HARRY REDKNAPP is the proverbial dead man walking. He knows it and, in his heart of hearts, accepts it.
QPR will lower the curtain on his career just when it suits them…whether the man nicknamed H likes it or not.
The club just cannot afford to be relegated, but right now they seem clear favourites to drop back into the Championship.
I suspect when the end comes, Redknapp will be relieved. His head has been in the pressure cooker of management long enough, and the heat is always so much more difficult to tolerate when you are losing.
He has already had one heart procedure – an operation to clear blood vessels – but continues to look weary, with the weight of Rangers performances weighing heavily on his shoulders.
Despite an encouraging performance against Liverpool on Sunday, Redknapp knows you get nothing for playing well. It’s points that matter most, and it doesn’t matter how you get them.
Rangers have already promoted Les Ferdinand as director of football. And he sits next to owner Tony Fernandes in the directors’ box at Loftus Road.
Already there, of course. is Glenn Hoddle, on board as a coach, so there are two wise old owls to whom Rangers can turn if they decide to make a change soon.
And, unless they start picking up points and moving out of the bottom three, that could be before Christmas. For after Aston Villa this week come Chelsea and Manchester City, and Rangers could be stranded by then.
Redknapp has been around football long enough to know a manager can get away with anything so long as he is winning matches. The problems begin when they are not.
He talks, sometimes wearily, about not being under pressure. What else can he say? But Rangers, when they act, will not care about his reputation, his presentation as a man, or the fact the he is so popular.
What a change in personal circumstances: a couple of years ago, his stock was high. Redknapp brilliantly piloted Tottenham to fourth place in the Barclays Premier League. His reward was the sack.
So a man who nearly became England manager and was the players’ universal choice for the job found himself dumped after producing his best body of work.
That’s why he will be under no illusions what will happen to him at Rangers. All managers are judged on results. The trouble is Harry hasn’t achieved any, bar a solitary win over Sunderland.
Because he lives in Sandbanks in Dorset, Redknapp leaves home at 4 a.m. every morning for the two-hour drive to Rangers. That is tiring enough. Then he does the same journey home every evening.
He is so absorbed with the complexities of the job, he admits his concentration can sometimes waver. His sense of frustration is palpable as is evidenced by the unnecessary weight watchers-style spat with the enigmatic Adel Taarabt.
So you just wonder how much longer pulling rabbits out of the hat can be his speciality.
What’s gone wrong? He felt he had achieved something when he persuaded Rio Ferdinand to come to Loftus Road from Manchester United. Ferdinand has been a disaster. So, too, has the 3-5-2, a system that Glenn Hoddle loves to play.
Now Rangers are trying to find a system that does not expose them so worryingly through the middle. That’s Redknapp’s priority. He also has to find a front man who can score goals. That’s another difficult task and it’s wearing him out.
The joking has stopped. There was a time after a match when you would be invited into his office and the red wine would flow. He was funny and irreverent, but always had this tremendous sense of loyalty to his players and his club.
He is no longer to willing to share his hopes and fears with friends.
Badly hurt when Tottenham dumped him, he did not get enough credit for making Gareth Bale the player he became. Even then, he was ready to answer the call to manage England.
Now he has ended up with another battle on his hands, and Rangers will show no more loyalty to him than Tottenham did. Survival is all that matters in West London, no matter the consequences.
It won’t be a consideration if Redknapp ends up broken-hearted again. But H understands the rules. For this passionate man who yearns so much to be a success, reality has always priority over romance.
He more than anybody else knows that his time at the top is coming to an end, and, with it, perhaps the final chapter of a remarkable career.