Book of the Week: Cor-blimey reflections of a diamond geezer

Harry Redknapp My Autobiography With Derek McGovern
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The Independent Online
Harry Redknapp

My Autobiography

With Derek McGovern

(Harper Collins, pounds 12.99 hardback)

THIS NEWSPAPER'S diarist, Pandora, speculated last week that had been offered the vacant manager's post at Blackburn, sweetened by a sizable increase in salary. It had, after all, been a bad week for the West Ham manager, fuming from the sale of Andy Impey to Leicester City without his knowledge. His mood would not have been improved by having publicly to gulp down humble pie after venting his fury at the board.

That Harry did not return Pandora's calls was probably because he thought some foreign agent was trying to offload another dodgy Romanian, and he has had more than enough experience of being kicked in the Balkans.

There is not much that Redknapp has not experienced in his years of playing and managing. But the torrid days of West Ham United Nations - a ramshackle collection of knock-down journeymen from all destinations east and west of Dagenham - are long gone.

In short, Harry is different class and West Ham, these days, are different class too thanks to his endeavours. Which, in Harry's diamond geezer lexicon - captured expertly by ghostwriter Derek McGovern - is praise indeed. But while Redknapp can be proud of his achievements in elevating the Hammers to Premiership respectability, his career path in the most transient of trades has not so much been rocky as often dug up and diverted into a dead end.

It is the stuff of rich memoirs, ripe with anecdote and leavened with wry humour. A playing career that began alongside the World Cup legends of Hurst, Peters and Moore at Upton Park was diverted to Bournemouth via a spell in Seattle and a sting in Phoenix. A traffic accident in 1990 claimed the life of his friend, Brian Tiler, and left Redknapp for dead on an Italian roadside. Football as life and death: Harry has first-hand experience.

Such vagaries of fortune would temper most souls' passion for the game, but not Redknapp's. Anyone who has witnessed his agonising touchline twitchery that borders on the epileptic in moments of stress is familiar with a man unable to watch a match with calm detachment.

Redknapp's honesty means that this book would never have been a dull read. He does not so much wear his heart on his sleeve as thrust it pulsing into the reader's face.

Tales abound of Romanians who would rather shop than play, of his feeling the pressure so intensely that he was unable to turn his head to reverse the car out of the garage, of bust-ups with players and fellow managers - the rollercoaster ride of life among the game's elite managers. Not that Redknapp is complaining, and he appears able to retain his cor-blimey affability throughout the most testing times.

Redknapp acknowledges that by succeeding Billy Bonds as West Ham manager in 1994 it cost him a precious friendship. It is the sort of poignant admission that is rarely a part of footballing hagiography and, while this book will never be a contender for one of those fancy-dan sports book awards, it provides a vivid picture of Harry's game.

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