01 Oct 2009
HARRY REDKNAPP INTERVIEW
You started your management career in an assistant role. How important was that?
I actually started off with a year at non-league club Oxford City with Bobby Moore, which was a great learning experience. It taught me a lot about the non-league scene – when you’re dealing with parttime players, you have to hope that they’ll turn up after they finish their day job. When I subsequently joined Bournemouth, as assistant manager and then manager, I was able to draw on that knowledge of non-league players, something many young managers never have any experience of.
How did you find the transition from player to manager?
When I was assistant manager to David Webb, he really let me get involved in the coaching, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so the transition wasn’t too difficult for me. When you’re in the assistant role, your job is primarily in training, so it’s still possible to be the players’ pal. It’s only when you become a manager and start having to leave people out of the team that it becomes a different job entirely.
What were the biggest lessons you learnt in those early days?
Certainly that you can’t be everybody’s friend. When I first took over at Bournemouth I felt very much on my own. It was pretty much just me and the kit man. Money was also tight at that time, so I didn’t have many staff to bounce ideas off or talk to. When you first become a manager, it can be a pretty lonely existence. You’re not able to be friends with the players anymore; you’re sitting at the front of the coach on your own rather than at the back having a laugh with the rest of the team. And you take the job home with you; if you get beaten, the whole weekend is a disaster.
Take me through some of your biggest challenges in management so far…
When I took over at Portsmouth for the first time it was a big challenge because, in all honesty, the club wasn’t going anywhere at that point. Then I joined their rivals Southampton, which, looking back, was possibly crazy. And, of course, people also thought I was mad to return to Portsmouth when the club was bottom of the league. I really put my career on the line there, as I did when I joined Tottenham. They were bottom of the league and had I failed to turn things around it would probably have been the end of my career. I’ve given my utmost for every club I’ve managed.
But you learn a lot when things are tough, in particular, about other people around you. That’s why it’s so important to have good staff on your side. I have had Kevin Bond with me for a long time and also Joe Jordan, who is a fantastic man of staunch character. Especially when you join a club, you want people around who will watch your back, who have terrific knowledge of the game, who care and want to succeed with you.
What gives you most satisfaction and motivation day-to-day?
In football, you can only really think about the week ahead. You rarely get a chance to enjoy your success, because within 30 minutes of one game finishing, you’re thinking about the next match. It means you don’t have the time to sit back and dwell on your achievements. This business is entirely results-led; five or six bad results and your position can be in jeopardy.
I love to watch players do fantastic things in training, as well as on a match day. When you have a great team and they’re zipping the ball about and scoring goals, it’s like watching a great racehorse on the gallops.
How important do you think cultural fit is between a manager and his club?
I think a good manager can be successful anywhere. Being a good judge of players is key to that success. A bad judge will buy bad players. You have to be convinced that there is something important in every player you buy, something that will improve your team and create the right balance.
Who has most influenced you as a manager?
I was lucky to grow up as a young player under Ron Greenwood at West Ham. Without doubt, he was the best coach in England at that time. Ron was a fantastic manager – very forward thinking and his training sessions were always interesting and engaging. Then I worked under John Bonds at Bournemouth, who was a disciple of Ron’s, but more flamboyant in style. They were both important influences on me.
How would you describe your own style of leadership? I believe that confidence plays a huge part in all walks of life and try to instil self-belief in my players. I don’t criticise them too often and if, on occasion, I do get stuck into them they know they deserve it. I tell them straight what I think. However, I’m not one for shouting and hollering – I’d rather explain to them what they can do to improve and give them encouragement.
I am pretty relaxed and laid back, so I’m not one for stringent rules, fining players or ruling with an iron fist. I try to treat my players as responsible adults – if they can’t respond to that and behave themselves, I don’t want them in my team.
How do you maintain such a well balanced outlook when the job is fraught with pressure?
When things aren’t going well it is, of course, difficult to remain relaxed. However, it helps that I’m able to go home to my family and have quality time with them. My wife Sandra and I are involved with charities like Leukaemia Busters and the Round Table Children’s Wish, and that certainly keeps the football part of my life in perspective. I love football and, like everyone in the game, I want to be very successful. But I also know that there are other important things in life – when all is said and done, football is a game, not a matter of life and death.