Football People on TV: Harry Redknapp

Date published: Friday 25th September 2015 7:38 - Daniel Storey

John Nicholson screams loudly as he finds a 52” plasma Harry Redknapp looking at him in his living room. He thinks it is human, listens for a while, and picks up his pen…


Fashion Police
Never knowingly fashionable but probably always expensive. Like “my old dad” he enjoys ‘a nice suit’, probably made by an old Jewish tailor in the East End called Maurice, who smells of lavender water and used to do suits for Richard Burton and David Essex. Not averse to a top-quality hand-made shirt (also from Maurice) but somehow makes it look like an out-of-the-packet service station job. Off duty wear is strictly polo shirts and something with an elasticated waist. Hair seems to be tentatively hanging onto the same shape for 15 years. Socks and underwear surely bought by “my Sandra”.


Lingo Bingo
Harry still has that old school East End twang, unaffected by latter day cross-cultural linguistic fertilization. Pros to this are he will never start a sentence with “So…” nor will he ever say “you get me?” The cons are that he sounds like a character from a 1950s Ealing comedy who has just stolen some gold models of the Eiffel Tower.

Loves a “for sure” and putting “the” in front of almost any noun. Will also use “bubbly” to describe the character of a player whom the non-football world would consider semi-psychotic. Would fearlessly use the terms ‘Proper Football Man’ about a fellow countryman but never a foreign. Non British players are still slightly exotic creatures who don’t even like the golf. Specialises in making references to the modern world with a bewilderment that would suggest he was born in 1747, not 1947. Anything invented after 1809 is a mystery to him.

Being able to put a big ‘a’ into “facking” means he can do a very good swear. Also converts “haven’t you?” into “intcha?” which, to my mind, is a form of poetry. Plenty of other cockernee-isms are also in his lexicon. Sadly, when not caught off guard, he tidies up his language and tried to present himself as a cogent member of modern society, to mixed results.


Hits & Misses
There is one big hit in the ‘Arry canon and is the subject of many YouTube clips. That is the moment when he’s hit by a ball in training. You know the one. We’ve all seen it many times. I maintain until that moment, Harry was a manager, popular with the newspaper boys and with some fans, but that’s where it ended. The moment that ball hits him and he turns around curses at the player, he stopped being Harry Redknapp and evolved in ‘Arry.

‘Arry is cipher for every old school attitude in football and society more broadly. ‘Arry is a good old boy, who believes in ‘playing the right way’, ‘the golf’, ‘the races’, ‘the missus’, ‘the boy’ and ‘the kid’. He’s vaunted as a bit ‘Del Boy’ and, in some quarters, as a keeper of the flame of good honest British football. ‘Wheeler Dealer’ is used about him still, even though he hates it because it suggests something a little shady, which those who use it surely know.

The misses are too many to document but largely involve saying something which is later contradicted by the facts, laying off blame for bad results on other people, or offering a view which seemingly opposes a previous view by 180 degrees. But then ‘e’s a geezer, innee. Good old ‘Arry. Qwality.’


Big Club Bias
Hard to say. When manager of Portsmouth he said big clubs were easy to manage because you had lots of good players. When he was manager of a big club, he said it was a hard job because you had to manage all the great players. In short, it seems likely that he has a BCB when he needs to and hates BCB when he needs to. Reluctant to be too pro or anti for fear of talking himself out of a job offer.


Loved or loathed
Oh yes. Very. And in equal measure.


Proper Football Man
Every PFM has a poster of ‘Arry on his office wall, his number beside the fax machine and nice glass of red waiting on his desk, just in case he pops in for a cup of tea.

He is their totem, their inspiration, their godhead. From him they learned all of their most distinctive traits. The ability to instantly abbreviate a surname, the chippy attitude to those more successful, the feeling that they’ve always been wronged by someone, the paranoia that there’s an agenda against them, that the chairmen knows nothing about football even though you spent a year praising him and saying how good he was, that someone else at the club signs all the rubbish players, whereas he signs all of the good ones. He has learned that the British manager and the British player is being hard done to by the foreigns, even while busily signing lots of overseas players that no-one has ever heard of who play a few games then disappear from the club a few months later.

Also from ‘Arry comes the love of a good glass of red, never white, and the ability to come over as humble even when lording it up as a multi-millionaire. Similarly, the distrust of intelligence and of anything outside of your own cultural boundaries and the deification of Bobby Moore (Mooro).

The older PFM knows he’s got to have some quotes for ‘the press boys’ and admires ‘Arry’s ability to keep journalists on his side in the good times so that he can lean on them in the bad. The modern, younger PFM sees Redknapp as an elder statesman and the best England manager we never had and likes his ‘you don’t need tactics, you just need good players’ shtick. He also excuses ‘Arry from the drinking duties due to age and his long-professed love of the golf. So you’ll never find ‘Arry drinking Kerosene Shandies with Reidy and an entourage of ex-TV presenters in a 6 star Dubai hotel, but he would be welcomed as legend if he decided to make an appearance.


Beyond the Lighted Stage
Obviously there’s the golf and the gee gees and going out on a Saturday night with Sandra to a nice Italian for a glass of red and some pasta, but these days mostly ‘Arry spends his time days in a TV studio saying he’d like to get back into management if the right job offer came along. That chance is slipping away.


John Nicholson


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