Book review: Hunch pack of West Ham

MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY By HARRY REDKNAPP
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The Independent Online
Being one of football's more free-speaking managers, West Ham's Harry Redknapp was never likely to reveal much that was surprising in an autobiography which is at its best when deep sadness touches the life of this seemingly jovial and indestructible East Ender. In fact the most interesting divulgence is not about himself but Kenny Dalglish.

Although written before the recent training ground violence involving West Ham's John Hartson, the book (Collins Willow, pounds 16.99) draws attention to waywardness and irresponsibility of players. Dalglish, he says, told him that one of the reasons he suddenly quit Liverpool was that he could not accept the behaviour of a clique of senior players who "thought the way a professional footballer should live was to finish training and then pile down to a pub near the Liverpool training ground for an all-day session, leaving only when they couldn't stand up any longer". Redknapp writes: "He was sickened by the example such behaviour set for the youngsters." Hardly surprising that a lot of the players did not take to Graeme Souness who brought back from Italy dietary ideas and discipline.

As a junior at West Ham Redknapp was popular with the more senior players, especially Bobby Moore, partly because of his quick wit and feet but mainly because he was a dedicated (though, he claims, not compulsive) gambler. His friendship with Moore was unbroken until the great England captain died young from cancer. He was appalled by the way football dispensed with Moore, who never succeeded as a manager. "One of the most saddening sights was seeing Bobby sitting in the back of the stands at Grimsby, eating fish and chips out of a newspaper and freezing his nuts off just to earn a couple of bob helping out a radio station."

His friendship with the West Ham favourite Billy Bonds was dear to him but when he replaced him as manager it was construed by the fans as stabbing his best mate in the back. Redknapp's version is that Bonds had confessed to wanting out anyway and had encouraged him to move up from being his assistant. Either way, they have not spoken for four years.

A dreadful car accident during the 1990 World Cup in Italy left Redknapp so badly injured that a doctor covered his face with a blanket. He was Bournemouth manager at the time and went to Italy with Brian Tiler, the club's managing director.They were travelling in a mini-bus when a car travelling at 90mph smashed into them head on. Tiler and three Italians died.

Redknapp defends himself against his critics with reasoned arguments, explaining for the first time that although he received a substantial pay-off when he left Bournemouth it was he who later came to their rescue financially when closure was a real possibility. His biggest critics at West Ham maintain that by importing comparatively cheap players he has destroyed the "academy" that is supposed to be the legacy of Ron Greenwood. He accepts that some of his buys were disasters, particularly Florin Raducioiu ("his displays were worth about two bob") and Marco Boogers ("his attitude stank"), but offers Slaven Bilic and Marc Rieper as great successes. However, it was his signing of Hartson from Arsenal for pounds 3m, together with Paul Kitson, of Newcastle, that the fans considered the biggest gamble. It was another hunch that paid good dividends.

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