Book Review: Me, Family and the Making of a Footballer by Jamie Redknapp

In recent times, Jamie Redknapp has emerged as something of a TV personality, first as a football pundit and later as a captain on the sports comedy panel show A League of Their Own and its spin-off ‘travelogue’ shows, but rewind thirty years and you’re taken back to the start of a very different story that begins with a supremely talented and dedicated young footballer. Jamie Redknapp’s first autobiography takes readers back to that very beginning.

From his earliest days, Jamie Redknapp lives and breathes football, but his is not just your ordinary childhood experience of football. The son of footballer, and later manager, Harry Redknapp, Jamie’s earliest years are spent watching from the side-lines as his dad lines up for Seattle Sounders, Phoenix Fire and Bournemouth against Pele et al, chatting to his dad’s friend Bobby Moore and his uncle Frank Lampard senior, and having a kick-about in the back garden with George Best and later his cousin Frank Lampard. These experiences clearly helped and motivated a young Jamie, but it would be simplistic to think his success was a given. If that were the case, every child of a half-decent footballer would therefore be a pro, but that is far from the reality. Indeed, Jamie’s success actually is something of an anomaly and for those who wonder why more children of footballers themselves don’t become footballers, the book serves as a reminder that there’s more to success in the sport than lineage, genes and even talent. Indeed, Jamie impresses that whilst he may get some ability from his dad, his attitude is very much from his mum, and this combination is integral to his success.

So too, though, is his almost obsessive attitude towards the sport and the hours spent practising. Young Jamie is defined by a certain degree of obsessiveness and dedication that belies his years. He is a very particular and exacting child, and his discipline and focus are evident, and again there is a sense that whilst Jamie may have inherited some talent, it is his character, his drive, which determines his success. The advantage of his early years, of being immersed in football and growing up around the sport, seems to be borne out more in his understanding of the game and its tactics, as well as of team and changing-room culture, rather than the actual playing side. Talent and hard work complement that early context, but there’s always a sense of a combination of factors needed to succeed as a footballer, that genealogy alone won’t suffice. In fact, in some ways, being the son of a footballer seems to bring additional challenges – the expectations to live up to, the pressure of matching up to his dad, the inevitable comparisons, and the taunting by team-mates and opponents alike.

What is also intriguing to see in this account of the life of the son of a footballer is the way Harry treats him. There is never any parental pressure or harsh words, Harry leaves Jamie to it and follows his lead when it comes to Jamie’s career. The title of the autobiography couldn’t be more apt: Me, Family and the Making of a Footballer, for it is clear throughout that there are two loves of young Jamie’s life: football and family. And although family tends to play a part in most autobiographies to some degree, I’ve never had the sense of such a close, loving unit as the Redknapp’s. It’s not just a case of a mention here or there of his family, but a continuous thread throughout the memoir that is rooted in real, authentic respect, affection and love. And whilst Jamie admits to dabbling in the dark arts of football – the little tricks and incursions to thwart an opponent – the lasting impression is of a thoroughly decent human being and nice guy and of a similarly nice family – although some of Harry’s players may question that on the basis of Jamie’s reflections on his temper! There are some lovely words from Harry at the end of the book, about Jamie’s quality, his potential, but also the importance of being a good, honest person, and again this seems to perfectly sum up the qualities of not only Jamie, but the Redknapp’s – that football is important, but that values and family are more important.

The autobiography ends, somewhat unusually, when Jamie is eighteen, having just moved to Liverpool and scored his first goal, and one of my recurring issues with memoirs is that, in condensing a life story into a single book, they can often feel rushed and compressed, so the decision to focus almost microscopically on just Jamie’s formative years is a welcome one, I felt. It gives greater depth and richness to the life story and allows space for this period to be delved into in full. Yet it never drags or feels slowed down by this abbreviated timeframe. Indeed, there is so much to tell that the book easily justifies this approach and only serves to show how other autobiographies perhaps skimp on content and detail by sticking to the full life-story approach. Admittedly, Jamie’s childhood has perhaps more than its fair share of anecdotes and adventures, but it just goes to show that there is so much more to tell in a person’s history. And whilst it may be a good marketing ploy, to get readers to buy more than one book, as presumably there will be a follow-up (or two), I don’t begrudge that at all because the book feels so much richer and more detailed. The only thing I do begrudge if there are subsequent books is the inevitable wait for the next one!

Despite my positive inclination towards the structure of the book, I must admit that I was not wholly convinced by, or satisfied with, the voice of the memoir. For some reason, I didn’t really get a sense of Jamie Redknapp’s voice. Perhaps because he’s so present on TV, it feels as if you know him and his voice and the narrative voice in the autobiography just didn’t seem individual or personalised enough, but it may be a perfectly true reflection; it just didn’t quite hit the right note for me. However, I loved the inclusion of sections from other people from Jamie’s story – not only dad Harry, mum Sandra and brother Mark, but early team-mates, managers and coaches, which really added to the book, and is certainly something other autobiographies could borrow.

Jamie Redknapp’s career may have branched off in recent years and his footballing journey may have been reduced to a story of injuries and what-ifs, but this book is a reminder of Jamie’s talent, his footballing pedigree and his early promise, motivation and success. It is a journey through a young footballer’s life and his desire to make his own mark, but it is also a portrait of a loving family.

Jade Craddock


(Publisher: Headline. October 2020. Hardcover: 336 pages)


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Top Ten Football Books: Jonny Brick

Born in Watford, Jonny Brick was actually raised to support Tottenham Hotspur during the Ledley King years. After spending five years in Scotland and going cold on English football, Jonny chose to wander along to Vicarage Road in 2012, where he saw Watford beat Burnley 3-2 on a sunny Saturday. Having spent most of the 2010s working on a bumper book, A Modern Guide to Modern Football, Jonny chose to promote it via a series of interviews with football readers, writers and reporters. The very first interviewee was the editor of this website.

1 The Collected Works of Mike Calvin

You know how you can have all 37 plays by Shakespeare? If I can have the pentalogy by Mike Calvin in one volume I’d be in heaven. It would also free up four slots in my list. It’s easier for me to lump them all together: Family is the best because you end up caring about Millwall. No Hunger In Paradise, The Nowhere Men and Living On the Volcano argue the case for young players, scouts and managers respectively, while State of Play was written as an update on Arthur Hopcraft’s terrific The Football Man. Hopcraft’s heir is a council estate kid from Watford. A National Treasure.

2 The Billionaires Club by James Montague

Having trotted around the world for his previous two books, James turns his aim on the boardroom. Only someone who loves football so much can pick it apart so greatly and James tries to remain objective in his description of the villains and heroes of English football ownership. What’s going on with Chinese investors in the Midlands? This book shows how the best sausage in the world gets made.

3 Inverting The Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson

When I was supposed to be working on my Masters thesis I was instead gobbling up the scholarly text on tacticians. This is a good introduction to Jon’s fine prose style, mixing fact and witticism, and he has fine-tuned it in ten other books on Hungary, Argentina, the ‘Barcajax’ way of Barcelona and the goalkeepers.

4 The Game of Our Lives by David Goldblatt

His two encyclopaedias, The Ball Is Round and The Age of Football, are intimidating. His social history of England and its football is digestible and fully deserving of its prizes.

5 How To Be A Footballer by Peter Crouch

This is a better class of football memoir, as its sales figures indicate. Tom Fordyce’s long similes sometimes overpower the Ealing-born beanpole but Peter, a rare middle-class footballer, has enough self-deprecation to laugh with and at elite football.

6 Always Managing by Harry Redknapp

A leftfield pick. He might not be able to write his name, but he has written five books. This was the memoir he wrote after leaving management so he could afford to settle scores and be (pun coming up) frank. He’s very good on football in the pre-Premiership era, where you can smell the dubbin on the page.

7 Can We Have Our Football Back by John Nicholson

With the help of pros, broadcasters and critics, Johnny convincingly destroys the case for having a Sky subscription, while making points about society, money and class. He may be a little too hippie for some but he has thousands of admirers from his Football365 columns, of which this is sort of a life’s work. The Hermit of any Football Library.

8 Richer Than God by David Conn

A Manchester City fan holds his nose and investigates his beloved club in the wake of the Abu Dhabi regime winning its first trophies. Success is good, as is the regeneration of Eastlands but at what cost? A perfect warm-up for his book on the Fall of FIFA.

9 Saturday 3pm by Daniel Gray

This is a perfect stocking filler for a nostalgic football fan: 50 vignettes of 500 words or so about the little things that matter about life as a fanatic. A third book is out in time for Christmas 2020. Treat yourself!

10 Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here by Anthony Clavane

The movie Airplane has a gag about Jewish sporting heroes. Anthony extends a ‘pamphlet’ to a book, where the likes of Brian Glanville, David Pleat and Mark Lazarus all come out well. The founding fathers of the Premier League, meanwhile, are both Jewish: David Dein and Irving Scholar. Mazaltov!!

On the Bench

The complete works of Duncan Hamilton, including his books on Clough (Provided You Don’t Kiss Me) and fandom (Going to the Match). Das Reboot by Rafael Hoenigstein, which started with Germany losing 5-1 to England and ended in glory. Futebol by Alex Bellos, an encomium to Jogo Bonito. Lastly, Enjoy the Game by Lionel Birnie, a must for anyone interested in Watford and the Glory Glory Taylor years.

Book Review: It Shouldn’t Happen to a Manager – How to survive the world’s hardest job by Harry Redknapp

Since his stint in the Australian jungle on I’m a Celebrity last year, Harry Redknapp has fast become the nation’s favourite former football manager (unless, of course, you’re a Southampton fan – in which case however many critters Harry ate or dingo dollars he won, he’s probably still not on your Christmas card list). Whatever your thoughts on him, there’s no doubt that he’s certainly a character both on the touchline and off it, and if anyone has a story or two to tell from his footballing career, it’s Harry Redknapp.

Published in 2016, when he was better known as a football manager (still managing Jordan before going on to manage Birmingham City in 2017) rather than a ‘showbiz’ celebrity, It Shouldn’t Happen to a Manager (one of several books to have been published by Harry Redknapp and the most recent aside from his 2019 The World According to Harry) shares some of Harry’s stories from over five decades in football and his views on everything from agents to scouting to the modern obsession with sports science and stats. And, without doubt, there’s a sense in which Harry is one of the old guard of managers who belong to another era when footballers thought nothing of a post-match meal of fish and chips (and a pre-match pint or two), when managers could bawl players out without the threat of them storming off or calling in their agent, and when clubs couldn’t afford to put teams up in hotels for away matches let alone fly them by private jet.

Football has, inevitably, evolved and in lots of ways for the better, but Harry’s simple, common-sense attitude rings true on a number of fronts, not least in his insistence on the need to see a player live to judge them. Videos and stats can show you so much, but there’s nothing that compares to watching a player on a muddy pitch on a cold December day in England to see if they can hack it, as many fans will attest. Similarly, Harry’s concerns about the way that technology can get in the way of team spirit seems to be a simple but accurate truth. Whereas coach journeys, he says, used to be a great opportunity for players to bond, nowadays most players put their headphones on and don’t talk to anyone. He offers a perceptive point, too, about the amount of injuries in the modern game compared with earlier eras, despite the rise of sport science. Whilst he acknowledges the modern game is perhaps faster and more intense, he also points out the physicality of bygone eras, in which players kicked lumps out of each other on pitches that were more like dirt tracks than carpets.

Though in many ways Harry seems to be a product of a different time, in some ways he’s a timeless manager, not least in the emphasis he placed on player management and a holistic approach to understanding and managing individuals. Again, though, simplicity seems to be the key – as in the way he built his “tactics” on getting the ball to the best player! Although, I’m not entirely sure how successful this approach would be in motivating players who clearly know they’re not top dog – but it seemed to work at Bournemouth, Tottenham and Portsmouth. Harry also claims that the gap between divisions isn’t as wide as people think – whilst the quality may be noticeable between teams and leagues, there are individual players who are capable of playing higher up the football pyramid but have got stuck at a certain level. Similarly, Redknapp asserts there are players at top teams who struggle when dropping down the leagues. He seems to advocate the fact that there is a degree of luck, of being in the right place at the right time, on which footballers’ careers are made or broken. And, in much of what he says, Redknapp seems to hit the nail on the head.

In all, this is a really easy and enjoyable read from one of football’s last real characters. It sheds light on life as a football player and manager and the changing face of both. It also holds football’s past up against its present, highlighting the differences, both for better and for worse. At its crux, Redknapp maintains, football is a simple game, but the modern way seems to try and overcomplicate things and the old guard are at the risk of being left behind. But football’s loss has been entertainment’s gain in the form of Harry Redknapp, who comes across as an eminently likeable, straightforward and down-to-earth man – just the sort perhaps that seems to be missing in large part from football today.

Jade Craddock

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2010/11: The England Job – runners and riders

When new football season kicks off in August 2012, England will have hosted the Olympic Games and the European Championships in Poland/Ukraine will be a distant memory. What we also know is that England will have a new International Manager. Now assuming that England qualify for the tournament and Capello isn’t sacked before then, the highest paid International Manager will step down from the job in 2012. In all likelihood and without wishing to be defeatist, that will be without England taking the European crown in 2012.

Already we have seen “candidates” throw their hat into the ring and there seems an inevitability that the next incumbent will be English. My concern about anybody declaring their hand this early is with regard to their focus on their current role. If a manager is thinking about another job elsewhere, even in two years time, it must act as a distraction. As a Chairman or a fan, I would be worried that any uncertainty would spread through the club and translate to the players. Would this for instance affect players signing for a club, if they thought the manager would be leaving? Some may argue that the possibility of the England job would spur on the manager to achieve even more at the club they are currently with. Unfortunately, as I’ve said I see it as a point of distraction.

So what of those English managers in the frame? Can somebody explain the role of Stuart Pearce? Is he genuinely being groomed as the next England manager? Pearce holds the position of Under 21 Manager and has had some success with the team. However, the images of Pearce beside Capello in South Africa and the inane “explanation” of the antics by Pearce, leave me with the impression that he is no more than a jester in Capello’s Commedia dell’Arte, and that the ex-Forest man will be gone once the Italian departs the stage.

Then we have Henry James Redknapp, who has managed Bournemnouth, West Ham, Portsmouth, Southampton and Tottenham. “Harry” has had some success along the way at these clubs, with the FA Cup win at Portsmouth his major prize and  taking Spurs into the Champions League this season. Is it coincidence that the clubs Redknapp has managed have gone on to suffer serious financial problems?   Add in the corruption allegations that have dogged him since the Panorama investigation of 2006 to the point of him being charged in January 2010 with two counts of cheating the public revenue and his suitability for the England job starts to look a little tatty around the edges. Although it never stopped El Tel……

Then we have Samuel Allardyce, who in his time has managed at Limerick, Blackpool, Notts County, Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United, with his current posting at Blackburn Rovers. His darling of the media reputation as all things good about English mangers was built at Bolton. However, he has never won any of the major domestic honours as a manager and the style of football was and still is direct to say the least. Some will argue he did well with limited resources for the Trotters, but is that a major criteria for a future England Manager? Then like Mr Redknapp, “Big Sam” was featured in the football bribery expose by Panorama in 2006 and so a whiff of corruption also lingers around Mr Allardyce.

Roy Hodgson has not put his name forward, and that is the mark of this modest and respected football figure. He has International and European experience, although his detractors may argue he has got teams to Finals, but ultimately his teams haven’t  gone on to take the trophy. If he manages to work his magic at Anfield, how likely would Liverpool be to release him after the barren years on Merseyside?

That’s part of the joy of football – the speculation. Memo to all: gentleman, concentrate on the job in hand and see what you can achieve.

2012 what an interesting year it could be……