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Sep 11, 2009

Harry Redknapp supports Arsenal!

Harry Redknapp is associated intrinsically with West Ham United, so it was refreshing for Spurs fans to realise how much the White Hart Lane club are in his blood.

As a kid he trained with Spurs, met the club's greatest legend, Bill Nicholson and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Dave Mackay, John White, Danny Blanchflower and Cliff Jones.

• Harry still has eyes for England

But then he went and spoilt it all when he confessed, "I'm an Arsenal fan!" Oh no, can't be.

Well, no need to panic. Quality time spent in Redknapp's company and the real Harry comes to the surface, with more than a touch of Spurs pumping through his veins. The good news for Spurs fans is that this Arsenal supporter truly has a deep and meaningful relationship with the Tottenham traditions.

I caught up with Harry for an exclusive interview when researching my latest book, appropriately called "Down Memory Lane".

Interesting, in some of the feedback from one of my first Soccernet columns this week, one reader accused me of being a Liverpool fan because I dared to criticised the "untouchable" Sir Alex Ferguson. I seem to be on the Old Trafford hit list with a couple of columns about Wayne Rooney's role in the England set up.

I had better come clean. I have nothing but admiration for Manchester United and, among my 60 books, I have written a biography of Sir Alex. So, it's with enormous interest I am looking forward to the clash between Spurs and United, coincidentally being screened live on ESPN. And, I think the title of my book Down Memory Lane might be a bit of a giveaway as to my real allegiance.

Anyway, back to the plot. And my face-to-face with Redknapp, or should it be entitled "When Harry Met Harry"!

Of course, there's Hammers in his soul, after all he played for the East London club and managed them too. Arsenal are in his heart, because his dad supported the Gunners and took him to Highbury as a kid. But Spurs formed much of the fabric of life of an impressionable young footballer.

Throw in a huge lump of Portsmouth, where he won the FA Cup, and a touch of Southampton and Bournemouth, and there lies a real mixed up character. Harry Redknapp is passionate about everything he has done and plans to do in football.

"My dad was Arsenal mad," recalls Harry. "And as a mad Arsenal fan he took me along to watch Arsenal, so Arsenal were the team I supported as a kid.

"But when I was 11, and playing for East London Schools, Spurs' scout Dickie Walker spotted me playing at the Old Den against Wandsworth Boys and Dickie Walker came over to my dad and said, 'hello, I'm Dickie Walker the Spurs scout, your son has what it takes'.

"Dickie Walker asked to see my dad for a chat and I ended up the next four years at Spurs training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tony Marchi took the kids and Bill Nicholson had time for us boys and that's where I first met Bill Nicholson. During the school holidays I would train at Cheshunt where I first came into contact with the likes of Dave Mackay and Danny Blanchflower.

"I ended up following all their games, especially the European midweek ties which were something special in those days; when Spurs played against sides like Gornick and Bobby Smith terrorised opposing goalkeepers the only way Bobby Smith could.

"I ended up at West Ham and people think they are my club. In many ways they were when I played there with Bobby Moore at the age of 15, but now Spurs are 1000% my club."

Harry nearly took the Newcastle United job, but opted out at the last minute, and has found his way to the Lane, potentially his first really giant club, although everyone appreciates they are one of those Newcastle-type of sleeping giants, albeit with the occasional trophy (whereas silverware of any sort eludes St James' Park).

Now the Geordies are down and fighting to get back into the big time, but for Harry Redknapp there cannot be a much bigger game than to entertain Manchester United at White Hart Lane. And if he can put Sir Alex's champions to the sword, there will be real optimism that this could be Spurs' season to savour.

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