EXCLUSIVE: Jermain Defoe on the magic of Redknapp
Published 23:01 09/02/12 By Darren Lewis
The spotlight is on Tottenham Hotspur like never before, but Jermain Defoe says there is a reason why they have become the Premier League’s most watchable club...
While Spurs are chasing the Premier League title, England are hunting their manager. But Wembley chiefs will find the club don’t want him to go.
Defoe was a teenager at the West Ham academy when he first met Redknapp, and he has played under him at not just the Hammers but also Portsmouth before teaming up with him at Tottenham.
And he says: “Some people just have a presence - an aura about them that inspires you to perform.
“That’s what Harry has. He is one of those managers that wants you to express yourself. To enjoy the game, work hard for the team, stick together and win football matches. It's as simple as that.
“He always seems to get the best out of his players. Whether it is players coming to the end of their career who come to the club and kick on to another level, or young players who step up.
“It’s that presence he has. When you play for him, you know that you have to give him 100 per cent. He always stresses how important it is to realise how important we are in life.
“He tells us, ‘You are in a fantastic position in your life. You are doing something you love.’ And yes, we are living the dream. He is a top manager.”
Defoe was speaking as he helped four aspiring coaches lead a class at nearby Northumberland Park School in his role as ambassador for the E18teen project.
The scheme helps 16-to-19-year-olds who are in care or have left care to find education, employment and training, and is a success story for the London boroughs of Enfield, Barnet, Haringey and Walthamstow.
Defoe said: “The good thing about this project is that the kids can come to the training ground and even if it means they sit down with me for 10 or 20 minutes I am always there.”
Redknapp has always been there for Defoe on his steady ascent from famed West Ham academy to international striker with a Premier League title in his sights.
The frontman went on: “I remember when I was at West Ham and the confidence he gave me. No matter how good a player you are, when you have a manager who gives you confidence it makes so much of a difference.
“When I was just 16, I’d be training with the youth team and every day he would call me over and tell me I was training with the first team.
“You can imagine, at 16, playing against defenders like Rio Ferdinand, who had already played for England, and Tomas Repka.
“But Harry likes to give young kids an opportunity to do well. He is one of those managers where it doesn’t matter how young you are. If you are good enough you are playing.
“At West Ham he sent me on loan to Bournemouth. He didn’t want me playing in the reserves. He’d always come to the games as well. Every home game he was there. I’ve always remembered that support.
“I even remember doing finishing with the first team at West Ham when I was 16. I volleyed one into the bottom corner and Harry turned to the senior pros and said: ‘That’s how you need to finish. Finish like that young kid there.”
“I was 16 and the first team manager was telling his players, internationals, to finish like me.
“As you can imagine I went home and phoned all of my friends. I will never forget that. It builds confidence. You go into training the next day and it helps your development.”
Spurs face a tough task this weekend against a Newcastle side gunning for a Champions League place under Alan Pardew.
Defoe said: “I played for Alan for a short while at West Ham. He’s a really good coach, really hands on with the players from.
“Up front, Papiss Cisse is a good player who has got off to a great start with a fantastic goal against Aston Villa last week.
“But Demba Ba hasn’t surprised me at all. I remember watching him at West Ham thinking, ‘This guy is a natural goalscorer.’ Even half-chances he scores. He will score goals anywhere.
“But we are blessed with great centre-halves and, having Scott Parker in front of them as well, I think Newcastle will know its going to be a difficult game.”
E18HTEEN involves Jermain Defoe as an active ambassador, positive role model and mentor to a group of young people aged 16 – 19 years who are either in care or are care leavers.
The project is run by the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation in partnership with the GLA and the London Boroughs of Haringey, Enfield,Waltham Forest and Barnet.
Each young person involved has been identified as NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and E18HTEEN has offered them a life-changing opportunity.
E18HTEEN provides an individually tailored learning and development programme with the objective of keeping them in or getting them back into training, education and employment.
This includes access to 18 separate training and life skill workshops and 18 different sports.
Each young person has been assigned a dedicated Youth Mentor to help them identify and access opportunities that interest them.
Jermain has put his name to the project and plays an active role in supporting the young people involved.
The Tottenham Hotspur Foundation uses the power of football to create opportunities that change lives for people in the Club’s community.