Harry Redknapp has revealed that he once took charge of a game with £30,000 in cash burning a hole in his tracksuit bottoms.
The incredible turn of events occurred while Redknapp was in charge of Portsmouth in the Championship - then called the First Division - and his star turn, Paul Merson, had run into betting difficulties with what Merson called an “Irish mob”.
Merson had dropped down a division to sign for the south coast club from Aston Villa and, in doing so, had seen a cut in wages from £20,000-a-week to £5,000.
So imagine Redknapp’s shock when the former Arsenal man came to see him before a match with an odd request:
"He came into the dressing room with a big, brown bag full of readies. ‘Would you look after this for me, gaffer?’ he asked," Redknapp wrote in his new autobiography, which is being serialised in the Daily Mail.
"‘It’s 30 grand. It’s for a bookmaker, an Irish mob. They’re after me and I’ve got to meet them after the game. Will you look after it for me until then?’"
The former Arsenal star, who has admitted to long term alcohol and gambling issues, was Redknapp's star player at the time, and so his boss agreed happily - but the plan almost backfired.
Unable to leave such a sum in the changing room, Redknapp slipped out of his usual suit and tie combo and into a tracksuit number, "so there was more room to conceal these readies."
All was well until Redknapp, a passionate character in the dugout, leapt from his seat to try to get a message to his players on the pitch. And that was when things began to get complicated.
"I sprung out of my seat on the touchline. As I did, I felt something move," Redknapp continues.
"I could feel Merson's 30 grand making its way south along my trouser leg. I looked down and the notes were coming out the bottom of my trousers."
The quick-thinking manager came up with a brilliant scheme to disguise what was going on, however.
"I edged back to my seat like a bloke who needed the toilet quickly”, he explains, an idea which very nearly prompted his backroom staff to call a doctor as the manager sat prone in his position until the end of the game.
However, all is well that ends well. Redknapp managed to persuade his concerned staff that there was nothing wrong with him, while Portsmouth won 5-0 thanks to a virtuoso display from Merson ("he got cheered off by the Millwall punters, he was that good").
And that was only the start of the day's good news for Merson: it turned out that Merson actually owed "the Irish mob" £100,000, but agreed to cut their losses after he paid up the £30,000.
- Sports & Recreation
- Harry Redknapp
- Paul Merson