Redknapps face up to the end of an era as Jamie looks to step up
One had given his hard-earned reputation, won over 22 years in management, the other had sacrificed the comfort of life at a top-half Premiership team but when the Redknapps finally left St Mary's on Sunday they did so with a dignity befitting a family steeped in the football tradition. As a requiem for two great careers, Southampton's final slide into relegation did no justice to the contribution to English football of Harry and Jamie Redknapp.
There were no grand gestures, no great shows of emotion. Jamie, 31, went over to greet his young son Charlie who been taken to the pitch-side to see his dad. Harry, 58, emerged from the tunnel, with no great relish but a strong sense of duty, to applaud the supporters who had waited behind. Later he would share a bottle of wine with Sir Alex Ferguson, who had embraced him on the final whistle. There would be few better football men with whom to discuss the caprice of a game that denies some of its greatest figures the chance of a happy ending.
For Harry, however, there was one more duty and if his last press conference of the season does prove his valedictory performance as a professional football manager then it will be as good a memento to remember him by as any. Honest, dignified and without a hint of self-pity, he discussed the all-consuming nature of a relegation battle and the hopes he has that Jamie might follow him into the profession that has shaped his life. His son, he said, had been his "strength".
"I'm not just saying that, he's stronger than I am and he's been fantastic for me, in the dressing-room with his positive attitude," Harry said. "And I think he'll go on and do his coaching badges and eventually I think he'll do great, I really do. And I'm not just saying that because he's my son. He will do well, I have no doubts about that.
"He was offered a fantastic job at Tottenham. Martin Jol offered him a job as his right-hand man. He saw the ability he had around the place, and his understanding of the game. He [Jol] wanted him to stay with him, he wanted to make him his assistant.
"But Jamie wanted to play on so I don't know what he wants to do. But I think he's in a lot of pain tonight with his knee."
The final decision on Jamie's career will be made on the basis of treatment this summer on a right knee that has already undergone nine operations and, by Harry's admission, had needed injections to see it through the season. There is still a faint chance that Harry might stay to try to restore Southampton to the Premiership next season but if he does decide to leave then Sunday's match will be the final act in a management career that began in Bournemouth in 1983.
His Southampton squad, he said, suffered not from too few players but too many. "I've never seen so many players at one football club in my life," he said. "They were everywhere but we were short of quality. But I don't regret taking it on. Not at all. You can go through your life and think well, you take a chance don't you? I've come in and it's a good club. Unfortunately, I took on a tough job and couldn't pull it off."
From Peter Crouch, Harry drew performances that no manager had previously commanded. In Nigel Quashie and Jamie, he gave Southampton's midfield a tackler and a passer of the ball that it had lacked for so long. The problem he could not solve was that the fixtures they had the best chance of winning had already been played. "We all think we're clever, and you take the chance and think 'I can do it'," Harry said. "But we tried and in the end we weren't good enough.
That Jamie's career might end in relegation is an end that he scarcely deserves. On Sunday there were reminders of the days when he ran the midfield of the Liverpool side of the mid-Nineties, not least a through ball to David Prutton in the first half that gave Southampton their best chance of extending their lead. That Redknapp was still playing through the pain almost 14 years since he made his debut for Liverpool is testament to the resolve of a player who has never failed to pick himself up from injuries.
His worst strokes of luck came when he played for England, and they were freak accidents. His ankle was broken in two consecutive years in the service of his country, against Scotland at Euro 96 and the following season in a friendly against South Africa. He has more reason to feel resentful about the hand dealt to him by injuries than any other player of his generation and yet Jamie has always sought to play first-team football - even if that has meant leaving comfortable contracts and familiar surroundings.
Like many of those players whose career has taken in the football boom of the Nineties, the financial imperative to move into management is not as pressing for Jamie as it was for his father's generation. Nevertheless, he has been given a grounding in the profession of management that makes him a natural. The offer of a coaching job from Tottenham was serious and would have given him a sought-after first step in the profession.
But, like his father, he chose Southampton, regular football and the most difficult route of all. In a game that shows no sentiment towards reputation and service it is a great sadness that Harry's career might have ended on Sunday, but there will be no more powerful consolation than the sense that his retirement might be the chance for his son to step on to the stage.
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