Henry James ‘Harry’ Redknapp is, at present, the manager of Portsmouth FC. He is among the true, great personalities in British football. He was a great winger for West Ham and Bournmouth in his youth and then, after retirement from professional football, he went on to manage both clubs. Keeping things in the family, his son Jamie Redknapp played under him at West Ham and Southampton, while his nephew Frank Lampard, also joined him for a time at West Ham.
Redknapp is a a true Londoner born and bred and his broad London accent can be heard on radio and TV interviews. He was born in Poplar, London and was an avid Arsenal supporter from an early age – his father used to take him to Highbury on a weekly basis.
Loved by many, Redknapp has nevertheless led a colourful career in football, filled with highs like guiding West Ham to the UEFA Cup, and terrible lows, such as the accusations of corruption by the British press, which led to a subsequent inquiry into his activities. One constant throughout, however, has been Redknapp’s willingness and ability to stay in the spotlight of British football.
As a player
Harry Redknapp began his professional playing career officially at the age of 17 for West Ham United. He had been climbing up the ranks of the youth teams in the club for some time and finally signed a full time contract for the club in 1964. Redknapp then proceeded to make 149 top-flight appearances for the club, scoring a total of 8 goals from his position as winger. Later, in 1972, he transferred to Bournemouth for a period of four years and made 101 appearances. He moved back to Brentford for a short spell in 1976, before finishing his playing career as Assistant Manager in the US Soccer League with Seattle Sounders.
Redknapp Sr. first embarked on his managing career in the UK in the 1982-3 season, by joining A.F.C Bournemouth as Assistant Manager to David Webb. At Bournemouth his role was predominantly a coaching one, but he applied for the manager’s post when Webb moved to Torquay United halfway through the 1983-4 season, although Don Megson was favoured by the board. Luckily for Redknapp, in the 1984 season Megson was sacked as the club slipped dangerously towards relegation, and the manager’s position was handed to Harry.
In this momentous first season in his career as a full blown manager, Redknapp was instrumental in narrowly steering Bournemouth from an embarrassing drop down to the bottom rung of the football league. Having saved “The Cherries” from relegation into the third division, Redknapp caused a rumble in the higher divisions when Bournemouth knocked out Manchester United in the third round of the FA cup.
Over the following couple of seasons, Redknapp steadied the swaying Bournemouth ship and achieved a solid mid-table placing. Then, all of a sudden, in the 1986-7 season, Bournemouth stormed forward by winning the Third Division with a record 97 points and holding off Middlesbrough in the process. Redknapp was riding high on his success as manager for the club.
Bournemouth managed two seasons in the higher division before suffering the loss of crucial players to injury and severe depletion of the squad, subsequently dropping from 13th place mid-season to relegation at the hands of Leeds United on the last day of the season. Then, in the most unfortunate of circumstances in 1990 during the World Cup, Harry Redknapp was involved in a serious car crash whilst with Managing Director of the club Brian Tiler, who died along with four other people. Redknapp luckily made a full recovery, but after much reflection, decided to resign as manager of the club at the end of the 1991-2 season.
West Ham United
By the next season, Redknapp had been appointed to the Assistant Manager position at the club where he had spent most of his years as a player. Shortly after, in 1994, manager Billy Bond resigned following a major fallout with the board. Harry Redknapp then took control of the club that had nurtured him as a youth footballer. From there, he helped stabilise the club and establish its Premier League status, bringing in many young stars through the ranks of the youth team such as Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and his nephew Frank Lampard.
In the 1997-8 season, West Ham managed 5th position, one of the best seasons in the club’s history and, after winning the Intertoto Cup the following season, won a place in the UEFA Cup. Their league form slipped that season and the following year in May 2001, Redknapp left the club under slightly bizarre circumstances. It was not until he was interviewed in 2007 regarding the matter, that the truth finally came to light. Redknapp was about to sign a new contract with the club but then was interviewed by a fanzine of the club and in the interview made some remarks that disagreed with the board of directors. So, instead of signing an extension of his contract, he was sacked.
Portsmouth and Southampton
Redknapp quickly bounced back and, by summer 2001, was made the Director of Football at Portsmouth. Initially, things went well with the club and Redknapp replaced Graham Rix in March 2002 as manager of the club. He then guided them to the Division One title in the 2002-3 season, ironically replacing the relegated West Ham in the Premier division. Redknapp maintained Portsmouth’s Premiership status the following season, but after a series of rows with owner Milan Mandaric over the appointment of a new Director of Football and Assistant Manager, he resigned in 2004.
Redknapp was to return to the club on 7th December 2005 after a spell at Southampton in which he was unsuccessful in saving them from relegation. That season, Portsmouth were threatened by relegation themselves, but with the takeover of Alexandre Gaydamak, the arrival of fresh funds for players and a good end of season run of form, they avoided the drop to the Championship. The following season, Redknapp guided Portsmouth to a ninth place finish which was the club’s highest league position since the 1950s.
Controversy struck however in 2006, when he was accused of corruption in a media report, or more precisely, “tapping up” Blackburn player Andy Todd (‘illegally’ approaching a contractually bonded player). Footage of Redknapp was shown in the report on BBC Panorama, but he subsequently denied any illegal activities and in the Steven’s Inquiry that followed in 2007, the only suspicion that arose concerning Redknapp was his potentially illegal ownership of a racehorse, but he argued that owning the racehorse had never brought him any profit.
In October 2007, Harry Redknapp signed a new contract with Portsmouth FC that will keep him with the club until 2011.
In November 2007, Redknapp along with Portsmouth CEO Peter Storrie, former Chairman Milan Mandaric, agent Willie McKay and former Portsmouth player Amdy Faye, were arrested with regards to the players arrival at the Fratton Park club. Redknapp has vehemently denied any wrong-doing and has been bailed by Police. This news comes just days after he was seen by most bookmakers as the third favourite for the England top-job.