No knowledge of the past, little interest in the future, and cocooned by cash; the mentality of the modern footballer was spelled out by Harry Redknapp yesterday. Speaking with acceptance and only a touch of disappointment, the Tottenham manager described a generation of players almost entirely insulated from the concerns of their context in the game.
Whether the issue put to the players was Tottenham's record at Stamford Bridge, where they play today, or Spurs legends of the past, or the prospect of Champions League football returning to White Hart Lane, Redknapp was insistent. Even regarding talk of the manager himself departing to lead England, Redknapp was unambiguous: "They don't give a shit."
It started with discussion of Spurs' recent form. They have taken one point from their last four games, and have seen hopes of London supremacy and automatic Champions League qualification threatened. Redknapp was asked, not for the first time, whether this was because his players had been distracted by speculation of his filling the vacant England job.
"That is the biggest load of nonsense I've ever heard in my life," Redknapp sighed. "They don't care whether I'm the manager next year, they wouldn't lose any sleep over that or whoever comes. That's football: footballers are footballers, they play the game, they come in every day and train, somebody else comes in the door tomorrow and it's 'the king is dead, long live the king'."
It was certainly modest, and Redknapp did say that a focus on the immediate future was not unique to the players. "That is football," he said. "They don't worry 'oh Harry is going to England or he's going to go somewhere else'. It doesn't happen that way. I've been around football all my life, it doesn't happen that way. I don't think about it either. Whatever happens to me, happens to me."
Redknapp even said that footballers were not always concerned about the level they played at. It was put to the manager that Champions League qualification was necessary to buy the best players, but Redknapp shrugged that off too: "I think it gets over-rated a bit that one. If you pay them enough money and give them a good contract then they will play for you. That's how I see it."
And as unworried as Redknapp said players were about the future, they had even less interest in the past. Tottenham travel to Stamford Bridge today, where they last won in 1990. Asked whether this record would haunt his team, the Spurs manager doubted whether they would even be aware of it. "The thing is the players don't know that," Redknapp said of Spurs' record. "If I said to Benoît Assou-Ekotto we have not won at Chelsea, he wouldn't have a clue."
Not that Redknapp believes his left-back is intimately aware of even the fixture list: "He probably doesn't even know we are playing Chelsea tomorrow until we tell him later on. And that is genuine. He wouldn't look at the fixtures. He would turn up and say, 'What time is the coach tomorrow, gaffer?' And that is it. And he will be here, but he wouldn't be sure if we were going to Arsenal or Chelsea."
Redknapp is accepting of Assou-Ekotto's nature, but there was a tinge of sadness when he recounted how Rafael van der Vaart was unaware of a Tottenham great.
"I was showing a picture of John White on the wall to Rafa the other day," he recalled. "And Rafa loves football, he is a real football person. I was saying that is John White, he played for Tottenham. He was the most fantastic, amazing footballer, John White. He had skills like you have never seen in your life this fellow. But it was a long time ago."
For all this to be news to Van der Vaart was clearly a disappointment. "We have got a lot of foreign players here now and they get on with it," Redknapp said. "The history of the clubs is probably lost on them in all honesty. We can probably make out it is not, but it probably is. He could probably tell me about players at Ajax or somewhere, but in this country they don't know, do they?"Reuse content