As far as English managers go, there are few quite like Harry Redknapp. Highly respected, likeable and in possession of a dry wit and a thousand stories to complement it, Redknapp sets himself apart in the game. The former manager, known for his spells at Bournemouth, West Ham, Portsmouth and Tottenham to name a few, may be more focused on building his own personal brand away from the pitch rather than building a team on it but that doesn’t mean that football is done with Harry yet.
We caught up with him recently to talk about his managerial career, trusting in youth at West Ham, converting Gareth Bale to a winger and that Portsmouth FA Cup win.
Back Of The Net: You played alongside Bobby Moore at West Ham and against the likes of Billy Bremner, Dave Mackay and the great Pele during your playing days. What did sharing a pitch with guys like that teach you about being a footballer? Did you carry those lessons on into your career as a manager?
Harry Redknapp: These players are among some of the best players that have been, but all very different in their style. It is always an honour to play with or against the best players and to improve your game you learn so much from them.
BOTN: Your first taste of management came at Bournemouth when you replaced Don Megson in October 1983. You spent ten years at The Cherries mostly in the lower leagues. It appears to be a great place for a manager to learn the trade, as evident again with Eddie Howe, their current manager. Is that club set up for success by the way its structure versus how other clubs operate? How do you rank the job that Howe has done there?
HR: It could benefit all young mangers to go through the system at lower level but many do not and are still successful. Eddie has done a very good job at Bournemouth and is an example of a good young English manager.
BOTN: During your time in charge at West Ham, you brought through and helped establish the likes of Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand as footballers. A lot of other managers might not have given youth players such prominent roles favouring imports instead in order to secure their own jobs long term. Was that decision based simply on the belief that these players were talented enough or driven by other factors such as financial restrictions?
HR: I am proud of the young players that i have helped develop who have gone on to either play for England or been a regular at a club. My thoughts have always been the same if you are good enough the age does not matter.
BOTN: You signed your son Jamie in the January 2005 transfer window presumably because you knew exactly what he would bring to the team. Does that play a big part in the decision-making process when choosing players? Is that also why you signed the same players like Defoe, Crouch and Kranjcar on several occasions?
HR: Jamie would have been an excellent signing with his experience but his injuries got the best of him and he had to retire at the end of the season. The players you mentioned all have quality in different ways and I have always looked at them to be included in clubs i am involved in where possible for that reason.
BOTN: The return to Portsmouth, under new ownership seemed like a logic step in your managerial career. But rumours suggest that you were all set to join Newcastle following Sam Allardyce’s sacking. How close were you to joining the Toon Army?
HR: I meet with them and was flattered by their offer, but in the end i decided to stay with Portsmouth.
BOTN: So as you say you remained at Portsmouth and won the FA Cup with them in 2008 with Kanu scoring the winning goal in the final against Cardiff. That win put you in the record books as the last Englishman to win the coveted trophy. How special was that moment for you? At what point in the tournament did you start to believe that you might be able to go all the way?
HR: It was a very special moment and Kanu was a special type of player. Once we won at Old Trafford and then Chelsea got knocked out I thought the cup was a possibility, but we still had to work hard to win the cup.
BOTN: Arguably your most consistent and successful spell as a manager came at Spurs where you regularly took them into the Champions League season after season. Was that your most enjoyable job as a manager?
HR: Yes, Spurs were near the bottom when I took over but we managed to turn it around and have a good season after that. I enjoyed my time at Spurs and think I am well respected by the supporters of the club.
BOTN: You played a major role in the career of Gareth Bale when you managed him at Spurs. You mentioned in your book that you saw more in Bale than just a left back and eventually switched him to left wing which allowed him to unleash his explosive pace and transform him into one of the world’s best. How pleasing was it to see Gareth flourish at Spurs then in Spain?
HR: Gareth has a special ability and can play in several position. He has helped to turn around the strength of the Welsh national team as well and I always thought he would do well in Spain.
BOTN: After leaving Spurs, you managed at QPR and Birmingham, held advisory positions at Derby, Central Coast Mariners and Yeovil and various punditry and TV roles including a stint in the Jungle. Have we seen the last of Harry Redknapp as a football manager? Is the one role that could tempt you now to come back?
HR: You never know in football, but I am very busy currently with many endorsements and my theatre tours which is about to start soon.
BOTN: On several occasions, you were touted as a potential England manager, but it never materialized. You did however manage Jordan for a while during their World cup qualifying campaign. Did the experience with Jordan change your perception of managing an international team? Did it heighten the disappointment of not getting to manage England?
HR: I had always wanted to consider an international team management if it was offered and to manage England would have been a great honour. The Jordan job was just to help out for a couple of matches, but it was enjoyable all the same.
BOTN: As a former manager of Spurs, what do you think they need to do to eventually win the Premier League? Are you impressed with what Pochettino has done to date?
HR: He has done a great job and he knows exactly what he needs to do to win the league. Moving into the new stadium I am sure will help as well.
BOTN: Your nephew Frank Lampard is now the manager at Derby County after having a very successful playing career. Did you give him any advice about the transition from playing to managing? How far can he go in the game as a manager?
HR: Frank is his own man with his own ideas and am sure he will be successful as he will work hard and give the job 100%.
BOTN: We all witnessed something extraordinary during the Carling Cup Final this year when Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted much to the disbelief of his manager Maurizio Sarri. After the match the club played down what had happened as a misunderstanding and after a fine and a week on the bench, Kepa resumed his position between the sticks. Do you think Chelsea managed that situation well? Do you have sympathy for Sarri and the position he was put in?
HR: The manager runs the team and players should be respectful of his decisions during the game, but it is difficult to comment as we do not know what was said afterwards and it should be an internal club matter.
BOTN: Finally, who was the hardest player to manage? Paolo Di Canio? Adel Taraabt?
HR: There are good and bad players to manage and i would not comment on individual players.
BOTN: Harry thank you for taking the time and good luck with your theatre tour!
To find out more about Harry’s upcoming 34 night theatre tour which starts May 1st, check out this link. Harry’s new book – The World According to Harry is out at the end of May. Pre order it now here.
You can also follow Harry on Twitter