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Interview: Southgate deserves England job – Redknapp

Hails Gareth Bale as best player he has ever managed

  • Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

    Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

One of the most experienced managers in football, Harry Redknapp, believes that Gareth Southgate has shown he deserves to take the Three Lions job on a permanent basis and urged the English FA not to appoint a foreign manager. In this extensive interview with Kevin Azzopardi, the 69-year-old Redknapp, who recently visited Malta in his capacity as expert for Betsafe, discusses a range of subjects from Sam Allardyce’s ignominious dismissal as England boss to his own flirtation with the job following Fabio Capello’s dismissal in 2012 and the prospect of an enticing five-team race for the Premier League title.

You’re a renowned English football manager but looking at the top clubs in the Premier League, they are all led by foreigners. You’ve got Guardiola at Manchester City, Klopp at Liverpool, Mourinho at United and so on. Do you see that as a sign that English managers have fallen behind their foreign counterparts or is it a question that they are not given the opportunity to coach at the top level?

I don’t think they are given the opportunity.

You know, unless you get the chance to manage at the top level… you look at a lad like Eddie Howe, at Bournemouth.

Eddie would never manage in the Premier League, never, if he hadn’t got promoted with Bournemouth. So he’s arrived in the Premier League through taking Bournemouth… no-one would have picked Eddie up and give him a job in the Premier, be sure. He wasn’t a famous player but now he’s in the Premier, now everybody is looking at him and they talk about England, they talk big clubs for him, which is quite right.

Tony Pulis was the same. He managed Gillingham, Bristol Rovers, (but) if he hadn’t got promoted with Stoke, he would never have made the Premier League as well. It’s just they don’t get the opportunity now.

You’ve been in management for more than 30 years. You’ve seen the game evolve with all the money in it nowadays. Which have been the major changes that have struck you most from the early days of your career until now?

It’s just absolutely everything. It’s almost a different game. Even the players now… I was explaining to some kids the other day.

In my day, when I played, we didn’t go on the pitch for warm-up before the game. The first time we were on the pitch was five minutes before kick-off.

The bell would go, we would walk out of the dressing room, would go on to the pitch, maybe two or three balls, we will pass the ball while the captain went up and tossed up and we start playing.

We didn’t warm up, we didn’t stretch, we had no gymnasiums. We were in the dressing room, we’d have our gear on and we went out and play,

People like Jimmy Greaves… Jimmy Greaves would have his suit on at 15 minutes to kick-off. He gets changed, takes his suit off, put his gear on, do his boots up, go out and score three goals probably.

We had no fitness coaches, we were out in the morning, we starting training on a freezing cold day. We start kicking balls… no videos, no analysis, nothing about opposition.

If we were playing Everton, the manager would maybe tell us their team but he didn’t say anything about them, he wouldn’t analyse their team. We just went out and play. ‘OK this is how we play, if we’re good enough we win, if we’re not’ that was how it was.

Now we spend all week looking at the opposition, everything… what they do, how far they run, with corners, set-play, everything is there for the players.

I just think the Barcelona forwards are so fantastic, they’re going to be the team to beat again in the Champions League

You have always given the impression that you’re a very proud Englishman and you were strongly linked with the England job when Fabio Capello left in 2012. Were you approached by the FA at the time?

No. At that time, I was managing Tottenham Hotspur and I was probably… it looked a certainty that I was going to get the job. This is a betting company here (Betsson), I was 10 to 1 ON, you had to put £10 to win one.

There was Roy Hodgson, I think was second favourite, eight to one, there was nobody else in the betting and I think even Roy felt sure that I had the job.

I had spoken to the League Managers Association and they said Roy knows that you’ve got the job. Then sadly I didn’t.

But that’s life and I was in a difficult situation. I was very happy at Tottenham, I had a great team, great players, so it was difficult and I enjoyed day-to-day management.

I enjoyed going in, being around the players, that is what kept me young… seeing the players everyday, being on the training ground.

I don’t know whether being England manager, in the office, meeting the players once every six to eight weeks… I don’t know whether I would have enjoyed that so much.

I enjoyed the day-to-day involvement at club and watching the players training, taking training, watching people like Gareth Bale, (Luka) Modric, (Rafael) Van der Vaart, it was fantastic. I enjoyed that.

What did you make of Sam Allardyce’s shock dismissal as England manager in September?

Well, it was a shame for Sam, he dreamed of this job all his life and he got it.

Sam is not a bad man, he’s a good man. He said one or two things that he shouldn’t have said and he’s paid the ultimate price, losing his dream job. It’s a shame… now it’s finished for him.

Now there is a lot of hype on who should be the next England manager. There’s Gareth Southgate in temporary charge but a lot of names have been linked with the job…

I would like to see Gareth.

It’s difficult, no-one jumps out, I’ve got to be honest, there is no outstanding candidate. It’s so open.

We’ve gone foreign before and it’s not been successful. I don’t know… whoever gets that job, it’s a very difficult job. We have some fantastic players but for whatever reason, when we come together as a national team we don’t perform.

Why is this happening?

Every tournament I look at us, I think we’ve got the best players. We go to the Euros, look at our team, fantastic players everywhere and we can’t beat Iceland.

You look at Iceland, they’ve got not one player who could get into the England squad, yet they go and beat us fair and square.

It’s difficult. We’ve had some great managers and they’ve not been successful since Alf Ramsey. Bobby Robson did ok, Terry Venables... Euro 96 was a great tournament but other than that.

I’d like to see Glenn Hoddle have a go. I’m a big fan of Glenn, I love the way he wants his teams to play, he has great understanding of the game but he wasn’t even in the running.

A lot of reasons have been put forward for England’s struggles to make their mark at major tournaments. People blame expectations, players struggling to cope with the burden of expectations, and the need to introduce a winter break…

If we have a winter break, the teams will all be off line around the world, playing football. We have Russian owners, Chinese owners, Arab owners, they would take them to their countries, go and play exhibition games, make money.

So they (the players) don’t actually rest.

You look at the pre-season of the English players, they’re not preparing for a season, they’re just flying off, making money. They’re going to America, Australia, South Africa, anywhere where they can get the biggest deals.

They’re not saying ‘Ok we have to prepare for the season, we go to Scotland play a couple of games, or maybe we go to Germany or somewhere’, but they are taking teams around on ridiculous trips, it’s all about making more money. So, no, I don’t think the winter break is the solution.

But, for whatever reason, they (England) seem to need somebody to lift the pressure. I think maybe Sam would have done ok. The players did feel the pressure.

We were behind against Iceland and you could see the fear, they were fearful.

I wish whoever gets the job every success but, at the moment, apart from Gareth (Southgate) I really don’t know where they’re going to go.

Winning the FA Cup in 2007-08 during your spell with Portsmouth was quite an achievement, considering the size of the club. Do you consider that success as the highlight of your managerial career?

Well, I had a great time at Portsmouth.

I went there, they were a team in the Championship and, when I took over, they had been in the bottom five for four and five years. Every year they just escaped relegation and I went there and that first season in the Championship we put a team together, we didn’t spend money.

Milan Mandaric was the chairman, we managed to build a good team and we found a system of play with three at the back with wing-backs and the system suited us.

We won the league that year and it was a big surprise.

Lots of teams are playing that way now.

That was a great time for me, I had a fantastic time there.

I also had seven years at West Ham United.

We had a great time. Produced fantastic young players, you know Rio (Ferdinand), Frank (Lampard), (Jermain) Defoe, (Michael) Carrick, Glenn Johnson, Joe Cole, the great group of kids, so that was a great time.

They all went on to play for England or won Champions League and they’ve won everything. That was a great time in my life. I’ve been very lucky, I met so many nice people.

Tottenham was also great for me. Great players. Bale, Modric and Van Der Vaart, all of them good players, it was a really exciting time for me.

Sam is not a bad man, he’s a good man. He said one or two things that he shouldn’t have said and he’s paid the ultimate price, losing his dream job. It’s a shame… now it’s finished for him

English clubs have found the going tough in the Champions League in the last five years but things are looking up as Manchester City, Arsenal and Leicester City are doing quite well in the group stage. Do you fancy any of the English teams going far in the continental competition this season?

I don’t think any of them will win it this year.

I thought Manchester City were fantastic against Barcelona (3-1), absolutely a great game of football. You look forward to a game and sometimes I was looking two weeks ago, Liverpool-Manchester United, I can’t wait, Monday night I’m there and it was such a terrible game.

The City-Barcelona game, I’m the same, I’m waiting for the game and it was fantastic, I loved every minute of it. That is how football should be, both teams going for it, attacking and great football, fantastic play. Great skills.

We’ve got teams (English) if they get to the semi-finals, we’ve got a chance, Manchester City, Arsenal… City made the semi-finals last year.

So, it’s a wide open tournament this year, Barcelona are favourites but City beat them fair and square, so it’s very open.

Gareth Bale... exceptional talent.Gareth Bale... exceptional talent.

Who is the best player you have managed?

Gareth Bale would be up there. He had everything really, you look at Bale, he’s an amazing player, can do everything, six feet two, can run, can run fast, can run long, can head it, can shoot, can dribble, he has absolutely everything.

Modric was a great player.

But then the other boys… Rio Ferdinand, when he was 16, I said he would be the best defender in Europe one day and he did go on to be the best centre-half for a spell.

Frank Lampard, you look at his career, he’s been amazing what he did every year... 20 goals for Chelsea from midfield. I’ve been lucky I worked with some great lads.

A few weeks ago, you publicly said that Manchester United will not win the Premier League this year. Are you surprised that they have been struggling considering the huge amounts of money they spent on new signings?

Yes I am (surprised) but the more I see them… I’m looking at their team now. How many players in the current side would have got in the team 10 or 12 years ago?

When I used to take teams to Old Trafford,  there was (David) Beckham, (Paul) Scholes,  (Roy) Keane, (Ryan) Giggs, and then you’ll have all sorts of strikers, Andy Cole, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Dwight Yorke, fantastic players, Jaap Stam, Rio Ferdinand.

The goalkeeper is great (David de Gea) but they had a great goalkeeper with (Peter) Schmeichel. Other than that, I can’t see  too many of them players that would have got in the Manchester United teams that Alex Ferguson had.

You regularly offer interesting Champions League tips on behalf of Betsafe. Who will win the Premier League and Champions League this season?

Champions League this year, even though they lost at Manchester City, they had one or two injuries, I’d still just about favour Barcelona. I just think their forwards are so fantastic, they’re going to be the team to beat again.

I also think Juventus are going to be a dangerous team, they will be a threat.

They have great organisation, great defenders and the manager (Massimiliano Allegri)… I met him when he managed Milan, he’s a great guy.

The Premier League is so open this year. There’s five teams, I thought at the start six teams but I don’t think Man. United will win it. There’s Man. City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool.

Liverpool are fantastic, I love watching them.

They have great forwards. None of them have got great defences, Tottenham have got a good back four, great back four but the rest of them… Chelsea look strong at the back now with their changed system but I still think Man. City, without Vincent Kompany, are still vulnerable at the back. Arsenal’s back four is ok, great going forward and Liverpool the same. Their back four I’m not sure about it. It’s going to be a great Premier League season.

This was your first visit to Malta. What are your impressions?

Absolutely loved Malta. This will not be my last visit. I’ve said to my wife that it’s such a great place, it’s just got a lovely feel to it. I’ve never been here on holiday but I said to my wife, she had an accident a few weeks ago, we’re definitely going to hit Malta at some stage when she is ready. Great place.

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