x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Harry Redknapp is the real deal

There is more to Tottenham's manager than just buying and selling.

LONDON // Harry Redknapp made it quite clear how he feels about those who portray him as football's version of a second-hand car salesman.

When it was suggested to him by a TV interviewer a couple of months back that his great strength as a manager was as a "wheeler-dealer", he defended his reputation with a rant that has become a YouTube hit.

"After a while it just gets to you a bit when people keep churning out a cliched image. It's as if to give an impression all I ever do is buy and sell players. People ought to realise that I wouldn't have lasted this long as a manager without knowing a thing or two about the game," Redknapp said.

"Look, I got my coaching badges in my mid-20s when I was still playing and worked under one of the best coaches English football has ever had - Ron Greenwood. So I think I know a bit about the game, but maybe I don't make it sound quite as complicated as some."

After years treading the boards at Bournemouth, West Ham United, Portsmouth and Southampton, the evidence of his credentials has become clearer over time. Tottenham's turnaround under Redknapp since he took over 26 months ago is stark. They were in relegation trouble; now they are title and Champions League contenders.

Redknapp, 63, has surrounded himself with a team of trusty assistants - Kevin Bond, Joe Jordan, Tony Parks, Les Ferdinand and Tim Sherwood - and he allows them to have their say on the training ground. He has revived the confidence of many players. And the flexibility in his tactical thinking, changing systems to suit different players, has made Spurs a force.

Admittedly, the £8 million (Dh46m) signing of Rafael van der Vaart from Real Madrid on deadline day has been big factor in the team's success this season. Ironically, he was a player Redknapp had not even been chasing.

"It's funny how things can work out," Redknapp said. "We had given up looking for new players, then at the last minute he's available. Rafa has come and given us something different up front. He's clever on the ball, he's creative and he scores goals. He is a player who has helped us move up a level as a team."

Van der Vaart's return from injury, at Aston Villa today, will boost Tottenham ahead of the intense fixture list. With games against Newcastle United, Fulham and Everton, they have a chance to put heat on the teams above them. Fifth-placed Spurs trail leaders Manchester United by seven points, but Redknapp knows the situation can change quickly and maintains Spurs can win the title. "Why not? Some people are trying to argue that because it is so close at the top there has been a dumbing down of the standard. I disagree," he said. "I take a lot of pride in what we have achieved. Being able to buy a player like Van der Vaart has helped, but one of the biggest things has been the improvement of many players that were already here. That's about working with them on their play and confidence."

In other words, coaching rather than wheeler-dealing.

sports@thenational.ae

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