The Evening Standard

Harry Redknapp is keen to put the record straight. We are sitting in his office at the Spurs training ground and I have just mentioned that one of his nicknames is Readies Redknapp.

“You go and ask my accountant,” he says, “I am so uninterested in money. What drives me is the love of football.”

To illustrate his point, he insists that when he took the Tottenham job, he didn’t even bother to inquire what he would be paid. “I am the easiest person to deal with it when it comes to money. No one is more involved in giving money away than me and my wife.”

The problem, according to Redknapp, is that he has been stereotyped: “People think I am a Jack the Lad because I am from the east end of London and my name is Harry.”

Brush aside the myths and you find a family man who every evening drives back from the Spurs training ground to his Dorset home. Happiness, according to Harry, is a glass of wine with wife Sandra and an Italian meal. He has not seen a movie for 40 years, Doctor Zhivago was the last, and he suffers Strictly Come Dancing only because of his missus.

“It may sound corny but I enjoy being with Sandra. We have been together 40-odd years and we have a couple of dogs and seven grandchildren. My family is the most important thing.”

It was the unbearable thought of being away from Sandra that made Redknapp turn down the Newcastle job when it was offered to him last year. He was “very close” to accepting but it would have meant living in a flat in the north-east and seeing Sandra at weekends.

It is tempting to say Redknapp is keen to brush up his image because in recent weeks there has been much talk about his problems with the City of London police. Arrested in November 2007, he is still on police bail. The rumours even led to bets being placed a few weeks ago that he was about to leave Tottenham. “Not a chance of leaving,” he says, “some silly idiot started the rumour.”

The police investigations relate to the August 2003 transfer of Amdy Faye to Portsmouth and last week HM Revenue and Customs confirmed it is going to charge Peter Storrie, the Portsmouth chief executive. Storrie denies any wrongdoing.

Redknapp insists the continuing inquiries into his affairs have nothing to do with Faye. He said: “It is a tax issue of £10,000. Milan Mandaric [the then Portsmouth chairman] made a private investment for me in some shares. He paid the tax for me. The authorities think it was a bonus but it was not.”

For Redknapp, nothing could be more ludicrous: “I have paid £6.9m in income tax and PAYE since 2002 and I am going to try to avoid paying £10,000.”

Redknapp is even more bemused by another myth: that, as a manager, he likes trading in players leaving clubs with unsustainable wage bills.

He said: “Every club I have been to has been at the bottom of the league when I have gone there. You can’t take over a team that are useless, then go out on the training ground and turn them into superstars. Unless you think you are from some other planet, you need to change players.”

And what is more, says Redknapp, his trading of players has left clubs financially better off.

“I left West Ham with a team that cost little but were worth a fortune, which they realised by selling players. Without the players I brought to Portsmouth, which they have since sold, the club wouldn’t have survived.”

And this is where Redknapp, who arrived at White Hart Lane last October, thinks Tottenham are different. “When I looked at the squad, I did wonder how they had only got two points from eight games.”

He feels he has improved players such as Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Aaron Lennon. The main trick has been to “get to know the players, give them a bit of confidence, play them in the right position,” and, perhaps, he laughs, “speak to them in English”.

So while he traded last January and over the summer, he is not planning to do much business during this January’s transfer window. “I am happy with the squad.

The only area we are short of a body is central midfield. I have got Wilson, Tom [Huddlestone] and JJ [Jermaine Jenas]: only three central midfield players but that is not enough.”

More so, as Jenas is on four bookings, Wilson Palacios on three and Jamie O’Hara is away on loan at Portsmouth.

Tony Parks, a former Tottenham player Redknapp brought in to replace the Austrian goalkeeping coach he inherited, has so transformed Heurelho Gomes that Redknapp rules out going back to Portsmouth for the England No1 David James, insisting:”I am very pleased with Gomes.”

He also insists Gareth Bale is going nowhere. The player most likely to leave is Roman Pavlyuchenko, who has struggled this season. “If he does not get into the team on a regular basis, which is hard for him at the moment, then there is every chance he will want to move in January”, says Redknapp.

When I suggest Tottenham bought the wrong Russian, given the impact Andrey Arshavin has made at Arsenal, Redknapp laughs. “I could not say that”, he says, then expresses his admiration for the Gunner. “Arshavin looks a good player, a real danger.”

Redknapp admires Sulley Muntari, the former Portsmouth player now at Inter Milan.

But, whatever trading he does in January, Redknapp won’t be signing anyone he does not know. He says: “If I was looking for a player from Chelsea, I would speak to young Frank [Lampard] or Joe Cole. If I was looking for somebody from Liverpool, Jamie [Redknapp’s son] would speak to Carragher or Gerrard for me.”

Yet in Redknapp’s own case, such inside knowledge did not help Spurs when they wanted him as manager. A great friend of Paul Kemsley, a former director, Spurs wooed him for years but Redknapp resisted. “Daniel [Levy, the chairman] wanted me to come three years ago when Martin Jol was here. But Martin was doing okay and I was happy at Portsmouth.”

So what changed last October?

“I came because I felt this was my last chance to manage a big club.”

Redknapp was also influenced by Portsmouth’s then owner Sacha Gaydamak looking to sell the club. He feared the new owner would want to bring his own manager, possibly a more famous name.

Redknapp’s decision to give in to Spurs’ overtures was helped by Portsmouth getting £5million in compensation for him, the highest-ever paid for a managerial transfer. Since then, the events at Portsmouth, sold twice to Saudi investors for £1 each time, and other sales have convinced him there should be better regulation of club ownership. “People come and go, it is crazy. What is going to happen in 20 years? We won’t have any English owners. They won’t have the money.”

Redknapp is also worried that the English game is not doing enough to educate players. We’re talking of players drinking and misbehaving when Redknapp says: “There’s nothing worse than seeing a picture of your player falling out of a night club.”

Before the 2009 Carling Cup Final, Redknapp told his players they could not go on a post-match bender such as the one they had indulged in when they won in 2008. “I would not allow what Ramos had after the Carling Cup win, no chance. We got beat but the players knew they were staying the night at the hotel, not going out. Everybody was in bed by 11pm, win or lose.”

But while such curfews may work, Redknapp accepts that more must be done to help young players. He says: “There has been a massive failure in this country to educate football players at an early age. When they come to a club at 11 they should be taught what to eat. If they come to academies, we should talk to the mums and dads: how to prepare for a game and everything that goes with being a professional.”

Changes, says Redknapp, are coming but “society has broken down. We used to leave our front door open when I grew up. Dad would take me to Highbury on the bus and share his flask of tea with opposition supporters. There was no segregation. Footballers used to be part of the same community the fans came from. That has been lost. Modern footballers are part of showbusiness.”

But, if society is disconnected, on the field Redknapp is confident he has reconnected Tottenham to the clubs at the top of the League. He accepts there is “still a gap between Tottenham and the top four but not as wide”. He adds: “When everyone is fit, we have a chance.”

Defeat at Emirates Stadium on Saturday showed the gap has still to be closed with Arsenal but Redknapp feels he has “brought the smile back to the faces of Spurs fans.”

Redknapp, who will be 63 in March adds: “Before I leave, I want to produce a team they can be proud of. I would like this to be my last job but you never know in football.”


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