Even after 25 years in management, Harry Redknapp never ceases to amaze us. His first match as a Football manager incidentally saw his Bournemouth side get whipped 9-0 by then league leaders Lincoln Town. Not many would have thought that he would last for as long as he has, but in these two and a half decades, Redknapp has managed to carve out a reputation for himself as a capable boss with an uncanny ability to unearth gems in the transfer market. And he has started his latest assignment on the right foot; with five wins and one draw in six games- no manager at Spurs has enjoyed a better start in the last century. The likes of Campbell, Pavlyuchenko and Bent have regained their scoring touch, and the players have readily admitted that Harry has made a difference. The media has gone gaga over Harry “Houdini”, labelling him as the man with the Midas touch. There are a few chinks still to be sorted out, but the ominous clouds of relegation are slowly disappearing from above White Hart Lane. And in this article, we take a look at Harry Hotspur’s managerial past and his life.
Our newest manager shares his birthday ( March 2) with 007 actor Daniel Craig. Redknapp was born in Poplar in East London and rose through the youth ranks at West Ham to make 149 appearances for them as a winger. From Upton Park, he went to Bournemouth for four years, then played one game for Brentford before moving to America for a short spell with the Seattle Sounders.
Redknapp now known as “Harry Hotspur” began his managerial career at Bournemouth as an assistant to David Webb, and was given full charge of the club when Don Megson left in late 1983. He orchestrated Bournemouth’s shock 2-0 win over defending champions Manchester United in the FA Cup in January 1984 – still one of the greatest Cup upsets of all time. Bournemouth were fourth from bottom in the old third division at that time, and United, who had lost only one away game all season, had Frank Stapleton, Bryan Robson and Norman Whiteside in their ranks.
Bournemouth won the Third Division in 1987, and Redknapp kept them in the Second Division for two seasons. He lost close friend Brian Tiler in a car crash in Italy in 1990, and just about evaded death himself. Redknapp quit Bournemouth in 1992 and eventually joined West Ham as assistant to Billy Bonds. He was at West Ham for seven years, and oversaw the development of the West Ham youth academy, which produced internationals like Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Redknapp’s own nephew, Frank Lampard in those years. He had placed great emphasis on youth at Bournemouth too, and his son Jamie began his career at Dean Court under him. Redknapp took West Ham to a fifth place finish in the 1998-99 season, and took them to the Intertoto Cup, which they won. In May 2001, he left West Ham after a row with chairman Terry Brown.
Redknapp initially joined Portsmouth as Director of Football, but was given the vacant manager’s job in March 2002, replacing Graham Rix. He had instant success as Portsmouth won Division One in 2002-03, and returned to the top flight of English football after a gap of fifteen years. He defied the odds by guiding them to a respectable thirteenth place in the Premiership next season with the help of some astute signings.
Redknapp left Portsmouth in November 2004 after Milan Mandaric appointed Velimir Zajec as executive director. In a shock move, he joined Pompey’s fierce South Coast rivals Southampton, but returned to Fratton Park after an unhappy 12 months at St Mary’s.
In his second stint at Portsmouth, he won the 2008 FA Cup, and also guided the side into Europe. He has transformed Portsmouth into a settled top ten side, and much of the club’s success in the past decade can be attributed to him.
Spurs have paid £5 million in compensation to Portsmouth for securing Redknapp’s services. So far, he has been worth every penny, infusing the players with self confidence and belief, and masterminding an astounding comeback against Arsenal when Tottenham were two goals behind with minutes left on the clock.
Redknapp is the second oldest manager in the Premiership after Sir Alex Ferguson, but he still has another five to ten years left in management. He could go down in history as the man who did the impossible by guiding Spurs into the Champions League and breaking the hegemony of the big four. Am I thinking too far? Probably, but it never hurts to be optimistic, does it ?
Redknapp is one colourful character. He once allegedly had Cherries chairman Ken Gardiner by the throat in the club bar. Maidstone boss Barry Fry threatened to have his kneecaps broken after Redknapp told him that Mark Newson, whose asking price was £70,000, had been signed on a free.
Well begun is half done. If that saying is true, Harry has won half of his battle. His name will probably never be taken in the same breath as Bill Nicholson, but this boyhood Arsenal admirer (hurts to say it bud) has already earned his Spurs.
Harry Hotspur – Harry Redknapp