23rd August 2018
Harry Redknapp on diversity within English football
By Rebecca Hawksworth
With over 35 years of managerial experience, Harry Redknapp has had a front row seat to watch the evolution of the game and the personnel within it.
As well as the technological changes and the increasing amount of money being spent on players, one of the major changes and talking points within English football over the last two decades has been the number of foreign players playing throughout the league system.
The former Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth boss explained the difference in diversity now compared to when he played in the 1960s and 70s.
He said: “Many years ago when I first came into the game, all of the players were pretty much from the same area. Most of us probably enjoyed the same things away from the football but now it’s very different.
“In those days we all lived in the same area, but now I’m not sure if the players socialise much with each other. Obviously now they live in bigger houses and they’re not part of the community as much and it’s become more and more difficult.”
With an ever increasing number of foreign players moving to compete in the English leagues, clubs have had to adapt to the variety of different languages and cultures within a team.
Redknapp drew on one of his own experiences of signing a player from Chile when in charge at West Ham in the 1990s, explaining that clubs didn’t have staff or processes in place to help foreign players adapt.
He said: “When the foreign players first started to come into the game we had no aftercare. They came over and we just let them get on with it basically. We didn’t even really give them English lessons.”
Redknapp added: “I signed a lad from Chile when I was at West Ham in the very early days and we found him a house out in Essex, gave him a car and just said ‘see you in the morning’. He ended up driving to Stansted Airport instead of West Ham’s training ground which is about 40 miles away, it was an absolute nightmare. But it’s changed now, we have lots of people at football clubs whose job it is to look after the players who come to this country.”
As well as an increasing number of foreign players within English football, there is also a growing number of foreign businessmen and women taking charge of English clubs.
Redknapp, who won the FA Cup as Portsmouth manager in 2008, said this has made having a relationship with club owners increasingly difficult.
He said: “The chairman was probably the local butcher, baker, candlestick maker or whatever he might have been in those days. He was a local man nine times out of ten. But now it’s different, most of the owners are foreign. How often do you actually get to see them, what relationship do you have with them? Probably very small.”