Filed: Tuesday, 1st May 2012
By: Terry Land
I was standing in the away end at the Valley, Charlton, and it was simply hosing it down as West Ham attempted to hold onto a 2-1 lead with a bit over a quarter-of-an-hour on the clock.
Despite an arthritic knee and what pace he ever possessed forever gone former Hammers hero Julian Dicks had been asked to play in an unfamiliar wingback role and was taking a chasing from Addicks right-back Danny Mills. Worse still Charlton boss Alan Curbishley, along with everybody else in the stadium, spotted Dicks’ distress and doubled up on him by bringing on substitute winger John Robinson.
When I say “everybody” I mean all bar the West Ham manager. Despite having the useful French wide player Marc Keller on the bench he failed to act – Mills banged one in and Andy Hunt and Neil Redfearn grabbed a late one each to give our South London cousins a 4-2 victory. I walked back to the car in Anchor and Hope Lane unable to believe any manager worth his name could have been so tactically inept. Soaked to the bone, angry and confused – that Saturday in October 1998 was the day I stopped believing in Harry Redknapp.
My journey with the man began almost 30 years earlier with a match at Upton Park against Stoke City. Seated with Dad in the recently opened East Stand two memories from my first ever visit to the Boleyn Ground remain. A dull 0-0 draw closed with a woman running onto the pitch to attack the referee. Off the pitch my spectator experience, as it would no doubt be called today, was enhanced by the mainly good-natured but relentless barracking of West Ham’s spindly right-winger.
“Oi Redknapp! Stick yer tongue out – you’ll look like a zip”, they chortled, “How about starching that number seven on yer shirt – give yer some backbone”, they laughed. For me, versed only in primary school banter it was inexplicable how fans might not treat players as heroes. But even at nine-years-old the truth was as obvious to me as it was them. Harry was chicken.
Redknapp hung around the club for a couple of years more before coming to the same conclusion as all his “admirers” and leaving for Division Three side Bournemouth. His return came from the same club – this time in a coaching capacity and following a spell in the United States – as understudy to manager Billy Bonds while the club languished in the second tier. Following an initial struggle Harry’s presence revived the side as they played with energy and enjoyment, gained promotion and consolidated their position with a 13th place finish in the new Premier League. Bonds jumped/was pushed, Harry took over and the club established itself as a mid-table side over the next few seasons.
Even if there were obvious faults to be rectified (our away form and propensity to fall apart under pressure, for instance) Redknapp appeared to be doing a good job. His buys were astute and our home form remained solid. But Harry’s profile in the media seemed to bear an inverse relationship with his ability to manage the club. Journalists loved the crafty Cockney rent-a-quote even if in person he could be extremely brusque and quick to anger.
Along with the fame came a biography and a telling insight into the man – but not in a good way. Ghosted by Derek McGovern it was little more than a series of justifications for a host of allegations many of which were never made in the first place. It was also rather, shall we say, slippery with the facts. Despite claiming to have made “no money out of football” and leaving Bournemouth £2.5million in debt he arrived at West Ham living out of Sandbanks on Poole Harbour, one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the country.
Fortunately the book also went a long way to confirming personality traits I would argue define his subsequent career. As yellow as he may have been on the pitch, H is ruthless on an interpersonal level and extremely difficult to deal with. Examples from the book include spats with friends Barry Fry and Peter Storrie. Even Sir Clive Woodward, author of the England rugby side’s 2003 World Cup win, found him impossible to deal with while attempting a role as Performance Director while both were at Southampton.
Club Chairman at the time Terry Brown claims in Brian Belton’s biography Brown Out Harry was tactically illiterate and he relied heavily on first Frank Burrows then brother-in-law Frank Lampard. As somebody who went to a lot of away games over that period I’d echo those sentiments. Time upon time we would travel with a 3-5-2 formation – used ostensibly to accommodate a playmaker such as Eyal Berkovic or Joe Cole only for it to quickly become 5-3-2 with three static centre-halves as soon as we came under pressure. After yet another heavy defeat Harry would brush off questions about the performance with claims such as, “These lads wouldn’t know how to defend” and expect nobody to question why he had first bought then selected them. Perhaps his behaviour when “accused” of “wheeling and dealing” by a Sky reporter gives us a clue?
As a motivator Harry employed a pretty simple technique. Build a large squad before dividing it into pariahs and teacher’s pets. Given his force of personality nobody would want to be on the wrong end of a Redknapp tongue-lashing. For the huge majority of players there’s nothing worse than being dropped and I’ve heard several top flight managers observe the only way to motivate them is with the threat of not playing. Multiply that by the knowledge falling out with your boss would ensure you’d never be picked and it’s a pretty useful if ruthless technique. A case in point was the previously mentioned Keller – who never enjoyed a run in the team despite some very good one-off performances. Jermain Defoe would no doubt sympathise too.
Perhaps Harry’s vague association with truthfulness was a concern for the FA regarding the England manager’s appointment. When appointed West Ham boss following Redknapp’s sacking, relative unknown Glenn Roeder was asked which attribute he could bring to his new job. “Honesty” was the immediate reply, a declaration that in true Harry style led to a series of putdowns in the press. In truth, it was easy to see Roeder’s point, after a nasty training ground fight between Berkovic and John Hartson denied by Redknapp but filmed by Sky a case in point.
From my vantage I was interested to witness a TV appearance where Redknapp claimed a whole series of events during a game against Bradford that simply never happened. A former colleague of mine worked for the Newham Recorder and shared a good relationship with H. Post-presser the cub would be summoned to Harry’s office to be told. “What I said out there was a load of bollocks, this is what’s really going on…” An indication perhaps, the man is less the cheerful duffer the press would have us believe but more ruthless operator.
It surely can’t be coincidence that every club H has departed have been left in severe financial distress. I’m going to have to be very careful what I say here, especially as a recent court case brought by HMRC absolved Redknapp of any tax misdeeds. Suffice to say, the more money H spent at West Ham the less value we seemed to receive from it. Great signings such as Trevor Sinclair from QPR declined and were outweighed by washed-up rubbish like Titi Camara and Gary Charles. As time went by players appeared to be bought to serve not the team but agents.
As an inveterate gambler Harry didn’t seem able to develop from a punt to purchasing solid players. In Tom Bower’s tome "Broken Dreams" Brown is said to become increasingly frustrated with his signings and offers Redknapp a proportion of any money gained above £15million if he would stop buying players. All of which begs the question who was signing the cheques? Scriptwriter and director Tony Grounds is a good mate and pre-match drinking buddy (not that I drink that much) I met through football and would no doubt say his Channel Four film All In The Game about a corrupt football manager had nothing to do with our West Ham. I’d merely invite people to watch it and make up their own mind.
One of Harry’s proudest boasts concerns the players he “brought through” at West Ham. Happy to claim credit for the development of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard jnr, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick – even Defoe – who played exactly 13 minutes for Redknapp – the sad truth is those players were moulded into what they were by the West Ham Academy Director Tony Carr and with the possible exception of Lampard all needed a different manager to develop.
All these things and more are known by FA committee member Trevor Brooking who was a non-executive director of the club for much of Redknapp’s tenure. So it’s hardly likely he would have been an advocate when it came to the Three Lions job. Privately Harry will be fuming. But I rather wonder if there isn’t a tiny part of him that’s glad.
For the truth is, stripped of the day-to-day involvement of a football club Redknapp may well have been exposed at the top level – especially as to misquote Enoch Powell, “All managerial careers end in failure.” His honeymoon period would undoubtedly have been longer than Roy Hodgson – the man who got the job – but by God Harry wouldn’t want to lose the people who’ve been his best ally all these years – the press.
*Terry Land hosts a blog at moxycoxy.wordpress.com. He may also be found on Twitter at twitter.com/#!/AMoCS.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
11:25AM 28th May 2012
''Comments should be made whenever you read something as excellent as this, thanks a million.''
08:24AM 10th May 2012
''What planet is Doug Beesley on, or is he just winding people up?
Yes, totally agree regards Terence Brown as an accountant couldn't get his figures right in as much as sacking Roeder would cost far too much money - £2million but going out of the Premiership, £40million?
Redknapp - Just look at his record of how financially he has left each club. Who was the manager when we finished third? Who was the manager when we lifted the FA Cup?
Yes, since Redknapp our choice of manager has been woeful. All have been tactically inept and the only one who has shown any ability in my lifetime of over 44 years is Ron Greenwood and John Lyall.
So please, as far as Redknapp is concerned he is a lovely ROGUE TRADER.''
by doug beesley
12:40AM 4th May 2012
''What a load of ill-informed, biased twaddle, probably supported by Terrence Brown who you have the temerity to quote. Well how about this one - "I am not a supporter but an accountant". Guess who? Not Redknapp but the man who made a fortune out of selling our team.
Redknapp for all his failings was our most successful top division manager as the stats show and we have had some donkeys since. I have supported the team since my first game in 1958 and there is one reason why Tottenham, Chelssea and Arsenal have overtaken us, their dodgy dealers on the board were more successful and stayed around longer than ours.''
07:59PM 3rd May 2012
''Terrific article. As a Pompey supporter I can easily empathise with these sentiments, particularly those about leaving clubs in financial difficulties. He is a chequebook manager if ever there were one.''
06:23PM 3rd May 2012
''I wouldn't trust him after what has happened at my fantastic club. A couple of quotes.
1). You've never had it so good.(85million debt)
2). This is my spiritual home and last club job in football apart from England.(really)
3). I would never join that lot down the road. Never. (really)
These are just a few quotes but the list is endless. I despise the man, enough said.''
by Paul Hillman
01:52PM 3rd May 2012
''Harry bang to rights - which is more than the inland revenue could manage. How does this moron fool so many people for so much of the time? Tactically inept, as honest as the tea break is long and surrounding himself with toadies. Could not manage the proverbial on his own. Universally hated by true Pompey supporters.''
12:13PM 3rd May 2012
''Just look at his legacy at Portsmouth. Massive squad brought in on ridiculous wages (we were the sixth highest wage-payers in 2007/8). Throughout those heady days we had no investment in youth, the stadium or anything to do with infrastructure. One has to wonder where all that money went. We have paid a very heavy price for a series of corrupt owners and a wheeler-dealer (ouch!) manager. All other clubs, take note.''
by Richard Hunt
10:21AM 3rd May 2012
Re: Defoe, the C4 drama starts with the manager stealing an underage starlet from another club by offering to buy his mother a new house. This is exactly the allegation which has been made about how Defoe was prised from Charlton.
The thing I always remember from Bower's book is the statistic that Redknapp signed 144 players in seven years at West Ham. 144...''
07:51PM 2nd May 2012
''Great article. Absolutely spot on.''
04:18PM 2nd May 2012
''Terry, that's a brilliant article. I was pointed to it from a Spurs site - Harry Hotspur. I have great concerns about 'arry tactically and I'm glad that Levy retained control over transfers otherwise our team would be full of over-priced, clapped-out players who had previous with 'arry. The questions at the Lane are 'should he go?' and if he does (the big question) 'who do we go for?'
For my part, it's time for Spurs and him to part. Again, great article.''
by Nick Smith
01:06PM 2nd May 2012
''Well done Terry - great article.
My moment of clarity with Redknapp was after the quarter-Final v Spurs in the FA Cup around 99/00 where he was completely outwitted by George Graham and showed the tactical ability of of a five-year-old.
Thank God for Trevor Brooking.''
11:29AM 2nd May 2012
''Defoe was from the Charlton Academy and left at 18.''
by Smooth and Round
08:46AM 2nd May 2012
''That is a superb piece about tbe man. I now realise why he sticks with Aaron Lennon, another chicken-hearted lazy player. He obviously see reflections of himself.''
by Tell it how it is Charlie!
07:47AM 2nd May 2012
''Julian Dicks called Redknapp, "a snidey character" who wasn´t liked in the world of football.
He just ended up outside a Monaco bank, with totally innocent motives? You wonder what really goes on at football clubs, Spurs never seen to last the distance.''
07:46AM 2nd May 2012
''A long time since I have read an article like that. Short, to the point, insightful and backed up with facts! 10 out of 10. Well done Sir.''
07:43AM 2nd May 2012
''Very insightful and welcome piece - supports suspicions many of us have had about 'Arry. Bit of a chancer, a self-interested 'trader' rather than commited football man. There's nothing wrong with earning money - but I do increasingly get the impression that football management is merety a vehicle for Arry to enhance his dog's bank account balance.
In all walks of life we look for the main chance - given however that in football, for most of us 'fans', there is an irrational emotional attachment that transcends 'profit motive' (season ticket prices put paid to that!) his behavious is unacceptable.
I'm a long standing Spurs fan - we've been lucky with Redknapp in that Daniel Levy has not let him near the cheque book, as seems to have been the case with his prevous clubs.
Good luck in the play-offs by the way...''
01:30AM 2nd May 2012
''I hold no particular brief for Rednapp and I think whoever gets the job is doomed to failure since there is almost a total lack of English world-class players. I suspect Capello saw this and jumped ship while the going was good. He surely did not want a repeat of the last World cup fiasco.
The interesting thing about your article is that you finger Brooking as the negative influnce for Rednapp, which coming from a West Ham supporter one suspects is based on truth. What really needs to be done is to clean out the FA. No doubt we will talk all about that possibility once again after the Euros.''
10:42PM 1st May 2012
As West Ham fans we all have our thoughts of Harry Redknapp as a player and manager. I saw him regularly as a player, the whippet on the wing - bloody useless. Push the ball and run, that's how he played.
As a manager he bought a Hell of a lot of dodgy players from so-called agents which cost West Ham dearly and it's nice to know someone mentions the enormous work that Tony Carr has done in developing the youngsters, NOT Harry.
As you mention, there has to be something wrong in his dealings as ALL the clubs he has managed have struggled financial whilst he ups and leaves. As a coach forget it - how many coaching staff does he have at the Spuds!
No, Harry would make a great pub entertainer as one thing he has got is the gift of the gab.''
by Keith Ferris
10:12PM 1st May 2012
''I have suspected Redknapp's integrity ever since he "poached" Jermain Defoe from Charlton. Defoe had been "recognised" by Charlton scouts while playing for Senrab on Hackney Marshes and signed schoolboy forms. Other clubs had overlooked his talent because of his small stature. Having scored many goals for Charlton juniors at all levels, he was due to sign his first professional contract on his sixteenth birthday at The Valley. Instead he signed for W.Ham.
Charlton eventually got some compensation for W.Ham's illegal approach, but nothing like what Defoe was worth. Some years later, in a TV interview, Redknapp was congratulated on "discovering" Defoe but didn't admit that he hadn't. Greetings!''
09:56PM 1st May 2012
''Spot on. How he has survived so long with such praise is beyond me. I never wanted him at my club and that was before before he started with the self-serving nonsense about how Spurs fans had never had it so good and did not deserve to. Some of us believed it when the Portsmouth fans came on various sites to say how much we come to regret his appointment; no loyalty and no nous.''
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