Development Coach; Assistant First Team Coach, Tottenham, 2003-2012
We’d taken only two points from eight games under Juande Ramos in 2008/09 when Harry Redknapp came in.
I’d not been involved directly with Ramos, because I was with the reserve team. But Harry – he’d always called me ‘Clivey’ since I’d played for him at West Ham – said to me: “Clivey, what’s going on? This is ridiculous with this group.”
“Look, they’re playing scared, Harry.”
Ramos (below) was black and white. If you were in and part of his group, you were in. If you made a mistake and he cast you aside, you were out.
Harry picked up on that straight away, and got the group together. “You’re far better than the points you’ve got.”
You could sense a weight had been lifted. Harry started to get results; the players were liberated, and went from strength to strength. He also asked me to work with the first team – it was fantastic to be a part of.
Things moved forwards very quickly – it started from the first game, when we beat Bolton. Then we came from behind to draw 4-4 at Arsenal, which was a sign of what was to come. That laid the foundations for how he wanted the team to play. It was going to be exciting.
There were three coaches – me, Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond. We worked on specific areas of the team, and Harry oversaw that.
It was a group that worked together, and because it wasn’t always the same voice, the players responded. Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe (both below) were particularly tireless in their pursuit of improving. As a former striker, I had a really good rapport with them.
"Harry comes in, and changes the strikers from what we thought it was going to be. It wasn't what he'd said"
The signs were quickly there. We made progress and, from bottom of the league, we eventually finished eighth. We were moving.
The following season, we had a real ambition and intent to get into the top four, because that is where we felt we were capable of getting to. You don’t tell the players that, but certainly as a staff we were thinking: “We’ve got a chance.”
Harry instilled that in the team without saying it to them.
It went down to the penultimate match of the season, at Manchester City. The routine was kept the same – it wasn’t until the week before that we knew we needed to win.
As we always did, three hours before Harry announced the team, we assembled as a staff before the pre-match meal to talk about how the match was shaping up: who was fit; who’d be marking who; and what we were doing at set-pieces.
I remember going into the meeting used to name the team, thinking it was going to be a certain shape and certain individuals. Harry then comes in, and changes the strikers from what we thought it was going to be. I sat there and looked at Joe; Joe looked at me and shook his head. This wasn’t what Harry had said an hour ago.
We got to the Etihad, where Joe checked with him. The decision Harry had made was that Peter Crouch would play. That evening, Crouchy scored the all-important goal – and that was Harry.
"Sometimes you feel vulnerable and under pressure to produce, but Harry knew what to say and how to say it"
Sometimes you think: “How did he do that?”
It was just that gut instinct: “This is the way it’s going to work tonight.” And we ended up qualifying for the Champions League.
He had a real feel for the players, certainly looking at them in the days before a game. He always had a picture in his mind of what he thought was his best team – sometimes it changed for a reason only Harry (below, right) would know, but more often than not he got it right.
That win over Manchester City was a classic case of when he did – the skill was in not hyping that match up too much. He instilled that confidence in players. Sometimes in big games you feel vulnerable and under pressure to produce, but he knew what to say and how to say it.
Afterwards it was: “You’re making club history; the first time in the Champions League.”
It showed the progress the team had made and the quality of the group we had. From where we’d started the season before, it was remarkable.
That summer was really, really exciting, because we were treading new ground. Rafael van der Vaart came in – he really was an outstanding footballer – and Harry handled him brilliantly and used him in the right way. He might not have played 90 minutes in all of the games he was involved in – it was usually 60 or 70 – but whenever he played he was always influential.
It was a new experience. We’d watched the Champions League, but it’s not until you’re actually involved in it and go through it that you appreciate that it’s really special – even if the qualifying game against Young Boys was nearly the end of me.
"Gareth Bale has the most amazing half an hour at the San Siro, scores a hat-trick and announces himself to the world"
I’d watched their league game the week before, which they lost at home, and came back to report: “No problem, we’ll go through if we go there and do it right.”
Of course, after 30 minutes of the first leg we’re 3-0 down, and Harry’s turning to me on the bench: “You told us we were going through – we’re in the shit.”
Luckily, Sébastien Bassong and Roman Pavlyuchenko scored, and we went back to White Hart Lane and won comfortably. But that was the sort of awakening about the level we were playing at – that you had to be at your best in that competition.
The group stages brought an amazing turn of events. It doesn’t get any better than playing Inter Milan, the reigning European champions, at the San Siro. What an opportunity.
But we came in 4-0 down at half-time, and Harry’s spitting feathers. “This is embarrassing. We’re going to get done eight, nine, 10 if we’re not careful.”
Then Gareth Bale (below) has the most amazing half an hour, and scores a hat-trick to announce himself to the world.
We still lost 4-3, but at full-time there was such a feeling of relief. At half-time we were in a really desperate situation, so it was almost like we’d won – and we followed it up in the return fixture at White Hart Lane, which was even better.
"Those two nights against Inter were the making of Gareth. Everyone went: ‘Wow! Who is this kid?’"
That night was special. It was one of the best atmospheres I ever experienced at White Hart Lane, as a player or as a coach. It was electric.
You could just sense that something was going to happen, which can be a weird thing and difficult to explain. Gareth came out and tore Maicon to shreds. Van der Vaart, Crouchy and Pavlyuchenko scored. We won 3-1.
We had to win, so it was a really special night with a big result and a great performance. That and the City game count as my most memorable nights as a coach.
Those two nights against Inter were also the making of Gareth. Everybody went: “Wow! Who is this kid?” It was his speed, his ability, and the goals he scored.
Initially we didn’t realise we had that sort of player on our hands, but then you started to see it. In training he’d do things, and you’d see the other players look at each other. “Wow, did he just do that?”
You see guys like Luka Modric, Keane and Defoe; they’re looking and going: “Oh my God!” He really was sensational.
"Finishing in the top four was some consolation – until the Champions League place was taken away from us"
We returned to the San Siro in the round of 16, against AC Milan, which brought another memorable night. We’d grown from our experiences against Inter; the group knew what to expect and what they had to do.
If we had been caught against Inter, we weren’t caught against AC. We won 1-0, and we did it right. It was a great result.
We had Real Madrid in the quarter finals, which was special again, but obviously that didn’t go well. We lost the away leg heavily. Crouchy – who had scored the winner in Milan – got sent off early, and Emmanuel Adebayor scored twice in a 4-0 win for Real. It just wasn’t a pleasant experience.
Madrid were a top team. We’d produced good performances, but this was the next level again.
If you’re going to be winners or challenging to win the Champions League, you had to be at Real Madrid’s level. But it was part of the education, and as simple as that we’d not been there before. We learned from that night.
You absolutely knew you were experiencing something special, but at the time you don’t allow yourself to enjoy a run like that. It’s when you look back on it and analyse it that you realise the magnitude of the results and what had actually happened for us.
"Drogba scored, and I said: 'That might just cost me my job’"
That run also cost us qualification for the next season. We didn’t have consistency after European games – we’d not experienced coming back from that to play in the Premier League – and that definitely contributed. But we addressed that the following season.
That year, in 2011/12, we were genuinely challenging for the Premier League title eventually won by Manchester City. For a period we were close; we were really going for it, and competitive. It was all about the group growing, which they had, and us not being in the Champions League.
It was a blow that we didn’t win it, but the least we were striving for was the top four, which we got. That was a consolation, and made it a successful season – until it was taken away from us.
We’d probably needed one or two more players for a little more strength in depth to actually win the title. Ultimately, without that, we just couldn’t stay the course.
It’s been suggested that it was because Harry was so heavily linked with succeeding Fabio Capello in the England job, but Harry was Harry and conducted himself in the same way. More was made of that than there should have been – it didn’t affect the way he worked at all.
In the end, Chelsea winning the Champions League cost us our place in that same competition the following season. It was horrible.
"Harry called at 1am and said he was leaving – and that was it"
They were big underdogs on the night. Bayern Munich went in front in the final, and I still remember Didier Drogba’s goal. I was at home with the family, and my wife screamed: “Chelsea have scored!”
I said: “That might just cost me my job.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, if Chelsea win, we could be done. We won’t be in the Champions League.”
You sometimes get a premonition that these things can happen. It’s just a football feeling that you have. You have a sense – there are times when you just experience things and think that they can have an effect.
I was sitting there watching Chelsea – really quiet, really calm – and of course, they won. Drogba’s penalty was the winner in the shoot-out, and I just went: “You don’t realise how important that goal could be”.
There was speculation that Harry was going to speak to the chairman Daniel Levy regarding a new contract, and even though I’d had that feeling it was still a shock when the sack came. It was being played out on the telly, at 11pm, midnight. “Harry’s at the training ground.”
Then they made the announcement, and Harry called me at what must have been 12.30am, 1am. He just said: “I’m leaving.” And that was it. He said he didn’t know what was happening with the staff, and that we’d have to speak to the club.
André Villas-Boas came in with his own team, and we obviously then left. That’s football. You understand that.
I loved my time at Tottenham. I enjoyed it absolutely, it was a great time. It’s just unfortunate that it didn’t continue. But that’s what happens.
That’s the game. That’s the way it is.
Up Front: My Autobiography by Clive Allen is published by deCoubertin books
Author: Tony Hodson