In the days when he was Tottenham Hotspur manager, Harry Redknapp could travel Europe and command an audience with just about any player who was potentially on the move. Last week he found out that his new position at Queen's Park Rangers does not confer quite so many privileges on the incumbent.
He was back in Marseilles to watch Loïc Rémy, the striker he has been chasing since he took over at QPR in November. As Spurs manager he had met with the player before but on this occasion he was politely informed by associates of the 26-year-old that Rémy had declined the opportunity to see Redknapp.
"Didn't want to come," Redknapp said, when asked if Rémy – now tracked by Arsenal as well as Newcastle United – was a potential recruit for the relegation battle. "I went over last week to watch him, not that I needed to, as I watched him seven times when I was at Spurs. Then he just did not want to speak about coming. I couldn't even get a meeting with him."
Redknapp said that he was not about to take it personally – "I think he felt embarrassed coming to see me to say he wasn't interested in coming to QPR" – but it was a sharp reminder of where he now stands when it comes to the transfer window. He needs a striker, desperately, and he could do with a centre-half, a left-back and a central midfielder, but he will have to pick up what he can.
All that is put to one side today as he faces Tottenham for the first time since, on 13 June, the final year of his contract at the club was paid up and he was shown the door. It brought to an end six months in his life when he went from facing prison over tax evasion charges, to be the bookies' favourite for the England manager's job and then denied Champions League football with Spurs by Chelsea's triumph in the competition.
"Things happen," was Redknapp's take on it, presented in answer to a variety of different questions at QPR's training ground yesterday, on whether he has a grudge or unfinished business with the club and its chairman, Daniel Levy.
Redknapp was at great pains to make clear that today's game was not about revenge on the club that got rid of him after a fourth-place finish, nor that his point last week that only a "real dope" could "mess up" at Chelsea was aimed at Andre Villas-Boas. These days Redknapp seeks to portray himself as a man at peace with the world who is happiest on the training pitch working on strategies.
Eventually, when it was put to Redknapp that he could not have been forced out of Spurs on results alone, he confirmed that, yes, he believed it was "political". "I've got my own feelings about what happened but it's difficult for me to say." There is no point burning any bridges, not when he may well have to return to Levy for players this month, perhaps even the midfielder Jake Livermore.
Would Levy be in the mood to do his old manager any favours? "He will help himself," Redknapp said. "Let's not kid ourselves. He is not going to say, "Good ol' Harry, let's help him. I love QPR'. He is going to help himself. That's life.
"He ain't going to give us a special deal because it's me or anyone else. He will look to get whatever he thinks the value of someone is and that's what he wants. And this is his time of the year, January, the transfer window. He loves it."
If that sounded a little provocative, it came across as a man who probably feels confident enough that he has enough of a relationship with Levy that he can still poke fun at him. "What's happened to me? I had four great years at Spurs and got very well paid. I've now come to QPR, and don't get so well paid! But I'm here, involved in football. I love it."
The brave face approach has worked up to a point this far at QPR. He refused to blame the players after the bad defeat at home to Liverpool on 30 December – although he admitted yesterday it "shocked" him – and it paid off with that famous win over Chelsea. Now he has to find a way to beat Tottenham and he promised more of the same approach from Stamford Bridge: a tight, compact side hoping to hit Spurs on the break.
Redknapp was vague about when Ryan Nelsen, available today, is likely to leave to take up the manager's job at Toronto FC, and he is also without Armand Traoré, Junior Hoilett and the long-term injured Bobby Zamora. With chief executive Philip Beard listening in the room, it was more evidence that the squad needs strengthening, although the ultimate call comes from above him.
As for Redknapp, he was eager to make the point that he wished no ill fortune on Spurs. "What am I supposed to say? I hope West Ham don't do any good? I hope Southampton are crap? I hope Bournemouth keep losing. Why? How does it affect me? I swear on my wife's life I do not worry about those things.
"I don't go through my life like that. And that's good. Perhaps that's why I can enjoy my life so much. I'm not a jealous, bitter, twisted person. People have taken liberties with me in my life like you'd never believe but I forgive and forget and shake hands. That's how I live."
Nevertheless, it goes without saying he would enjoy a victory over Tottenham at Loftus Road every bit as much as he did that one against Chelsea last week.
Cutting his cloth: top buys at QPR and Spurs
QPR's record signings
* Shaun Wright-Phillips £6.5m (from Manchester City, Aug 2011)
* Stéphane Mbia £5m (from Marseilles, Aug 2012)
* Bobby Zamora £4m (from Fulham, Jan 2012)
Tottenham's record signings
* Luka Modric £16.5m (from Dynamo Zagreb, Apr 2008)
* Darren Bent £16.4m (from Charlton, Jun 2007)
* Robbie Keane £16m (from Liverpool, Jan 2009)Reuse content