Book Review: Always Managing – My Autobiography by Harry Redknapp
Harry Redknapp is a larger than life figure in English football management. With spells at West Ham, Portsmouth, Tottenham and Southampton under his belt, he has more than a few interesting stories to tell. And in Always Managing, My Autobiography, he does just that in the most compelling way. Read more.
When it comes to English football, Harry Redknapp is one of the most colourful managers in the game. In ‘Always Managing’, Redknapp lifts the lid on his career, highs and lows, successes and failures, and experiences at a whole host of clubs, including West Ham, Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton.
Redknapp starts his tale in a very recent place, focusing on his trial for cheating the public revenue, during which he recounts the extreme stress the case put on him and his complete innocence. Striking is how poor Redknapp claims to be with money, even explaining that he failed to notice the newspaper The Sun had not paid him for a regular column he wrote for 18 months. The chatty style of the first chapter is a sign of things to come, with the charisma-packed boss's words leaping off the page in the same way as if he was taking the reader for a pint down the local pub. It really is easy to imagine enjoying the company of Redknapp as he trawls through his vast managerial archive.
No Redknapp yarn could in any way be considered complete unless it took in the England job. He was firm favourite to succeed Fabio Capello and reveals priceless nuggets about what he would have done had he, and not Roy Hodgson, been appointed, including bringing current Liverpool and former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers in as his number two. “I told him I wanted England to play with as much technical ambition as Swansea”. Redknapp explains. In a World Cup year it's intriguing to imagine 'what if' when thinking about Redknapp in charge of England and in the manager's easygoing style he makes it sound like it would have been nothing if not an entertaining ride.
Jumping back to the start of his coaching career, ‘Always Managing’ takes a more traditional turn, taking in Redknapp’s initial foray at Oxford City with the legendary Bobby Moore – Redknapp served as his assistant. He hits out at West Ham and English football in general for their treatment of Moore, really turning the clock back to paint a vivid picture of the legend's latter years and the roles he had been reduced to in the game. Redknapp's passion for Moore's talents and the contempt for those who did not appreciate them shines through. In amidst the earlier years are a hatful of tales, entertainingly recounted and touching on a playing career which saw Redknapp at West Ham, Bournemouth, Brentford and the Seattle Sounders and recount lesser known figures, such as Alan Groves, a player he raves about, who smoked 80 cigarettes a day and tragically died at the age of just 29.
Of course, Redknapp's most easily identifyable times come later on, with management. He talks about starting life in the basement with Bournemouth, his reputation for unearthing bargains in the transfer market, moving on to West Ham, where he regularly warred with the chairman, but was still surprised at losing his job. Redknapp bounced back with two spells at Portsmouth and a stint at Southampton before the meat of a really ‘big’ job at Tottenham Hotspur. The veteran manager goes into detail on his revival of Tottenham, his relationships with other bosses, including Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, and Gareth Bale’s development into a superstar. Redknapp also reveals Jan Vertonghen was a deal he had set up for Tottenham before his eventual departure, yet another nugget in a virtual goldmine of information the book brings into the cold light of day.
‘Always Managing’ would not be in any way complete without a jump to Redknapp’s current club QPR, and one he very nearly did not join. Indeed, Redknapp explains how he was very attracted to taking over as Ukraine's new manager, something which would, he notes, have put him in direct World Cup qualifying competition with England.
Redknapp has achieved quite a feat with ‘Always Managing’, an enjoyable read that is difficult to put down. Often the most readable and gripping books are those outside the top steam of trophy after trophy. Football really is all about the hope, the ambition, the wheeling and dealing, the stories of what might have been, what nearly happened, and a glimpse into a future almost written. Redknapp encapsulates all that with a number of fresh facts and stories which will leave you feeling you don’t just know one of the most intriguing characters in football a little bit better, but the game as a whole too.
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