In the Media

Redknapp trial: how Harry held court for three compelling weeks

PUBLISHED February 8, 2012

Harry Redknapp's already larger-than-life personality only seemed magnified when he stepped into the witness box

Even by the seldom conventional standards of the professional football world, the saga of bonuses, offshore bank accounts and a beloved bulldog that has unfolded in the sober confines of Southwark crown court over the last three weeks has been a remarkable one.

As well as lessons in the minutiae of international banking and glimpses of Premier League power play, the jury of eight men and four women has been treated to tales of a lanky but "still growing" striker named Peter Crouch; a young tech entrepreneur called Steve Jobs; and a News of the World reporter who was threatened with the unusual penalty of having his bollocks sued off.

Scarcely less eclectic were the places mentioned during the proceedings in court, from the mountains of Croatia to a booming Silicon Valley, from the impoverished East End of London to expensive property developments in Portugal, and from the beach at Monaco to a Little Chef outside Portsmouth.

Although the two men sat side by side as defendants, the gaze of both public and press fell not on the self-made Serbian-American tycoon Milan Mandaric, but on Henry James Redknapp, better known as Harry ? or 'Arry, depending on your paper of choice.

The fascination with Redknapp is not difficult to fathom. The 64-year-old Tottenham Hotspur boss, who has been a compelling and controversial figure in English football management for more than three decades, appeared to be exactly the same man in the dock as he is in the dugout and on the TV screen.

Whether smiling and gesticulating at Mandaric or sidling over to the press bench to chat and joke with reporters before the proceedings began, Redknapp remained jovial and relaxed for the majority of his time in court. Stepping into the witness box appeared only to magnify his personality: the Harry Redknapp who gave hours of evidence was by turns funny and menacing, sarcastic and defensive, modest and arrogant, petulant and charismatic.

At the beginning of the trial, the court was told that Redknapp felt he was all too often made a convenient cockney scapegoat for the sins of others. His plaintive assertion ? "if there's any mud to be thrown, I seem to be on the end of it for some reason" ? was supported by a friend who had once apparently told him: "Harry, I can't believe it's always you. The problem with you is you're named Harry and you have a cockney accent."

Redknapp referred to his humble beginnings in Poplar on several occasions, telling the prosecution he had a very real appreciation of just how large the sums mentioned in court were. "I was brought up in the East End of London ? in a very poor family," he said. "I know it's a lot of money." He was also happy to share his educational, technological and financial shortcomings ? the last of which formed the basis of much of his defence.

"I write like a two-year-old," he told officers in a tape played to the court. "I can't spell." Nor, he continued, could he work a computer or send a fax, email or text message. In fact, his life had to be run by his accountant as he was "completely and utterly disorganised" ? far too disorganised, he added, to be in a position to "fiddle taxes".

He was equally scathing about his investment history, describing himself as "a bit of a gambler" who had once nearly wiped out his son Jamie, and even going so far as to urge detectives to ask his solicitor if he had "ever come across anyone as bad, business-wise".

He offered up a further example of his lack of economic nous: his failure to notice that the Sun had not paid him for his column for 18 months.

His personal banker also conceded that Redknapp was perhaps not the most financially savvy individual he had dealt with. Although Alan Hills did not go quite as far as Redknapp's barrister in characterising the football boss's business sense as "disastrous", he admitted Redknapp's decision to invest ?250,000 in a failed bid to take over Oxford United ? money that was never to be seen again ? had been "very unsuccessful".

Redknapp's testimony, however, was not all self-deprecation. "I'm a fantastic football manager," he said at one point, "[but] I'm not a hard-headed businessman."

He also found time to boast, joke and to lash out at the prosecution and the police.

Repeated mention of Crouch ? whose profitable sale to Aston Villa in 2002 was central to the case ? permitted Redknapp to indulge in good-natured digs at Mandaric, who had dismissed the striker as "a basketball player" because of his height.

"Crouchy at 6ft 7 was not exactly his cup of tea," Redknapp deadpanned. "I said 'I like him, he's a good player'. I said to [Mandaric], he's a good investment, he's young, he's developing, he's getting taller."

Laughter also broke out in court when Redknapp mischievously suggested that Mandaric's QC, Lord (Ken) Macdonald, was no fan of his ? "well, he's an Arsenal supporter, isn't he?" ? and when he confessed to being more interested in watching David Beckham than keeping an eye on his finances.

Odder still was the exchange that followed Redknapp's explanation that he had chosen the password of his Monaco bank account ? Rosie47 ? to honour his late bulldog Rosie, whom he "loved to bits".

The numbers, he went on, referred to the year of his birth ? 1947 ? and had been added after he was informed that another customer at the bank had a similar password.

When the prosecutor, John Black QC, jokingly wondered whether that customer also had a dog by the same name, Redknapp expressed indignation. "Please, Mr Black, it could be someone's wife," he said, before pausing for a moment's reflection and adding: "If she was as nice as Rosie they have got a good wife."

At times, though, Redknapp was visibly antagonised by Black's cross-examination, accusing the barrister of wandering into a labyrinth of bonus conspiracies.

"You've got three different bonuses," he said. "You don't seem to know where you're going with it."

Twice during his evidence, Redknapp lost his temper. The first time came when he broke off from what he was saying to accuse DI Dave Manley ? the detective who led the City of London police's investigation into alleged football corruption ? of trying to distract him from the well of the court.

"Mr Manley, will you please stop staring at me," he barked at the seated officer. "I know you are trying to cause me a problem, OK?"

The second occasion came when Black accused him of telling "a pack of lies" while under oath by insisting Mandaric had paid the money into his Monaco account as a gesture of friendship and not as a means of avoiding tax.

"That's an insult, Mr Black, that's an insult," Redknapp retorted. All the evidence he had given had been "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God".

Mandaric, in c
ontrast, refused to yield to the pressure of Black's questioning. Pushed again and again to admit that the money he paid to Redknapp's Monaco account was a reward for the Crouch transfer and an attempt to dodge tax, the current Sheffield Wednesday owner merely shook his head.

"We can go over and over, Mr Black," he said. "I respect your job and everything but I cannot deviate from the truth. Simple as that."

Mandaric also told the jury of the sadness and damage the allegations had caused him, his family ? and his affection for the sport.

"Unfortunately my enthusiastic tank is going down to empty," he said. "It's really sad that I have to defend that for the simple reason that I came here 12 years ago with a lot of enthusiasm for football."

Aside from the pair of young women who crept into court one afternoon hoping for a glimpse of the dashing Jamie Redknapp, neither love for Redknapp senior nor devotion to Tottenham Hotspur was in short supply during the trial.

The public gallery was thronged with fans, at least one of whom had wrapped himself in a scarf whose ends were embroidered with the Spurs motto: Audere est facere.

But even so, the appearance in the dock of two titans such as Harry Redknapp and Milan Mandaric seemed to have given at least one middle-aged man sitting in the gallery reason to ponder the increasingly transient beauty of the game.

"It's a business these days, not a sport," he sighed to his companion, who answered with a weary nod. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds