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Are football teams without a purpose “on the beach”? trucking and fruit picking.

You may have heard that Napoli won the Scudetto for the first time in 33 years this month, with only five games left to play. You might not have realized that the newly crowned champions lost 2-0 to Monza, a team that had just been promoted, last weekend. Could it be said that Napoli’s players and staff are “on the beach” this summer? With the title already won, no European campaign to think about, no record points total to chase, and no international manager to impress, they don’t have much to do.

The idea isn’t just about football, as any teacher with a VHS tape in their hand at the end of the year will tell you, but with a few important and not-so-important games left in the season, this is where people are most interested.

Are football teams without a purpose "on the beach"? trucking and fruit picking.

Being on the beach isn’t real, despite supporters’ complaints on the way to this week’s penultimate Premier League games. There is just too much to gain or lose if a person isn’t as motivated as they should be.

Data is king, and with all the performance gadgets and dozens of cams watching every turn and sprint, it’s easy to see if a player isn’t giving his or her best.

The trade market is brutal, and a manager can get rid of a player who doesn’t do much better than average faster than you can say “Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.” Contracts and even goal bonuses pay too well for someone to not care.

Harry Redknapp has been a player and manager since the mid-1960s. On Saturday, he will be back on the bench for a charity match at Loftus Road for the Kiyan Prince Foundation. Whether it was his team or the team he was playing against, Redknapp has been in many cases where a team could be said to be “on the beach.” He doesn’t think this is true.

“Premier League players are fully focused,” says the 76-year-old. “They train hard, and almost none of them drink. They take care of themselves.” Too much is at stake, and the crowd won’t let it happen. When 40,000 people are yelling and abusing you if you don’t work, how can you not try? Most of the time, they play better when there’s nothing at stake because there’s less pressure. In 2004-05, Southampton lost 6-0 to Fulham while fighting relegation with Norwich.

There are many exceptions to the rule that you can’t be on the beach, and Redknapp was one of the most famous ones.

On the last day of the 1994-95 season, Manchester United needed a win at Redknapp’s mid-table West Ham to have any chance of winning the title. When foes Blackburn and Liverpool tied, it gave Manchester United a chance. Even though Harry’s son Jamie scored a great free kick to help Blackburn beat Blackburn 2-1, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team couldn’t win against the Hammers because their defense was so good.

“That was some day,” says Redknapp. “Today was great for sports. With 15 minutes left, I put on another centre-back, and Fergie got mad at me. I tied five across the back, and we did everything we could to keep them out. That day, we worked as hard as we could. Ludek Miklosko was great, wasn’t he?

“We were thrilled. Man United doesn’t come to mind. You’re not there to help Manchester United win the league. We didn’t care if they did or not. You’re there to win for West Ham and make sure the fans have a good last day of the season.

He says, “And here’s another. In 2009-10, Tottenham got into the Champions League by beating [Manchester] City. A few days later, we went to Burnley and were up 2-0, but we ended up losing 4–2. I gave them the worst spanking they have ever gotten. We were playing for nothing, but you want to win.”

The Premier League has gotten better because the players have cleaned up their lives. Players’ lives are indeed pretty dull.

Players go to bed on time, hire private cooks, and don’t go out. People act professionally. At the training ground, slogans like “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” are tattooed on people’s arms or written on the walls. Everyone who doesn’t follow the rules is kicked out of town.

There can be outside causes, though. At this point in the season, injuries or coaches resting players for a cup game can easily weaken a team. A few players worry at this point that they might get hurt before the European Championship or World Cup. Many factors can effect a player’s dedication, but they are more random than a widespread pattern of players not trying.

“A lot of it is just luck of the draw,” Redknapp says. “You could play a team that is in a cup tournament. West Ham fell to Brentford this week after David Moyes rested most of his team for a European semi-final. So there is no doubt that you can get lucky on the run-in. I’d rather play a team that isn’t focused than one that has nothing to play for.”

Manchester City and Brighton fans may enjoy playing Chelsea (10th place) and Southampton (out of the league) on Sunday. But it’s not likely that City and Brighton will win just because their opponents are on the beach. Most likely, it’s because both Chelsea and Saints aren’t very good.

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