Harry’s Games

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Harry’s Games
Inside the mind of Harry Redknapp
By John Crace
Constable & Robinson – £18.99

What is it with football managers of late? With the exceptions of the former Manchester United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, they all seem to circumnavigate one another with preposterous (financial) trepidation, as if ships in the night – about to collide.

Then again, perhaps such application should come as no surprise given the current state, or should that read, quagmire, of current (English) football. For instance, given the antics of that cad of a wild card, Harry Redknapp over the last few years, should one even bat an eyelid?

The answer is no, not really. Especially after having read this rather telling and compelling book – in which John Crace endeavours to get inside the mind of ‘’English football’s very own Greek tragedy.’’ A description, which by the time I’d reached the conclusion, I couldn’t help but readily agree with. I’d also have to contest that so far as football and football management is concerned, I very much doubt if anyone will ever raise another eyebrow again.
Or bat an eyelid for that matter.

That my partner is a Portsmouth supporter, it was, needless to say, with both reserve and relish that I approached Harry’s Games – Inside the mind of Harry Redknapp.

To be sure, I initially had cloying suspicions that it was going to be horribly apologetic in tone, where at the outset in ‘Harry Kicks Off,’ Crace unashamedly writes: ‘’You couldn’t have come up with a more stereotypical East End version of Redknapp’s childhood: the ducking, the diving, the smooth-talking patter to dodge trouble… here it all was, handed down from one generation to the next. Redknapp makes it sound attractive – fun even – to have been a working-class boy in post-war London. So it probably was at times, but the more so in memory because it must also have been tough growing up in a family where rationing was severe and money was short […].’’

Might I add that at the time, rationing was pretty much the case throughout every single household, the length and breadth of Europe, let alone the bloody East End. But once into the meat of the book, said fears of apologia soon abated, particularly in the chapter ‘Just About Managing,’ where, in relation to the aforementioned barrow-boy ideology, the author absolutely doesn’t hold back when he writes:

‘’In a post-match television interview after Spurs had lost to Wigan, Sky’s Rob Palmer jokingly referred to Redknapp as a’wheeler-dealer.’
‘I’m not a wheeler-dealer. Fuck off!’ Redknapp snapped before storming out. The conversation continued off camera. ‘Don’t say I’m a fucking wheeler-dealer. I’m a fucking football manager.’’
Redknapp’s hypersensitivity to the word ‘wheeler-dealer’ was no doubt explained by his having recently been charged with tax evasion. Taken in a certain context, wheeler-dealer can be shorthand for a wide boy. But in its other sense of a person who loves the thrill of buying and selling, who can’t resist a deal, Redknapp is most definitely a wheeler-dealer, and a very capable one at that.’’

From his many years managing at Bournemouth to his exceedingly brief spell at Oxford United; from West Ham to Portsmouth to Southampton (back to Portsmouth) to Spurs to QPR, these 236 pages traverse Redknapp’s entire professional career. More importantly, they aspire to get inside the mind of what is clearly, one of the most controversial football figures to have never managed England. Not unlike like Brian Clough.

Moreover, what’s most appealing about Harry’s Games – Inside the mind of Harry Redknapp is the chances it takes, because at the end of the day, no one ever really knows another person, regardless of how much they’re in the public eye or the media.

For this reason alone, it’s a worthy purchase.

David Marx

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One response to “Harry’s Games

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