When yesterday he recalled the minutes before his not guilty verdict at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday morning, Harry Redknapp was, for a rare occasion, lost for words to describe his feelings.
Speaking in the comfortable familiarity of Tottenham Hotspur's Chigwell training ground, wearing a tracksuit rather than a suit, it was clear that the fear and anxiety of the last few moments before Redknapp was acquitted have not yet passed. Faced with the ruin of his reputation, the end of his professional life and potentially the loss of his liberty, the past four weeks, he agreed, have been the greatest challenge of his career.
"Nothing could compare with that," Redknapp said. "Once you've been through that there is nothing worse. I wouldn't even want to tell you what I was thinking at 11.15am that day. We were going in [to court] at 11.30am, I remember getting called. At 11.15am I was sitting on my own and I was thinking things that were scary, I wouldn't want to ... I wouldn't even want to talk about it. It was horrendous really."
As one would expect from Redknapp, there was a full description yesterday of his emotions over a remarkable week, from the toll on his wife to his feelings of inferiority when cross-examined by the Crown's lead prosecutor, John Black QC. He celebrated his acquittal, he said, by driving back to his home in Dorset where he learned of Fabio Capello's resignation from the radio. "I took two Lemsip and was in bed by 8.30pm," he said.
He paid tribute to Richard Bevan, the chief executive of the League Managers' Association, who was in court most days but most of all it was his son Jamie, Redknapp said, who "carried" him through. "He was there for me 24 hours a day," Redknapp said. "He was really important to me.
"It was tough. You have to stand up there and you've got to get on with it. All of a sudden you find yourself being questioned by a man who is probably one hundred times better educated than I am. It's not easy. He is a clever man. He has probably gone to Eton or somewhere. And I am standing up there uneducated really and I have to try to stand my corner. It is very difficult."
Redknapp said that he had never wanted his wife Sandra in court and that the anxiety had, in his words, "slaughtered her". He said: "It knocked her for six. Oh, absolutely, she's soft. She's not a tough lady. I wouldn't let her come to court, she couldn't have handled it. Without a doubt. She's not tough. She's harmless.
"For her to go through all that. Her back's gone. That's the stress of it all. She couldn't move this morning because that's what happens. Your body gets messed up. Your body gets wrecked.
"What I was thinking when they [the jury] came in? Milan [Mandaric, his co-defendant] had been very strong all the way through and he suddenly said to me [before the verdict] 'What do you think?' You don't know do you? You have 12 people who are [potentially] going to decide to finish your life basically. It is not a feeling that you would wish on anybody."
Redknapp and Mandaric were found not guilty of two counts each of cheating the public revenue. It had been alleged by the Crown that two payments of £93,000 and £96,000 between 2002 and 2004 from Mandaric into Redknapp's offshore Monaco bank account had evaded tax on bonuses due on the transfer of Peter Crouch in 2002. The existence of the account had been voluntarily disclosed by Redknapp in November 2006.
"So you think to yourself: 'What are we doing here? How has this all come about?' Because I did a bad interview with someone [the News of the World]. That was the problem. The day I did it, when Milan said, 'He [the reporter] thinks he's found something', I just wanted to get over the point that it wasn't anything wrong, that it was money paid by my chairman. Fucking leave me alone.
"In my mind I always did refer to it as the Crouch bonus – and I always fucking will, until the day I die. That was where it all started."
Redknapp said that he would have to change his approach to speaking openly given that the key part of the Crown's evidence was the recording of that telephone conversation he had with the former News of the World reporter Rob Beasley. "I'm too open to everybody. I'm too easily accessible. I talk to everybody. I always think everybody has a job to do but I have found you can be as nice as you want with people, but then the day comes and you will be shafted just as badly. That's a fact of life.
"It was always on my mind, every day, always thinking about it. Four times we tried to get it thrown out. My barrister, he is the best in the country, was saying, 'This should not be going to court' but for whatever reason, they wanted to go with it. Every time you got a phone call from him you were thinking, 'Is it going to be dropped?'"