Redknapp: Players must quit drinking
HARRY REDKNAPP believes that English footballers must stop drinking alcohol and copy the lifestyles of their continental counterparts to help end the succession of scandals that has gripped the domestic game since the World Cup.
Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch are the latest to feature on a rapidly lengthening list and the Spurs boss regards alcohol as the root cause of the problem.
Redknapp says that players should "dedicate" themselves to the game and cited the example of Paolo Maldini, the former Italy and Milan captain who retired aged 40, as well as the Manchester United trio of Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, as an older generation that the younger players need to try to emulate -- as much off the pitch these days as on it.
England's failure in the World Cup finals in South Africa this summer has intensified the spotlight on players and there has been a string of salacious stories about Rooney and Crouch over the last few weeks. Jack Wilshere, the Arsenal midfielder who won his first England cap aged 18 in the friendly against Hungary, was left out of the England U-21 starting line-up by Stuart Pearce last week because he was not considered to be in the right frame of mind following his arrest in the early hours of the morning for a "fracas" outside a club in west London.
"There is one main problem -- it's called drink," said Redknapp yesterday. "Ninety per cent of the time these things don't happen unless players have a drink. We've all drunk -- I've had a drink all my life, but these lads know that you can't do it any more."
Redknapp was embarrassed last year when it emerged his players had organised a Christmas party against his express wishes. At the time Redknapp said he was "shocked". He has changed his views over the years, acknowledging that he drank as a player, but is now firmly in the anti- camp. Players today, he says, should make sacrifices -- and if they do, the rewards are huge if they are prepared to look after themselves.
"Yes, now definitely (they should make sacrifices) -- they have got to, otherwise we are going to keep seeing these things happening," he added. "It is not all down to drink, but a lot of it is. If they dedicate themselves for 10 years they are going to come out with so much money they never have to work again."
The culture of drink has long been ingrained in English football -- even when Redknapp was a player. But the increasing pace of the game and levels of fitness required now, has seen his attitude change. When he was manager of West Ham, he ordered that the players' post-match bar be alcohol-free.
The answer, according to Redknapp, is for British players to follow the examples of Italians in particular. "You don't see this happening to too many foreign players," said Redknapp. "I can't think of any.
"Look at some of the Italian players, how fit they are. They are still playing Champions League football at 38, 39, 40. What an example someone like Maldini is."
Tottenham yesterday paraded their latest signing, Rafael van der Vaart. The Dutchman is married to Sylvie Meis, a model and TV presenter, and back home they top the celebrity A-list, but Van der Vaart says he has no qualms about moving to London and is certain he will stay out of public eye. "The only thing that counts is football," said the 27-year-old. "My private life is private and I don't like all the silly stuff. I only want to play football."