Sunday 25 September 2016

Harry Redknapp forgives 'superstar' Robbie Keane for Spurs' trip to Copper Face Jacks

Tom Rooney

Published 06/07/2016 | 13:14

CHIGWELL, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 06: Spurs manager Harry Redknapp poses with new signing Robbie Keane at a Tottenham Hotspur training session at Spurs Lodge on February 6, 2009 in Chigwell, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
CHIGWELL, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 06: Spurs manager Harry Redknapp poses with new signing Robbie Keane at a Tottenham Hotspur training session at Spurs Lodge on February 6, 2009 in Chigwell, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

As Harry Redknapp lamented the latest failure of an England side at a major tournament, he suggested that, perhaps, Roy Hodgson’s men were unduly unnerved by the regimented captivity foisted upon them during their brief stay in France.

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It’s the £1m question or, more accurately the £3.5m question: Why, since 1966, have only Bobby Robson and Terry Venables managed to harness the talent of the English players at their disposal and launch a credible bid on a global competition?

Even for those who completely shun any form of superstition, they may be persuaded to concede that the post of England manager is under some otherworldly hex.

Harry Redknapp was slated to replace Fabio Capello in 2012 but, instead, Roy Hodgson was appointed. He guided them to the quarter finals of the European Championships that summer, where they were eliminated by Italy on penalties.

At the World Cup two years later England finished bottom of their group following losses to Italy and Uruguay and a draw with Costa Rica.

Over the last month, the men in white served up an all too familiar deflating dish of mediocrity. Drawing with Russia and Slovakia in between beating Wales. In the round of 16, Iceland, against all conceivable odds, dumped them out of Euro 2016 via 2-1 victory and Hodgson duly fell on his sword.

Redknapp was in Dublin yesterday and was asked, invariably, for his thoughts on the latest debacle. The former Spurs boss felt that, like other sides at the competition, England could have benefited from a more exacting qualification campaign.

En route to France, they won all of their 10 games in a group comprising Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, San Marino and Lithuania. In fact, Harry reckons that the vast majority of the qualifying groups were decidedly risible. With the exception, that is, of Ireland’s.

“The qualifying groups for these tournaments is a complete waste of time. Ireland, now that was interesting, that was worth watching. Germany, Poland, Ireland – I loved it.

“Who was it England were playing, that was in our group? The Isle of Wight, or something? It’s frightening, in’it? That is how the qualifying groups are. Unless you’re very unlucky like Ireland, but they came through an incredibly tough group, nine of the 10 groups are ridiculously easy.

“It’s the same for all the teams but they’ve got competitive football for their clubs week in week out, so it shouldn’t really make any difference. In fact, it should give them confidence,” he said.

While in the Irish capital, it was put to Redknapp whether or not he’d be attending Copper Face Jacks, the scene of the famous Totten­­ham Hotspur Christmas party in 2009.

Lest we forget, Robbie Keane, in his capacity as club captain, took 15 squad members to the Dublin for a good old knees up, though Redknapp, then manager, was under the pretence that it was nothing more than a tame golfing trip.

The jig was soon up, players were disciplined, fines handed down and the wrath of Harry incurred. That Spurs lost 1-0 to Wolves the following weekend probably didn’t help.

However, Redknapp still insisted that such activities are pivotal in building team spirit and that the England side could possibly have done with a similar jaunt.

“Did he? Well I’ll keep out of there then,” he said of Keane’s choice of venue nearly seven years ago.

“Things can work in football – you look back on – I’ve had struggling teams when it looks like you’re doomed and, suddenly, it may be taking them to the races, booking them into an Italian restaurant in the coach on the way home, then having a few drinks and a sing song.

“Suddenly on a Saturday, off you go. I’ve done it and it can change everything it. Loosen up, have a bit of team spirit and banter. Not too organised but let them go and unwind occasionally. It doesn’t do any harm – it didn’t do Robbie any harm, he’s still playing fantastic.”

The 69-year-old’s admiration for Keane, who he brought back to White Hart Lane from Liverpool at the beginning of 2009, is clearly unconditional.

Expressing as much was also timely, given Ireland’s record goal-scorer had helped LA Galaxy to a 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps with an exquisite strike at the weekend.

“One of the great players, a great character, amazing. He’s gone to America, is still a superstar. He could have gone over there and took the money. But that’s Robbie, isn’t it? He only knows one way; he works his socks off every time he puts his shorts on, his boots on. I think he’s been an amazing player.”

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