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Harry's Games, By John Crace. Constable, £18.99
Wednesday 03 July 2013
It's almost impossible to write a dull book about Harry Redknapp. Harry's Games begins with 'Arry found not guilty of tax evasion charges, seemingly certain to get the England football manager's job, only to be passed over, then sacked by Spurs and appointed by QPR. Though calling it a "Greek tragedy" is overstating it a bit.
In this follow-up to Vertigo, his memoir on being a depressed Spurs fan, John Crace effectively pins down much of Harry's style, suggesting Redknapp is "a master of misdirection" using media-friendly quips to deflect awkward questions. Redknapp's strengths are also his weaknesses: the playing-down of expectations, the "revolving door" transfer deals and his jokes about players in public. Replacing his best mate Billy Bonds as West Ham manager is seen as a crucial incident, indicating the steel behind the banter.
However, there's much speculation without real evidence. Crace believes Redknapp's humour betrays the insecurity of a man who wants to be liked, his nearly-fatal car accident in Italy might have caused mood swings, and he might have been demob happy after his court case and lost his focus at Spurs.
In terms of sources, Crace is, as Harry might put it, "down to the bare bones": a few ex-Redknapp players, an unnamed former chairman, a former West Ham board member.
Crace thinks he's a good gaffer and a born survivor, though there are no real revelations as to why the England job eluded him. This book doesn't discover a lot that isn't in Harry's autobiography or Tom Bower's Broken Dreams. Could it be that Harry is what you see? A fine manager but not in the class of Ferguson or Mourinho.
Harry's Games is an entertaining romp, but you feel that in this deal Harry has slightly got the better of Crace. One day, when all the sources are prepared to be named and Harry himself might wind down his car window to talk, there will perhaps be a more revelatory book on the man.
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