Harry Redknapp has confirmed his retirement from football management but says he would take an advisory role if the commitment was not full-time.
It has been nearly a month since Redknapp was at the helm at Birmingham. I took a trip down to Sandbanks to meet him in person and chat about everything from his future career ambitions to his career highlights, and what he found more nerve-wracking than his debut game as a young midfielder for West Ham.
Redknapp, while sat in a local restaurant in his home town, spoke about his future. This included his hope to spend more time out on the golf course, by the side of the race track and with his family.
After being sacked last month by Birmingham City, he has decided to step back from football. He said: “My career’s gone. I’ve had a long spell managing. I’ve done roundabout 1500 games or something crazy.
“I don’t see myself going back into football.”
Although Redknapp is stepping back from management, he would consider the Scotland job if it was offered. However, he recognises there are enough great Scottish managers that could take the job.
“I’m sure they’ll go with a manager from Scotland.
“[It is the same in] Wales. Hopefully Chris Coleman doesn’t leave – he’s done a great job. If he did leave, they’d go and get another Welsh boy in. Ryan Giggs or someone.
“David Moyes is in for it [the Scotland manager position]. There’s lots of good lads up there who could do a good job. Gordon did a good job. He couldn’t have done any more than he did really.”
Redknapp’s experience and wisdom has been called upon before. He spent a couple of months at Derby County with Darren Wassall in an advisory position which he “really enjoyed”.
Since he left St Andrews, he has “popped down” to Yeovil Town FC for the day to work in a mentor role to help Darren Way and Terry Skiverton. They wanted to “pick his brains a bit”.
Redknapp’s expertise was valued at Huish Park by Way, who said on Yeovil’s website: “I’m 37 years of age. I’m humble and honest enough to say that I don’t know everything.
“To have his [Redknapp’s] advice in one of the most ruthless leadership environments, which is professional football, I’d be a fool not to take it.”
Considering the enormous task England manager Gareth Southgate has at the moment with the World Cup on the horizon, when asked if Southgate would benefit from advice, Redknapp said: “I don’t know whether he would benefit but I don’t think he would. The scary part of the game is that too many managers are afraid to have experienced people around them.
“I always took good people with me – Steve McClaren, Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Bond, Joe Jordan, Jim Smith. They’d all been managers in their own right and I’ve always taken people with me that have got strong opinions on the game, and have been at the top.
“I think two or three brains are better than one.”
Although the likes of Southgate may not be tempted to call in a mentor, Redknapp still offered his opinion on the current quality of English football. He suggested the reasoning behind the inconsistency was due the lack of opportunity for young English players coming through. He explained:
“We are short of absolute quality midfield players but there’s nothing Gareth can do about that. They’re not here. Last week he gave a debut to a good young player, Harry Winks, who’s only a kid. He doesn’t get in Tottenham’s team. I like him very much. He’s a player with a really good future.
“Years ago, just a few years back when you had [Paul] Scholes, you had [Steven] Gerrard, [Frank] Lampard, you had all these fantastic players. Midfield players everywhere. And now it’s difficult. That is the one area we are short of quality in.
“It seems like all the kids want to be strikers or number 10’s now where they have no responsibility. Play in a position where they can do what they want. They don’t have to defend. They don’t have to go in with people who run. They just go in there play on the ball and either score or make goals. They all want to be a Lionel Messi now.
“There are more foreign coaches. They’re not bothered about England in the long term. They’re only bothered about their own club teams – and I suppose quite rightly so.
“It’s getting more and more difficult for the kids to break in but there is some talent there. Look at Chelsea, they’ve got so many kids out on loan. Lots of good young players but [they] aren’t good enough to get on Chelsea’s team.
“They don’t seem to get the opportunities.”
Despite his experience and love for football, Redknapp couldn’t turn the team at Birmingham around quickly enough for the board, who sacked him following a run of poor performances.
The former Blues boss said of his departure from St Andrews: “I had no time there with them. I bought a load of new players in one week and then I was gone. But that’s history.
“It was on the cards for me after two or three games. They just thought we were going to go off. It was the same team we had the year before. It was a bad team that only won two out of 25 games under Gianfranco Zola who was a great football man.
“The team weren’t good enough and I had the same group at the start of the following season. What am I supposed to do with them? They won two out of 25 the year before then we bought a load of new players on transfer deadline week and I had one week with them.
“We played well funnily enough in the games. We should’ve got something at Leeds but anyway, it was difficult.
“I still think they’ve got a squad now that will take the club forward in the future.”
Despite his sacking, Redknapp is looking to the future and wants to concentrate more on his family, golf and his racing. He has stables in a small village in Dorset, where he has “probably eight” horses of his own. He likes to go and watch them in the mornings on the gallops and jumps:
“The jump season’s just starting now so I’ll get racing a fair bit. You know [at the] tracks like Newton Abbot, Taunton, Wincanton.
“I’ll go when we’ve got a runner out the yard. I’ll go along and watch the race, watch the horses run and I love that.
“I’m a big racing fan, and I love the horses.”
As well as racing, Redknapp is focusing on his golf. He said he might even think about some competitions. Maybe even the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship where his son, Jamie Redknapp, has previosuly played.
“I’m not a typical retired bloke, I’m not one for sitting indoors reading a newspaper. I’m out every day playing golf.
“Jamie plays every year – I love it [Alfred Dunhill Links Championship]. I worry my golf’s not good enough. If I have a good year this year, I’m going to get some lessons. See if I can get my handicap down.
“I’m 14. I’m not a good 14. One day I can play okay, the other day I’m hopeless.
“I’ve played at some big golf days. I’ve played in the JP McMancus golf day and that was the most incredible couple of days I’ve ever had anywhere.
“[Once] Tiger woods was teeing off behind me. It was 18 of the top 20 in the world playing. There were about 40,000 people on the course. It was just amazing.
“Amazing couple of days but that was nerve-wracking. They [spectators] line up about 10 yards either side from where you tee off. When you can’t hit the ball straight it’s quite a dangerous position to be in.”
Redknapp suggested teeing off in front of thousands of spectators on a quiet golf course is more nerve-wracking than the day he debuted as a young football player with West Ham in his first game against Sunderland:
“I remember my first game as a young boy at West Ham playing Sunderland on a Monday night at Upton Park.
“[I] played in the youth team the Saturday before and suddenly I was in the first team.
“Obviously that was nerve-wracking but I think trying to hit a golf ball thinking ‘don’t miss it or don’t hit somebody who’s lining up along the sides with your first shot’ [is nerve-wracking]. I could see myself hitting something. I thought, ‘hit it down, please hit it straight’. Anyway, I got away with it – managed to hit it down the middle.”
Two of Redknapp’s grandsons play football currently, one in Chelsea’s academy and the other in Bournemouth’s academy. He enjoys going to watch them play on a Sunday morning.
“I love watching the grandkids play football on Sunday mornings.
“Taking the dogs out that’s really what we [Sandra and himself] do. We’re pretty quiet people. There’s nothing exciting really. We don’t lead an exciting life really.”
Redknapp’s time at the helm makes him one of the most respected managers in British history. In his first role as a football manager in the UK, he helped AFC Bournemouth out of a 100-year rut in the third division – they broke through into the second in 1987.
He said: “They [Bournemouth] spent 100 years in division three and four and then suddenly – everybody said they’d never get into the Championship, never going to happen – we got promoted, won the league and got promoted.
“That was an amazing thing for me.”
Then he moved to West Ham, the club where his playing career began. Redknapp brought a lot of young players into the team including Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard. He took the club to fifth position in the Premier League in 1999 during his time at Upton Park.
He said of his time there: “[I have] so many great memories of West Ham. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had some great times.
“I fell out with the chairman at West Ham, when things were good really.
“I could’ve stayed there a lot longer probably, but that’s life, you move on. One door closes another opens.”
When he did move on from the Hammers to become Director of Football at Portsmouth, he waited a year before replacing Graham Rix as manager. During his time at Pompey, he managed the team into the Premier League, but left the club in 2004 after a dispute with chairman, Milan Mandaric, moving to bitter rivals Southampton.
“It’s one of the most bitter rivalries I think in football. It really was. I didn’t realise.”
When he moved, many Portsmouth fans dubbed him “Judas”. He soon jumped ship back to manage Pomey in 2005, where he faced a huge task after many key players had been sold. A highlight of his time there was when he managed to lead the side to the FA Cup final in 2008 where they famously beat Cardiff City.
He continued: “I went back to Portsmouth and they were bottom of the league. When I went back in the Premier, all the good players I had taken there had all been gotten rid of.
“I suddenly had about 15 games to try and save them.
“If I hadn’t kept them up that year, I’d have been struggling after that. We managed to pull it off. Winning at Wigan to stay in the league was a big turning point for me.”
Although Portsmouth was his “spiritual home”, he moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2008, and took the team into the Champions League during his first full campaign with the club. As a result, Redknapp was named Premier League Manager of the Year.
Since that time, Redknapp has spent time managing Queen Park Rangers, Jordan, and his latest post was at Birmingham City.
Redknapp may have retired from football, at least for now, but whether he is able to become a legendary horse racing trainer or if we will be seeing him on our TV screens at the likes of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championships in a year remains to be seen.