"I'm very proud to have been given this task and I promise you I'll do my best to represent your country." Those were Harry Redknapp's first words as he was unveiled as the new coach of Jordan, the well-known English manager underlining his commitment to the cause – despite taking command for a limited time only. His brief, after all, could hardly be more specific, with Redknapp appointed to get results in Jordan's final two group-stage qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
Although most coaches prefer time to get to know their players and pass on their message, the new man at the helm has opted to forego all that. Instead, his spell will effectively last just three hours, with his remit covering the match against Bangladesh on 24 March and the trip to Sydney to take on Australia five days later. "I've been working in football for a lot of years and I know this job won't be easy," Redknapp told FIFA.com. "I have very little time, but I'm used to accepting any challenge. I've only come here for two matches, but who knows what the future will hold? Let's take it step by step."
Building a rapport
The former Tottenham Hotspur manager will have to juggle his Jordan duties with his advisory role at Derby County. He travelled to Amman fresh from watching the second-tier English outfit beat Nottingham Forest, and the following day he slipped on his tracksuit for his first training session in his new job, where he held discussions with the players and looked to build a quick rapport. Watching with his assistants as the players were then put through their paces, Redknapp was quick to pause the action when necessary, bounding on to the pitch several times to hand out instructions.
"I didn't have a full grasp of the standard of the Jordanian players but, after the first session and talks with the coaching staff, I feel that they have great potential," he said. "I saw the effort they put in and I know they've been giving their best for several days. I was able to sleep well because I'm convinced this is a good squad which can get the results we want in the next two games."
The feeling appeared to be mutual. Judging by the expressions on the faces of the Jordan players, they too were pleased with their first encounter – and could not wait to work more with their well-respected coach. Redknapp's compliments during that inaugural training session clearly went down well too.
No magic wand
He joins a side that has become used to instability. In fact, Redknapp is the third coach to have held the Jordan reins since World Cup qualifying began, with Jordanian tactician Ahmed Abdel-Qader and Belgium's Paul Put having both gone before him.
As a result, supporters are keen to know what the current incumbent can offer in such a short space of time. "I don't have a magic wand, but in football hard work and application are the keys to success," he said. "Keeping on the coaching staff who provided us with all the necessary information on the players will help us in our task because we'll consult with them before making decisions. I had a chance to meet most of the players and the first game against Bangladesh will be the perfect time to field the best possible team to take on Australia.
"I'm not saying we'll play the first game without respecting our opponents, as if victory was guaranteed. On the contrary, I've told the players to focus on getting the three points. In football, you can't take any opponent lightly or you'll run into serious problems. We'll just be taking things step by step."
'Faith in ourselves'
After tackling Bangladesh, Jordan face a 20-hour flight south to Sydney, where they face a monumental test. Redknapp and Co can settle for nothing short of victory against the Asian champions if they hope to reach the final qualifying round and match their achievement on the road to Brazil 2014, when they contested an intercontinental play-off against Uruguay.
The visitors will have to contend with a passionate Australian crowd as they take to the field, but they need not fear their rivals. Instead, they would do well to imagine that they are the home side. After all, they saw off the Socceroos 2-0 on Jordanian soil earlier in the campaign, and downed the same side 2-1 at home during the previous qualifying effort.
They also lost 4-0 in Australia in that World Cup bid, and Redknapp has no illusions about the scale of the challenge ahead. "We know our task is difficult, but we have to have faith in ourselves. We need to go there with a positive mindset or there's no point even making the trip.
"It's a huge challenge for us," he added. "The Australian team are strong at home and they won the last Asian Cup. I know some of their players because they play in the Premier League. I'm going to watch all their previous games in detail and obviously their next match against Tajikistan as well. We'll put our finger on their strong and weak points and then choose our team with that in mind."
Whatever happens, Redknapp is certain to relish the occasion. "In life, you have to give everything to avoid having regrets. I can't wait for us to face this challenge together."