8 Feb 2012

Harry Redknapp: football’s cockney rebel?

An England manager in waiting or a cockney rebel who “writes like a two-year-old”? Channel 4 News takes a look at Harry Redknapp’s football connections in a career of highs and lows.

Harry Redknapp: football's cockney rebel?

In an era dominated by foreign managers, Redknapp is seen as one of football’s old guard. Born in London’s east end in 1947, he supported Arsenal as a boy, spending his weekends on the terraces at Highbury.

Redknapp’s playing career began in 1964 when he signed a contract at West Ham. At 15, he was starring alongside Bobby Moore.

Read more: Football boss Harry Redknapp cleared of tax dodge

In 1972 Redknapp signed for Bournemouth, playing 101 times before finishing at Brentford in 1976. He then joined North American Soccer League side Seattle Sounders as player-coach.

Redknapp began his managerial career in 1983 at his former club Bournemouth. Steve Claridge, who played under Redknapp at the Dorset club, told Channel 4 News that as a manager he was “old school” but not “old-fashioned”.

I think people think of Harry as a cheeky, chirpy, cockney. Steve Claridge

“Old school in the way that he manages which is very much about getting the right result,” he explained.

“Getting as many players as he can to provide himself with as many options as he can – it’s about getting the result at 3pm on a Saturday. That is first and foremost what he is about.”

He added: “I think people think of Harry as a cheeky, chirpy, Cockney. And there are times when he fits that bill. But there are other times when there’s far more of an edge to him.”

Football manager Harry Redknapp. (Getty)

In 1992 Redknapp went to West Ham as assistant manager, and two years later became coach, bringing Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and his nephew Frank Lampard through the ranks of the youth team. After a 17-year tenure, he quit the club in 2001 to become director of football at Portsmouth.

Two years later he was Pompey manager and led the team back to the top flight after a 15-year wait. However, within a year his relationship with chairman Milan Mandaric had broken down and Redknapp resigned. He enraged fans, and Mandaric, by joining arch-rivals Southampton, who were relegated from the Premier League on the final day of the 2004-5 season.

Milan Mandaric has described a “love-hate” relationship with Redknapp.

In December 2005 he went back to Portsmouth, claiming his departure had been “a monumental mistake”. He became the fans’ hero again when he led Pompey to FA Cup glory in 2008 – his biggest piece of silverware to date – but quit again soon after to join top-flight rivals Tottenham.

Redknapp was thought to be in the running to suceed Steve McClaren as England manager in 2007. He has claimed that fraud and false accounting allegations scuppered his chances. Fabio Capello got the job instead.

Redknapp was given the freedom of Portsmouth in October 2008 in honour of the cup victory, but because he had already moved to Spurs he was booed by fans.

During the tax evasion trial, it emerged Redknapp had told police: “I am completely and utterly disorganised. I write like a two-year-old and can’t spell.”

Redknapp later fought back tears in court and said: “Everything I have told you is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

On 8 February 2012, both Redknapp, 64, and co-defendant Milan Mandaric, 73, were cleared of two counts of cheating the public revenue through “bungs” worth £189,000 in a Monaco bank account.