Why Harry Redknapp is no more guilty of tapping up than every other manager in the Premier League. By John Cross
Published 11:26 29/01/09 By By John Cross
Put yourself in Harry Redknapp's shoes for a moment.
You have a dozen or so journalists in front of you at a press conference and they are all taking it in turns to ask whether you are interested in signing a particular player.
Go on then, you find a way round it. It's hard to duck the issue.
Harry answers the question, admits he likes the player and then tries to appease the opposing chairman or manager at the end by putting a rider at the end by saying he's their player so it's up to them.
And what else is Harry supposed to say? And do you really think, as a bunch of journalists, we'd let him say nothing? No, of course not.
So we keep battering away until Harry says along the lines of: "yes, he's a player I really like, he's fantastic, I'd love to have him here but he's Liverpool's/West Ham's/Portsmouth's/Sunderland's player and it's up to them."
That then is branded as "tapping-up" by the team on the opposite side of the fence. Which, I have to say, is partly our fault and I feel a little bit sorry for Harry.
But the Daily Mirror's brilliant readers love the transfer tittle tattle and who wants to sign who, and if you support the other club then Harry becomes the man you love to hate.
Where Harry perhaps goes too far is that he will give you the extra sentence of quotes, pushes it on more than most.
For example, Arsene Wenger was asked on Tuesday about Micah Richards and whether newspaper stories were right that he'd made a bid. "I like him as a player," came Wenger's reply. "But I have not made a bid."
What is wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. Can Manchester City be unhappy with that? Not really.
So why did the Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia get so upset with Tottenham over their pursuit of Kenwyne Jones? Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson also got the hump over Tottenham's attempts to sign Stewart Downing.
And, for that matter, why did the West Ham chief executive Scott Duxbury become so incensed with Tottenham's pursuit of Craig Bellamy that he this week promised never to do business with them again?
Are you seriously telling me that West Ham - during their recent, albeit brief, boom times before the Icelandic banks collapsed - did not get in similar squabbles with rivals clubs? Oh, please.
West Ham's very public pursuit of Matt Upson left former Birmingham manager Steve Bruce incensed two Januarys ago.
This time Bruce is incensed at what he sees as a carve up between Manchester City and Tottenham's "disgusting behaviour" in unsettling Wilson Palacios who ended up at White Hart Lane.
Tapping up. The fact of the matter is that everyone in football is at it. The FA knows it, the clubs know it, the managers know it and the players certainly know it.
It's gone on for years, dating back to when Chelsea chairman Ken Bates called Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson to try and take him to Stamford Bridge.
These days it's done left, right and centre. From Harry Redknapp's comments in the papers about Robbie Keane to Ashley Cole famously meeting Chelsea behind Arsenal's backs.
That left Arsene Wenger incensed at the time. But Arsenal have been known to show prospective purchases around their training ground. I'm given to believe Andrei Arshavin's already had a tour and two England internationals in the recent past, too.
But in any other walk of life, in any other industry, you go and meet the prospective employer over lunch, you get a look round the office and then they make you an offer even though you're employed by somewhere else. It's so common that it's even happened to me.
So why not football? Can we really stop Luiz Felipe Scolari from ringing up Robinho to have a chat? Is there anything really wrong in that, bearing in mind that Scolari has a relationship with him from when he was Brazil boss.
We love Harry's comments and we love Harry in the media. He's always great value. But he didn't say much about Kenwyne Jones publicly at all.
So why did Sbragia have the hump? There surely cannot be too much wrong with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy ringing up his counterpart at Sunderland, Niall Quinn, and asking him whether Jones is for sale.
If the suggestion is that Tottenham unsettled Jones directly, then they made a pretty bad job of it as he's now signed a new four-and-a-half year contract at Sunderland.
The same goes for Tottenham and their attempt to sign Downing. Levy rang his counterpart Steve Gibson. It didn't work.
Tottenham have, however, been beating themselves up over where all the leaks have come from in the press.
But Harry is very media savvy, we journalists are relentless in our pursuit of contacts, agents and stories during January, and it just so happens that Tottenham have been very busy, so inevitably there have been more stories about them than most.
But that's our job to get the stories and clubs are a bit naive if they think it's managers or agents getting on the phone every two minutes to feed us a story.
You do your job and we'll do ours. If these stories are upsetting people at the moment then it probably means that the truth hurts.
But these clubs with the holier than thou attitude really should take a close look at themselves.
Because I guarantee that there's not one club in the Premier League who haven't done what Tottenham routinely do.
See a player, want to sign him, get on the phone to the agent (OK, sometimes it's the player direct), see if he's available and then ring up the chairman to see whether they will sell.
If there's anything wrong in that then the FA may as well find all 20 Premier League clubs guilty of "tapping-up."
Read the rest of John Cross' column here - and come back every Thursday for more