Sport

Harry Redknapp on the art of managing difficult players

Harry Redknapp has managed more games of football than you've had cooked breakfasts. And he's probably had more of those than you too (see evidence above).

So with that vast experience to draw on, we spoke to Harry to see if he could offer us some management tips: specifically, how to deal with people who care about money more than success, how to deal with disruptive influences, and how to stop egos from spiralling out of control.

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Pep's reportedly getting rid of bad apples at Man City. Did you ever do that?

"I think everybody goes into a club and you look at the staff and you realise - especially if it's underachieved a little bit, or it's underachieved - you look round and you soon get to know it, even before you go in.

"Maybe it's different for Guardiola but when you're in England, there's always certain players that you hear about. The most important thing at any football club is a good dressing room. You need a lot of lads that are gonna pull together and stick together - if you've got one or two lads in there who cause problems or y'know - are anti, moan about everything, whatever you do is wrong, whatever the club does is wrong - they pull everybody else down. They suck all the energy out of everybody else so you've got to get them out of there, otherwise they'll destroy the club and destroy everything, y'know?"

Does players earning more than managers make it more difficult to control them?

"Not really, no, you're the boss whatever way you look at it. There's a different relationship now between managers and players; now players deal with their agents, their agents almost run their lives - if there's a problem, the agent rings the chairman or the chief executive and complains about the manager not picking them. The player doesn't knock on the manager's door very often any more - 'why aren't I playing gaffer, what's wrong?' - they just get their agent to ring the chairman. Agents have relationships with chairman and chief executives, not managers."

It must be tremendously frustrating, for you as a manager, to have to deal with that extra layer of bureaucracy?

"Yeah, it's gone. There's nothing you can do now. They bypass you, they go straight to the chairman or to the chief executive. It's a changing game out there. Half the managers are not even picking players that they signed, they're picking other people's. Years ago the manager signed every player - you went and watched the player play Tuesday night or Wednesday night - now the players all come from foreign countries, all being recommended by the chairman who's got an agent who's telling him about someone, or a chief executive who's got the agents on the phone - it's a changing world at the top level, the Premier League level now.

"You're signing players from Argentina, from Brazil, from everywhere - how d'you get to watch them play as a manager? When you gonna watch them? You can't. You can't go and watch them in real life, you can only watch videos - you're playing every Saturday. How you gonna get to Argentina and watch a game Saturday night or Sunday morning? You can't. So you're relying on your head of recruitment, or what used to be called a chief scout. Now he's got a fancy name - looking at stats - it's like moneyball."

Have you ever employed a spy - a trusted player to let you know what's going on?

"No, not really, no. You're not in the dressing room but you get to hear - you'll always have good pros in there who'll say 'well, y'know'... you get to know pretty much what's going on there - and the coaches get to hear more than the manager maybe, because the players might talk to them a bit more - open up to them.

"You get to know who's your problem and who's not. You've only got to look at them, you've only got to look round the place, you've only got to sit on the bench, even if some of them are not playing you look behind at their faces when you score and they're not with you, they're not with the team, they're not happy. They're sitting there. You've got all your fans live and die, pay all their money to come and you've got one or two of them who really, probably don't even want you to win. You've got to get them out of the club and I don't know if Guardiola's got any like that but if he has, he'll soon get rid of them."

What's your tactic if you can't get rid of them - if they've got another year of their contract and no one else wants them?

"It's very difficult. Some managers will send them over to train with the youth team and that type of thing - only if they're very, very, very bad would I ever even think of doing that because I don't like to do it, so you try to keep them on board, but in the end if you realise that they are causing too many problems then you really have to let them to train away from the first time - train with the under-21s or the reserves and keep them away from the group."

How difficult is it when those players are incredibly talented? How much do you try and accommodate them?

"Well you try your best to accommodate them, because you need your best players; you don't want them all to be choirboys but you do want them to be part of the team, that's all you ask for. They get well paid, a great way to make a living, just be part of the team. If you're not happy, and you don't want to be part of the team, then get your agent and get him working and get networking and see if he can find another club."

A famous example was when you managed Adel Taraabt at QPR - do you still think you did the right thing when you called him out publicly? Do you stand by that?

"Yeah, absolutely. Getting £70,000 a week to play football. When you're a footballer, you have to get fit and live like a footballer and train properly and turn up on time. You have to be fit enough to play, you have to do a preseason to get fit. Listen, I'm not the only one - he's gone to Benfica and hasn't played one game. It's not only me, it was other people before me had the same... I didn't let him go in the end, Chris Ramsay let him go, he took over - Les Ferdinand saw the problems when he was there. It's a shame because he has got talent, he's got great creative skill, good ability but at the end of the day he's probably played about 10 games in the last six years."

Alex Ferguson never criticised a player in public no matter how bad they'd done - why do you think he was able to get away with that tactic?

"Well he certainly bombed a few people out over the years, he got rid of them as soon as there was a fall-out or anything, he just got them out of the building. Jaap Stam was gone overnight because he criticised them - he was the best centre-half in the league but suddenly he was gone. Van Nistelrooy went suddenly, you know? Fergie got rid of Roy Keane, who had been his captain, leader and everything - suddenly Roy Keane was out the door, because he obviously wasn't happy with something that was going on.

"It depends how badly they behave and what you've got to put up with - in the end, why should you keep hiding them up from the public who are paying them their £70,000 or £80,000 a week wages and never playing, and you keep going, 'well, yeah, he's a good lad and he's training well' - why shouldn't the people know? 'No, he don't train, he's out all night in nightclubs or he's doing whatever he's doing' - tell it how it is. You can't keep flanneling people all the time."

Paul Pogba's just joined Manchester United - world record transfer fee, he's only 23 - how on earth do you control the ego of someone like that? How would you go about doing that?

"Well I'm sure Jose won't have anyone there with a bigger ego than him, will he? He'll make sure that he keeps him in check. Jose'll know how to handle him, he's handled big players - he's not gonna misbehave. He's got Rooney there, he's got Ibrahimovich there - he's gonna know his place with them two."

What was your sort of tactic - nothing wrong with the kid, but when you go for that sort of money, you're bound to get a big head - what was your tactic?

"Well the boys I had didn't have big heads - Rio Ferdinand wasn't a big head, nor was Frank Lampard, nor was Joe Cole, nor was Michael Carrick, nor was Jermain Defoe or Glen Johnson - I had them all as kids come through the youth team at West Ham. Gareth Bale wasn't a big head and he was a fantastic player, nor was Luka Modric. You don't have to be a big head. I played with Bobby Moore, he wasn't a big head, I met Bobby Charlton - one of the greatest players ever - and he wasn't a big head, you don't have to be flash or lairy."

How would you deal these days with social media and stuff like that - do you allow the players a bit of freedom, or none at all?

"I don't do social media, I don't know what it is really. I don't see it, because I'm not into it, I don't even know what they're doing. I got to be honest with you, if someone said to me he's on Twitter, I don't even know what Twitter is. It don't interest me really, y'know?" (NB. 'Harry' is on Twitter @redknapp)

As well as players with lots of money, there's the rise of the mega-rich chairman (eg. Sheikh Mansour) with astonishing wealth, even lower down the league. As a manager, how do you deal with a difficult chairman like that, who perhaps doesn't understand the game, wants to throw money at anything? Are you confrontational, or do you go softly-softly?