HARRY Redknapp states with confidence that he has no doubts about Richard Dunne, who turns 35 next month, being able to deliver in the Premier League for QPR next season.
But there was a time when Redknapp wondered just what he was landing himself with when he signed Dunne. The Tallaght man's stock is high right now, having helped QPR win promotion from the Championship last season, but 12 months ago things were grim for Dunne.
He had been sidelined for a year with a series of injuries and when he arrived at QPR, his previous three competitive games had been that 9-1 aggregate defeat for Ireland at Euro 2012. "He tried to cancel it after the first half I had," jokes Dunne when asked about his initial short-term deal with QPR, a display in a pre-season friendly not filling anyone with confidence.
"When he played against Southend, his shorts splitting, I thought I had made a rip here," laughs Redknapp, who may hand Dunne the captain's armband for tomorrow's friendly against Shamrock Rovers on Dunne's home patch of Tallaght.
"But he did exactly what I was hoping he'd do. He was fantastic, he has been a top player for so many years. I tried to sign him years ago, when I was at Portsmouth, and last year when he was available he was the one player I really was desperate to get to the club and it was a great decision as he has been fantastic.
"I'd have coaches working for me who'd say 'he's got no pace, he can't run'. I would say 'he can't run? He's like lightning, because he's a big lad people thought he was slow but he had fantastic pace, he's still quick, he's a fantastic competitor he's a top player and I have no doubts about him playing in the Premier League, none whatsoever.
"He's a quiet lad, he's not a mouth, he just gets on with his job, when the ball comes into the box he heads it away, he's top class. For me, there wasn't a better player at the football club than Richard last year, he was fantastic and it would be very hard not to pick him in any team I have, I am such a fan of his."
QPR bring a strong squad to Ireland for their games against Rovers (tomorrow) and Athlone Town (Monday), Loic Remy back in the panel after his move to Liverpool fell through.
For Redknapp staying in the division is the priority. "There's no point in me sitting here saying I want us to be in the top half, we have to make sure we stay in the league," he said from Rangers' Irish team base at Carton House.