Evening Standard

There is one label Jamie Redknapp will not wear: that of being described as a model. “I’m a football man who is lucky enough to do the odd endorsement — a perk of the job, just like the boys have for Marks & Spencers,” he says.

The boys he is referring to are the boys of 66. We are at the launch of the M&S official World Cup England team suit and four of that winning side, Gordon Banks, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst and Roger Hunt, are modelling the suits. Against a backdrop of a huge poster of some of the current England team, similarly kitted out, Redknapp, in his best Sky presenter style, has been chatting to them.

Banks has just told us how in 1966 Sir Alf Ramsey found a tailor in Carnaby Street but, when it came to the fitting, little Nobby Stiles emerged wearing a suit meant for big Jack Charlton.

Redknapp joins in the laughter then acknowledges life for the modern footballer is very different.

But, for all the changes, he insists he remains as much a football man as any of the boys back then and that the suits he wears with skinny ties on Sky are not his attempt at a fashion statement.

“Richard Keys [the Sky presenter] makes us wear a suit on a Sunday,” he explains. “Sky looks at it as an event. It’s Super Sunday so we get dressed up. I don’t think about the ties too much. I mean in time, I’m sure we’ll wear bigger ties again.”

But it is not just the ties that have had Jamie in knots. His advertisements for Thomas Cook holidays with his singer, presenter wife Louise, filmed in an empty plane and on an empty beach, has been lampooned on the internet.

“Thomas Cook asked us if we wanted to advertise their holidays,” he tells me. “We’re a family. We go on holiday a lot. I mean apart from the kids [he has two sons, Charley aged five and Beau, one] not being in the advert, I just thought it was quite a nice fit.

“Nowadays everybody advertises something. You go along the street, you see a bus, there’s a footballer or someone advertising something.”

It is not the first time that Redknapp feels he has been unfairly labelled. Back in the 90s when he was establishing himself in Roy Evans’s Liverpool team at the start of his career, he was dubbed one of the Spice Boys along with David James, Stan Collymore and Jason McAteer.

Critics said they were more familiar with the catwalk than the penalty box but Redknapp argues: “I don’t know what the Spice Boys were meant to be really. We weren’t self-proclaimed Spice Boys. I was going out with a pop star [Louise, his wife for 13 years was then part of the group Eternal] and David James did a bit of modelling. We were branded that because at Liverpool we underachieved.”

But it was Manchester United and not the catwalk, claims Redknapp, that led to this underachievement on Merseyside. During his 11 years at Anfield his only winner’s medal came from the 1995 League Cup — the one honour he would win as a player.

“United were incredible,” says the 36-year-old. “They had a crop of players that would never ever happen again: Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes, one of the best footballers of any generation. That United team came through at the same time as us and we were always second best to them. That’s how it is sometimes.”

Spells at Spurs and Southampton followed his time with Liverpool before he was forced to retire five years ago.

Redknapp’s insistence that he remains a football man and not a television celebrity is that he is now taking the steps that could one day lead him to follow his father Harry into football management.

Initially when injuries forced him to retire, he just wanted to get away from football. “If I hadn’t fallen into television, I’d probably be managing already,” he insists, and in the next five years Redknapp plans to do his FA coaching badges. The qualifications will help his work with Sky, but it would also give him a choice.

Management is appealing, especially as Redknapp believes it is the one thing that keeps Harry so “young”. It was back in 1989 when managing Bournemouth that Harry gave 16-year-old Redknapp his first professional contract. The two are still very close to the extent that Harry consults him on players.

“I talk to my Dad every day about football, We have an understanding,” says Redknapp.

Indeed, but for Redknapp, Harry may never have ended up at White Hart Lane. A close friend of former Tottenham director Paul Kemsley, Redknapp is coy about his involvement on events but he is believed to have had a direct influence.

“I know Paul well,” Redknapp adds. “Could Dad have come earlier to Tottenham? If he had, it might not have worked out the way it did. I think they needed Dad to come when they were bottom of the League. He is perceived as a man who is good at putting out fires, keeping clubs up. But he’s better than that. He’s very good at getting the best out of players and getting the right structure for the team.”

For Redknapp this was proved by the season’s climax which saw Tottenham lose abjectly to Portsmouth in a dismal FA Cup semi-final but then go on to beat Arsenal and Chelsea at home and Manchester City away to clinch the fourth Champions League place.

“He’s given Spurs a bit of steel,” Redknapp argues. “When I played against Tottenham at Anfield you’d always think, you’ll be comfortable today. Away from home, they’re not going to dig in. They don’t really want to be up here. All of a sudden Dad’s changed that mentality. One of the first players Dad signed was Wilson Palacios.

“Although he didn’t play the last few games, Wilson has changed that mentality every day in training. When I go and watch him train, he trains hard, he tackles hard. It’s not that soft underbelly that Tottenham have always had. And then in the last few games of the season when we’ve really had to dig in against Arsenal, Chelsea and City, Dad went with Luka Modric and Tom Huddlestone. A few years ago, if you said you were going with a midfield like that, you’d think, Who’s going to make a tackle out of those two?’

“It didn’t matter. They kept passing the ball to their own team which showed their confidence. Michael Dawson stepped up and, when he plays, Ledley King is incredible. Spurs are on the way up because they’ve been kept financially sound by chairman Daniel Levy. They can attract good players and they have the money.”

While his father may be excelling, Redknapp is also well aware that the Premier League is not an easy place for a young manager, echoing the views of former Arsenal skipper Tony Adams who, after unsuccessful stints at Wycome and Portsmouth, is now with a club in Azerbaijan.

He adds: “The greatest example I could give you is if United sacked their manager and Sir Alex Ferguson was doing a good job at Aberdeen, would he get the job at Old Trafford today? Absolutely no chance. But should he?

“Of course, because he’s the best and he’s proved that. We have now become fascinated with foreign managers and we’ve almost made ourselves believe that we are not good enough. But look at Roy Hogdson, look at Harry Redknapp, look at even Steve McClaren. It is incredible what he’s done with FC Twente. Ferguson, David Moyes — there are some top managers here. We’ve got to start to believe a bit more.”

Tottenham’s rise under Harry has been at the expense of Liverpool, who failed to make it into the Champions League for the first time in seven seasons. Their demise has left Redknapp, who classes being named captain at Anfield as the highlight of his career, with mixed feelings.

“My worry for Liverpool is Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and goalkeeper Pepe Reina apart, there aren’t that many very good assets,” he says.

“Liverpool will never be on the fringe ever, because of what the city is about. It’s the Beatles, it’s the history of the football club, you could never, ever, take that away. Yes, I played for my country but I think it is more important to captain your club. That means you’ve got something about you to be named captain. To walk out in front of the Kop with You’ll Never Walk Alone being played was so special.”

Also special were Redknapp’s 17 caps for England. He never played in a World Cup, missing out on France in 1998 because of a knee injury but he is now so well reconciled with his past that he does not feel any tinge of jealousy at seeing his cousin Frank, five years his junior, go to this summer’s tournament in South Africa.

“Playing for England just didn’t work out for me,” he adds. “I broke my ankle twice, tore my hamstring once. Maybe I wanted it so bad, I got too tense. That’s just life and I’m proud of Frank.

“I’ve got a wonderful life now. I’ve got two kids and my little boy loves football. I’m very lucky.”

So could Lampard and Gerrard be modelling M&S suits in future tournaments to come after emulating those boys of 66 and becoming world champions? Redknapp believes there is every chance. “I wouldn’t say that there is a standout favourite,” he says.

“This might be one of those years where a surprise team comes, maybe like Greece did in the 2004 European Championships. That’s what makes me think England has a great chance.”

M&S have unveiled its latest menswear advertising campaign featuring legends from the 1966 winning England team as well as members of the current England squad. The M&S official FA replica suit is available to buy in store now.


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