If the Football Association dares only appoint an England manager with an unblemished record in his personal financial dealings then the governing body will note that Harry Redknapp walked out of Southwark Crown Court yesterday without a black mark to his name.
He has come through the Quest investigation; the City of London police's Operation Apprentice, a civil tax inquiry by HMRC and now a gruelling 13-day court case for tax evasion without the authorities laying a glove on him. He has lived through eight years of investigations, police interviews and one dawn raid on his home – all for a case that it took a jury just five hours to throw out.
In order for Redknapp to be considered for the England job he had to emerge from the case untarnished. The unanimous verdict from the eight men and four women of the jury means that his reputation is beyond reproach. He was accompanied by the League Managers' Association chief executive, Richard Bevan, the new patron saint of football managers, and was deeply appreciative of his support.
When you factor in his Tottenham Hotspur team's current third place in the Premier League, the progress he has made with that side since taking over more than three years ago, and his recent record as the leading English manager in football, it means that Redknapp is the outstanding candidate to succeed Fabio Capello as England manager in July.
As the foreman of the jury read out the verdicts, Redknapp embraced his co-defendant Milan Mandaric who was also cleared. In the public gallery, his son Jamie reached for his phone to call his wife Louise and mother Sandra. But there was no triumphalism or crowing, instead Harry and Jamie put an arm around one another and left the courtroom quickly.
Redknapp's immediate priority will be returning to Tottenham and resuming the duties which the court case has taken him away from over the last three weeks. Redknapp's relationship with the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, is cordial but if the call from the FA comes this summer neither of them will spend too much time looking wistfully over the shoulder as they part.
If anything Redknapp's most significant issue will be that, unlike the appointment of every England manager since Glenn Hoddle, his own succession to the job has come to be regarded as such a foregone conclusion that he will want to guard against the FA getting him cheaply. Some of his public pronouncements in the months before the trial that he was not certain he wanted the England job suggested he wanted to be pursued by the FA as others have been in the past.
Throughout his life he has faced the innuendo and rumour of "Dirty Harry", and the smears that have branded him "dodgy". On the first day of the case the prosecution's lead counsel Mr John Black QC reached for the dirtiest four-letter word of all when he accused Redknapp of taking a "bung", which, along with revelations about the naming of the "Rosie47" account, meant the next day's headlines were explosive.
Redknapp's defence team were so upset about the use of the word "bung" that his counsel Mr John Kelsey-Fry QC went to great lengths to describe to the jury the exact definition of the word and differentiate it from tax evasion, the offence his client was accused of.
For Redknapp, yesterday was the end of an ordeal that could ultimately have ended with him in custody rather than back at Spurs' training ground in Chigwell where he plans to be tomorrow to give his customary Friday morning press conference. In his brief statement on the steps of the court, as office workers in the overlooking buildings crowded by windows to watch, Redknapp described the experience as "a nightmare" and "horrendous".
Those close to Redknapp say that even in the best moments of his recent career, such as securing Tottenham's first ever Champions League place in 2010; beating Internazionale at White Hart Lane and then Milan in San Siro, that the moment of triumph has been marred by the subsequent jolt that this court case loomed on the horizon. "You will see a different man now," one said.
What was this case? It was the very last roll of the dice by the investigating authorities in their campaign against Redknapp and by yesterday it appeared that the City of London police were keen to heap the blame on HMRC for the failure to secure a conviction. There were undoubtedly inconsistencies in Redknapp's evidence but not half as many as there were in that of the Crown.
They claimed the first £93,000 payment was an extra five per cent of the profits on Peter Crouch's 2002 transfer from Portsmouth to Aston Villa but they never got close to explaining why the second £96,000 payment to the "Rosie47" Monaco bank account was paid, if it was, as they alleged, an off-the-record bonus.
As for the police work in the case, the key moments in the investigation were gifts. Redknapp disclosed voluntarily to Quest investigators in November 2006 that he had an offshore bank account when he was under no compunction to do so. As for the key evidence, that was the tape of Rob Beasley's News of the World interview from February 2009 which the City of London police subsequently seized from the reporter.
Eventually the jury believed that Redknapp, for all the scrapes he had got himself into with business and share investments, was not essentially a dishonest man. Forgetful, impulsive, sometimes reckless – but not dishonest. And that should be good enough for the FA.
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