Harry Redknapp's plain-speaking style is a tonic to football's sensitivities
Neil Trainis HARRY REDKNAPP is not one to keep his thoughts under lock and key but his refreshing frankness is in danger of straining his relationships within the game. The 62-year-old is, in many ways, the prototype of the kind of manager supporters and the media wi
HARRY REDKNAPP is not one to keep his thoughts under lock and key but his refreshing frankness is in danger of straining his relationships within the game.
The 62-year-old is, in many ways, the prototype of the kind of manager supporters and the media wish to see lead a Premier League football club. His humour, delivered in dry, Del Boy-like cockney wide boy fashion, is infectious and a tonic to the high pressure, anxiety-ridden profession he inhabits where many of his counterparts could be accused of taking life too seriously.
Yet his honesty in appraising the performance of players, his own and those of other sides, is cutting and undeniably draws listeners in. He has a penchant for pulling no punches and that is another trait which sets him apart from the fence-sitters.
At present it those who follow Tottenham benefitting from the wisdom, expertise and passion of a man with a near exhaustively encyclopaedic knowledge of English football. The rest of us without allegiances to the north London club can sit back and enjoy listening to a man talk about the team's travails in much the same way a fan would down the local pub.
Redknapp can never be accused of alienating the supporters or of not talking their language but that has not made him immune from strife. Terry Brown, the former West Ham chairman, was set to tie Redknapp to the managerial position at Upton Park on a new four-year contract before having a sudden change of mind. By May 2001 Redknapp had left, shedding intriguing light on the reasons behind his departure six years later.
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"The chairman Terry Brown had offered me a new four-year contract. What I did was talk to a fanzine, made some comments, and sometimes I should be a bit more careful," he revealed in October 2007.
"I sat down with these guys from the fanzine and they started asking me questions and I spoke to them in the way I'd talk to someone in a pub. I said a few things I shouldn't have said. He read it and got very upset. I walked into his office expecting to sign the contract and walked out without a job."
The episode encapsulates Redknapp the man, not so much Redknapp the football manager. He loves talking about the game and is known to spare a few minutes chatting to fans, even if he is in a hurry. He could also be considered a journalist's dream since he finds it difficult to keep what he perceives as niggling injustices to himself.
His openness in that regard makes him approachable and accessible to those who pay their money through the turnstiles. They see him as one of them, not a figure surrounded by the untouchable aura of, say, Arsene Wenger or Jos� Mourinho.
Yet there is a flip-side to such outspokenness. Fabio Capello, the England coach and a man of tremendous conviction, carries a reputation for suffering no fools and an intolerance of any questioning of his methods.
He refused to meet with Redknapp over the issue of Ledley King's call-up to the England squad when Redknapp publicly berated the Italian's decision to include the player for the games against Slovakia on Saturday and Ukraine on Wednesday.
A chronic knee injury, preventing King from training between matches, has ravaged the career of arguably England's most accomplished central defender and his condition meant that he was always unlikely to play for the national team in either of those fixtures.
Capello, under the direction of England's medical staff, wanted to satisfy himself of the extent of King's injury, just as he did when he called in Steven Gerrard last year despite protestations from his club Liverpool that the midfielder was carrying an adductor muscle injury.
On that occasion Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, demanded an apology from the Football Association for forcing his captain into a 400-mile round trip to be assessed by England and subsequently deemed unfit without taking the club's word for that.
Redknapp, in a similar predicament with King, must have been confident that the 28-year-old would play no part with England since his knee swells to three times its normal size after matches with Tottenham, yet he still felt obliged to vent his spleen.
"He could overdo it for England and with Spurs and in eight months' time be on the scrapheap. I'd love to see him play for England. But he simply cannot play two games in a week," Redknapp insisted, adding "nobody would be happier than me to see Ledley lifting the World Cup trophy with England."
Redknapp annoyance, though, knew no bounds and was uncontainable. "I had the Spurs physios on the phone, panicking, when Ledley was picked for the England squad. Each week it is a hard job to manage the inevitable swelling that blows up after a match.
"They are dedicated to nursing Ledley along and as a result this season we hope to get 30 games out of him. Last season he played four, so I guess we must be doing something right at Tottenham."
Redknapp has long been at odds with the concept of discretion. It has served him well in the eyes of truth-seekers and reporters after a juicy quote or two but created ripples in the sport.
He might have been better off trusting his instinct that King would return to Tottenham unscathed having not been played by England but opted to smash his silence and harangue Capello, with whom he has history.
Only last August Redknapp, then Portsmouth manager, scathingly attacked England's performance in a friendly against the Czech Republic at Wembley while working as a television pundit, much to Capello's chagrin.
Teddy Sheringham is another to have tasted Redknapp's venom after suggesting Tottenham had not tried during their fourth round FA Cup defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford. "That criticism is unfair. I don't know what game he can have been watching. How can he say we didn't try? To say that is absolute rubbish," Redknapp gushed.
There are those who would love to gag him but football, an increasingly superficial, money-driven industry, should be grateful for Redknapp's ability to speaking plainly.