Chris Dunlavy looks at the colour­ful ca­reer of QPR boss Harry Red­knapp

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

BUT for his old mate Jimmy Gabriel, Harry Red­knapp wouldn’t be dis­pens­ing Cock­ney wis­dom and ge­nial anec­dotes for the TV cam­eras. He’d be do­ing it from the front seat of a mini­cab.

“I re­ally was go­ing to be a taxi driver,” said the QPR boss. “I had an in­jury at Bournemouth that fin­ished my ca­reer and it all got pretty des­per­ate. I was ne­go­ti­at­ing to buy a Bournemouth taxi­cab for £14,000 and I was go­ing to bor­row the money off the bank be­cause we were skint.”

But then Gabriel, a team-mate at Bournemouth, got a job man­ag­ing Seat­tle Sounders in the NASL and in­vited Red­knapp to be his player-coach. There, on the far western coast of the USA, be­gan one of the most dis­tin­guished ca­reers in mod­ern foot­ball.

In the sub­se­quent 30 years, Red­knapp – who spent two days in a coma fol­low­ing a car crash in 1990 – has man­aged Bournemouth, West Ham, Portsmouth, Southamp­ton and Spurs, in the process be­com­ing one of English foot­ball’s most recog­nis­able and well-loved char­ac­ters.

Born in Lon­don’s East End, Red­knapp was scouted by Spurs but moved to West Ham aged 15, mak­ing his de­but in 1965 and play­ing in the leg­endary – but un­der­achiev­ing – side that fea­tured Bobby Moore and Ge­off Hurst.

“If you threw some­one a live hand grenade and asked them to run with it, that’s what Harry played like,” re­calls his old mate Rod­ney Marsh.“He was very fast, but it was all so quick and scat­ter­brain­ish. It was all scurry, scurry.”

Though he played 24 times for the Sounders – in­clud­ing against Pele – Red­knapp’s ca­reer was ef­fec­tively over at 29, when in­jury ended a four-year stint at Bournemouth.

But his as­so­ci­a­tion with the south coast club would con­tinue when, in 1983, he was named man­ager, fa­mously over­see­ing a 2-0 win over Manch­ester United in his first sea­son in charge.

Be­fore the match, he had walked into the dress­ing room and told his play­ers a story – en­tirely un­true – of how the United play­ers were so con­fi­dent of vic­tory they had spent the af­ter­noon watch­ing horse rac­ing.

“That was Harry’s first team talk to us that day,” said Mil­ton Gra­ham, one of the scor­ers in that game. “He said they are all in there, lay­ing their bets, be­liev­ing this is go­ing to be a run out and they think they will beat us com­fort­ably.


“Look­ing back, I don’t know if he be­lieved we could beat them but he made us think we could and that was his great skill.”

So be­gan Red­knapp’s rep­u­ta­tion as an ace mo­ti­va­tor, a man who could win the heart and mind of any player.

Some, like ex-Southamp­ton chair­man Ru­pert Lowe, have sug- gested that Red­knapp’s cheeky, ge­nial de­meanour is a “façade” to curry favour with the me­dia.

But the ma­jor­ity of his for­mer play­ers at­test to Red­knapp’s abil­ity to wring top-class per­for­mances from av­er­age play­ers.

Kanu, who played for Red­knapp at Pom­pey, said: “Some coaches know what you can do and be­lieve in you, but they don’t tell you. He knows what you can do and he gives you free­dom. If the gaffer be­lieves in you and you are happy then you pro­duce.”

And Ian Thom­spon, another exCherry, dis­agrees with Lowe. “What you see when Harry comes out on TV is the real per­son. Wher­ever he’s gone, when­ever he speaks, he speaks the truth. It’s a gen­ui­ness of char­ac­ter that’s em­bed­ded in his roots as an East End boy made good. I can’t speak highly enough of Harry – he’s a ter­rific guy.”

Though he hates the de­scrip­tion, Red­knapp is also renowned as a wheel­erdealer, his in-car in­ter­view a fea­ture of any trans­fer dead­line day.

Par­tic­u­lar tri­umphs in­clude Paolo Di Canio at West Ham – picked up for £1.5m af­ter be­ing dis­carded by Sh­effield Wed­nes­day and de­scribed by Red­knapp as “a ge­nius, the most ta­lented player I ever worked with” – and Pe­dro Men­des, a cut price ac­qui­si­tion from Spurs whose goals ef­fec­tively kept Portsmouth in the Pre­mier League.

“Harry built teams that were a whole lot bet­ter than it should have been when you looked at it on pa­per,” said Shaka His­lop. “He brought in play­ers who were sur­plus to re­quire­ments else­where – me, for in­stance, and Paolo Di Canio – and got the best out of them.” Now 66, Red­knapp has taken Spurs to the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nals and won pro­mo­tions with three dif­fer­ent. In Jan­uary 2012, he was odds-on with the book­ies for the Eng­land job, only for the FA to go for Roy Hodg­son.

It was rare stroke of mis­for­tune for a man named “Golden Bol­locks” by his old pal Jim Smith, but hav­ing started at the bot­tom, Red­knapp is grate­ful for his lot.

“In those early days at Bournemouth we got 12 balls for a sea­son and trained in the lo­cal park,” he said. “There’s noth­ing wrong with good hard work and I wouldn’t be the man­ager I am with­out those ex­pe­ri­ences.”

GLORY DAY: Harry Red­knapp cel­e­brates with the FA Cup while Portsmouth man­ager

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