Harry Redknapp still hungry for success with Tottenham
27 February 2009 08:45
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Redknapp and Sir Alex Ferguson will stand in their respective technical areas at Wembley, their presence a fine advertisement for the importance of cutting managerial teeth at outposts like Bournemouth and East Stirlingshire.
"I'm all for young guys coming into management but they need to do their apprenticeship," said Redknapp, sitting in his training-ground office on Friday afternoon.
"It's so difficult when you've been a top player, earning all that money, to want to learn the trade. They are earning £50,000 a week as a player and then earning that a year as a manager in the lower divisions. But they have to give their time up like Fergie and I did.
"I learned the ropes at Bournemouth, an unbelievable experience. We once had games at York on the Wednesday and Darlington on the Saturday but we couldn't afford a coach or hotels. So we hired two mini-buses and booked two boarding houses. I drove one minibus and the kitman drove the other.
Pulling up at Darlington, the man on the gate said: 'Who are you?'
'I'm the manager'. I said. 'This is the team'. He wouldn't let us in! But we won, and sung all the way home, all seven hours!''
Such passion for the game wanes in some callow pros, according to Redknapp. "Hungry footballers are becoming fewer,'' he continued.
"A lot of kids don't realise how lucky they are. They get into a comfort zone. They walk into a club like Tottenham and think they've made it. But they haven't made anything yet. They go into the canteen, get lovely dinners made. They throw their kit down, somebody picks it up.''
At West Ham, Redknapp sent many of his promising crop of English youngsters to smaller clubs to toughen them up, to make them appreciate elite life more, and it worked. "One of the most important things Frank Lampard has ever done is going on loan to Swansea.
Suddenly he has to take his kit home from training, get it washed. It makes them hungrier. I loaned Rio Ferdinand to Bournemouth, [Michael] Carrick to Swindon, [Jermain] Defoe to Bournemouth. It was the making of a lot of those kids.''
Hunger is vital. Spurs have recovered from the near-humiliation against Burnley in the Carling Cup semi-finals when defeat would have brought "desperate times'', according to Redknapp, and possibly a slump towards relegation. The hungry players rallied.
"The Michael Dawsons and Jonathan Woodgates of this world are desperate to succeed,'' Redknapp added. "They are the type of lads you need. Fergie has that in abundance. However much money Wayne Rooney gets he will always have that edge to him, that wanting to win.''
The academy system may soften some players and Spurs have even issued edicts forbidding "sarcasm and name-calling''. "It's all changed,'' reflected Redknapp. "Now the youth team get on the luxury coach to go to games. And kids eight years of age are being signed on! It's scary. How can you tell at eight? It's just trawling. But we have got some decent kids here – at last.''
Whatever their technical merits, Redknapp just hopes the English boys possess the yearning of others. "The emergence of African footballers will get stronger and stronger. Sulley Muntari, one of the Africans I had at Portsmouth, told me that, growing up, he didn't see grass. They used to play on stones. Football's a way out.
"I come from east London and there was a spell where they produced great Jewish boxers after the War. They were hungry. The Jewish people had been persecuted and great champions came out of the East End. It's the same now with the black kids, mixed-race kids, who are very, very hungry, coming from the poorer areas. It's a chance for them to make a fantastic living.
"Kids today need to hear about Alan Ball. As a kid at Bolton, 'Bally' got called into the manager's office. Bill Ridding said: 'Listen son, the only apprenticeship you are going to get is as a jockey'. 'Bally' cried all the way home on the bus. His dad said: 'Don't cry, don't give up, you'