HARRY REDKNAPP has been warned to take more care in his public utterances if he becomes England manager after sparking controversy with a remark about Arabs.
The Tottenham Hotspur manager has been the firm favourite to take over from Fabio Capello since the Italian quit the post last month. But there have recently been signs that the pressure of speculation has been taking its toll on the 65-year-old.
Spurs' form has dipped alarmingly, although Redknapp hotly denies any link between his club's league performances and speculation over England, and he has now given his potential employers at the English Football Association a potential headache with a comment in an interview with Alan Sugar in the Radio Times.
Responding to a question about foreign investment in the Premier League, Redknapp replied: "Where they find some owners now, I don't know. I remember the first guy they brought in at Portsmouth from Saudi Arabia somewhere.
"He looked like they pulled him off the stall outside. He looked like the only Arab who didn't have oil in his garden."
Redknapp appears to have been referring to the former Portsmouth shareholder Sulaiman Al Fahim, who had to relinquish his stake in the club in 2010 after failing to deliver on a promised £50m investment.
The English FA, which has yet to approach any candidate or their club with a formal request to discuss the England vacancy, declined to comment on Redknapp's remark. It is believed the view within Wembley is that Redknapp remains the Tottenham manager and unless his comments breach FA rules, they are a club matter.
The comment will be widely interpreted as lighthearted, but it has nonetheless raised eyebrows in football's anti-racist community.
One senior campaigner said: "That's just part of Harry's humour, a comment like that, and I wouldn't take it in any other spirit than how it has been delivered.
"He's quick and he's got that cheekiness. But if he is the England manager it's different. There is a different conduct and etiquette required."
Another warned that similar comments would backfire if he were to be appointed to English football's top job. "Harry is not a racist -- he's always had black players around," the source said. "But he is always going to be clumsy with what he says. You can't say that sort of thing in the England manager post. It's like saying John Terry is the best captain we've got but do you make him the England captain?"
Terry was stripped of the England captaincy when it emerged he would stand trial after Euro 2012 on allegations of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand, a charge he denies.
Meanwhile, Redknapp has been candid about the frustrations the England job might cause.
"When you have a club, you look for a goalscorer and you take him," he said. "When you are a national team manager, you have to make do with the players that you have in your country. And you hardly ever see your players. Two days every two months is very difficult."