Redknapp can focus on the game again

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Behind a likeable personality and a taste for comic one-liners, Harry Redknapp is an outstanding football manager with superb man-management skills, capable of bringing out the best in players.

After being found not guilty of tax evasion by a London court on Wednesday, Redknapp is now the hot favourite to succeed Italian Fabio Capello as England manager.

Standing on the steps of Southwark Crown Court after being cleared of two charges by a unanimous jury verdict, the 64-year-old Tottenham Hotspur manager said he was pleased his ordeal was over.

"It really has been a nightmare, I've got to be honest; it's been five years and this case should never have come to court. It was horrendous. I'm pleased we can go home and get on with my life."

Redknapp, who grew up in London's East End, fell in love with football watching his father play in amateur matches and says he would have become a docker like him if he had not been blessed with football talent himself.

As a gifted schoolboy he trained with Spurs but never played for the club, instead making his name as a tricky winger with West Ham United, where he played in the same team as England's 1966 World Cup winners Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.

He moved into management with Bournemouth, then West Ham, Portsmouth - where he had two spells and won the FA Cup in 2008 - and Southampton before returning to take over at Tottenham when the team were bottom of the Premier League and heading for relegation in October 2008.

Since then he has transformed the club, taking them into the Champions League for the first time last season. This season they are third in the table, staking a claim for their first English title for 51 years and apparently heading back to the Champions League.

Redknapp, who had been charged with cheating Britain's public revenue in relation to payments totalling $295,000 made to his bank account in Monaco during his time as Portsmouth manager, comes across as a man without pretence.

He utterly rejects one view of him as a "wheeler-dealer" and, in a rare show of public anger, curtailed a television interview with a reporter who suggested he was.

The jury at his trial heard Redknapp say that he had never sent an email or text in his life and was the "most disorganised person in the world."

"You talk to anybody at the football club. I don't write. I couldn't even fill a team sheet in," Redknapp said in a taped police interview played in court.

LIGHTER SIDE

After steering Spurs to a safe eighth-place finish in his first season, Redknapp played down his part in their survival.

"We needed to change, I moved a few players on and brought some in," he said, to the delight of Spurs fans who regard him as the best manager they have had since Keith Burkinshaw guided the club to FA Cup final and European success 30 years ago.

Always ready with humour, Redknapp saw the lighter side of things even while his trail was going on.

After the first week, Spurs played an FA Cup match at Watford and were lucky to win 1-0 after one of their worst displays of the season.

"We were absolutely brilliant, magnificent, out-of-this world, outstanding," Redknapp said dead-pan at the start of his post-match news conference to the confusion of the reporters present, before bursting into a big grin and telling them: "How we won that game I will never know.

"They say it's better to be lucky than good... and tonight we were lucky, we weren't good."

Redknapp famously lambasted striker Darren Bent for missing an easy chance in a match at White Hart Lane, saying "My wife Sandra could have scored that," before selling Bent to Sunderland soon afterwards.

His son Jamie, a former England international and Liverpool and Spurs player, was at court most days with him and Redknapp's close-knit family is hugely important in his life.

His press briefings are sprinkled with remarks about getting home for a "bacon sandwich with Sandra" and add another dimension to a man in a sport where some managers come across as cardboard cutouts.

His view of life is different from many other men too, possibly because he survived an horrific car crash in which four people died during the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy.

Managing third-division Bournemouth at the time, he was in a car with his close friend and the club's managing director Brian Tiler when they were hit by a speeding vehicle driven by a drunk Italian teenager who died along with his two friends.

"It changed me," he said afterwards. "I said at the time, I would never get so uptight about football again. It was amazing I survived.

"I still get distraught on a Saturday night when we get beaten, but that was a terrible experience. Luckily enough I was unconscious and I don't really remember a thing about it."

Now that the trial is over, Redknapp's immediate focus is Spurs' home match with Newcastle United on Saturday.

Spurs fans will undoubtedly chant his name in support as they did during their last match against Wigan which, he admitted on the steps of the court, touched him deeply.