR have to rediscover their fight, and their identity. To outsiders, QPR always resembled a tight unit of a club. Nothing large, nothing fancy, just people fighting for their cherished club. That is why Tim Sherwood presents himself as the most legitimate contender to succeed Redknapp. As a title?winning midfielder who loathed losing, and as a young manager with a feisty streak, Sherwood looks well suited to the task.
The case for Sherwood is pronounced, not least because he is available. The man himself spoke powerfully at a forum hosted by the Telegraph in their London offices yesterday morning, a valued envoy from the League Managers Association. Sherwood impressed his audience not simply with his views on the importance of promoting youth, as he did so successfully with Harry Kane at Spurs last season, and the need for players to take responsibility, observing of Mario Balotelli that "there is only one form of discipline and that is self-discipline", but also in the assured manner in which he spoke. He trails the aura of a
former footballer currently preparing to attend 20th anniversary celebrations of Blackburn Rovers' title triumph.
Sherwood has always exuded this presence of being his own man, having strong opinions, standing up to people. Sherwood is only 45, but his first attempt at management deserved nods of respect. On replacing Andre Villas-Boas at Spurs in 2013, he made the team easier on the eye. He brought some unity to the dressing room, although one particular player was privately critical of his training methods. Yet in 22 Premier League games, Sherwood garnered 42 points. His admirable replacement, Mauricio Pochettino, has currently collected two fewer points from one game more.
As well as giving Spurs their belief and direction back after AVB, Sherwood also gave youth a chance. He spoke yesterday about the importance of young players wising up and toughening up, appreciating there is life outside the "five-star hotel" of Spurs' Enfield training complex. "Being at Tottenham is not like being in the real world,'' said Sherwood.
He argued that players can be loaned out too much. Sometimes they have to be blooded, thrown in at the deep end. He did that with Nabil Bentaleb. He did it with Kane, who risked being sent on further loan excursions, touring the footballing provinces, until Sherwood was appointed and unleashed a player he knew well from the academy.
"If Tottenham had had their way, then Harry Kane would not have been Harry Kane today, because he would have been on loan at a Championship club to gain even more experience,'' Sherwood said. "And he would not have got his opportunity to play for Tottenham."
No arrogance could be detected in Sherwood's appraisal of how Kane was catapulted into the limelight. He deserves credit for accelerating Kane's rise, for filling the youngster with belief. Such commitment to youth will inevitably please those owners like Fernandes concerned about Financial Fair Play and the need to balance books.
QPR's honest, principled owner must consider two issues when assessing the overwhelming favourite for the post. QPR's youngsters are not as good as those Sherwood called on so eye-catchingly at Spurs.
Fernandes must also contemplate the reality that Sherwood is a manager for the long term, shaping a young side with his tenets, at a time when the side 19th in the Premier League crave an impact man.
West Brom's owner, Jeremy Peace, was initially tempted by the rich potential of Sherwood when pondering the successor to Alan Irvine but soon turned to Tony Pulis, a hit-the-ground-running, experienced campaigner.
If appointed, Sherwood will reintroduce some combativeness to the team, shaking them up, but he is the type who will also need time to infuse them with his beliefs. Sherwood is not a short-term fix, but a long-term development option.
He is supremely hungry to don the managerial gilet again, to
show that winning traits that characterised his work in Rovers midfield can be maintained as a manager.
He looks a good fit for QPR. He knows the current caretakers, Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey, well from the Lane. Sherwood's strong character would also be needed to stiffen the resolve and camaraderie of the dressing room.
A new era dawns at Loftus Road with valued former England internationals like Ferdinand and, possibly, Sherwood, shaping a post-Redknapp world. Redknapp's knee may recover but not his career.