Thursday 22 February 2018

Redknapp might seem old school, but he's not

Harry's genius is in man management, writes David James

I genuinely respected Fabio Capello. He gave me an opportunity to play football at the World Cup, but, more than that, I liked the way he did things. He was regimental, there were no grey areas.

I fondly nicknamed him 'Rain Man' because he was obsessive about football. He would study the game with a pedant's eye for detail. He was the sort of individual who would sit down with the goalkeepers, with genuine interest, and dissect how we do things. He was always harvesting information, wanting to know more.

A football brain he may have been, approachable he was not. During the World Cup in South Africa you could walk past and he would not even look at you. It used to make me chuckle. It got to the point where, if he did look at you, you would tell the rest of the lads, "he looked at me!" and then spend the rest of the afternoon wondering if it was a nice look or an irritated look. It was a bit like having the queen around, you wouldn't know whether to walk on or bow.

I'm not saying he was rude; just very focused -- and consistent. You knew to expect formality: like an old-fashioned schoolmaster, he called everyone by their surname or their position.

His authoritarian style was unfamiliar to our players and that's perhaps one area in which the team struggled during the World Cup. But it seemed lessons had been learned and a revised approach at the Euros promised more success.

Why did he resign? Although the timing of it is surprising, the circumstances are not. The England captaincy in itself would not have been the issue -- no disrespect to anyone who has had the honour, but what do England captains actually do? Toss a coin? Decide which end we kick off at? The way Capello was with detail, he probably would have decided this himself anyway. The bone of contention was respect.

And so to his replacement. The swell of opinion seems to be pointing in the direction of my old boss Harry Redknapp. If he is offered the job -- and accepts -- he would certainly be a popular choice in the dressing room.

Of course, most people would assume he is the polar opposite in style to Capello. At 64, Harry might seem old-school football. But he's not. He doesn't tolerate drinking cultures, he's not all about getting big lumps forward -- he's actually very progressive. New school, I'd say. To do well in a modern football environment you have to be.

The area in which Harry and Capello share the same approach is the team announcement. I call it deal or no deal, the big reveal in the match-day dressing room. Until that moment, no one can be sure who is playing.

Everyone talks about Harry's man-management style as his greatest asset. Where Capello was taciturn, Harry makes you feel as though he's your best mate. Players like him because he treats everyone as an individual, making important decisions on a case-by-case basis. The genius of it is how often he gets it right. Where Capello would refuse to select a player who could not cope with full training, Harry has always been happy to make exceptions.

The year we won the FA Cup with Portsmouth, Harry made a very big exception for me. We had a game at Goodison Park on the Saturday, but I'd been invited to a family wedding the day before. I explained to Harry why it was important for me to be there. He said to me, 'Jamo, do what you want, son. As long as you don't let any goals in on Saturday'. It took me more than seven hours to drive to the wedding. By the time I got back to the team hotel, it was late and I was knackered. The next day, we beat Everton 3-0 and I saved a penalty.

He's not a soft touch, though (anyone who's watched that YouTube video of him getting hit by a football will know that) and he only makes exceptions for players when he believes it will bring the best results for the team.

If you compare Harry's CV to Capello's there's always going to be a sense of disparity. But Harry has made a habit of building teams to reach their potential. Harry develops teams: he did it at Bournemouth, at West Ham, at Portsmouth and now he's doing it at Tottenham.

The consensus seems to be that England should be managed by an Englishman, of which there are very few good enough to take the job. But, in my opinion, even if there were 10 English managers all vying for the position, Harry would still be the right man.


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