November 19, 2018
The former Spurs and West Ham manager’s no-nonsense approach won admirers as he choked down emu in the jungle with Nick Knowles and ‘the brainy lady off The Chase’
Harry Redknapp sets out tactics in crab-stroking I’m A Celebrity debut
“They’ve got a football manager on the other team. That’s a bit of a problem because he’s probably good at tactics,” said Rita Simons (once of EastEnders), peering suspiciously at Harry Redknapp before the first full-team challenge on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!, which involved extended paddling in a boat incapable of holding everyone who wanted to paddle in it.
“Yeah, but does he know tactics for rowing across a lake?” wondered Anne Hegerty (of quiz show The Chase). And this is the key question: how will the skills honed over years spent on a variety of English football pitches translate to the deliberately torturous snake-pits and rat-holes of rural Australia?
Early signs were certainly promising, though Simons and Hegerty should perhaps have spent less time worrying about Redknapp’s tactical insight and more time pondering their own approach, which involved instantly sinking their boat and thus leaving Redknapp’s reds to win the task at their leisure. It turned out that Redknapp had indeed been responsible for this success, even if his active contribution to it appeared minimal. “Harry was captain, he came up with a plan and we just stuck to it and did it Harry’s way,” said Nick Knowles (DIY SOS host).
Redknapp is the eighth former footballer to enter ITV’s jungle-themed campsite, with John Fashanu – runner-up 15 years ago – the most successful of his predecessors. At the start of the broadcast he claimed that he had “never seen the show” and was “not going to watch it before I go in because it might scare me”, though actually knowing ex-contestants such as Rodney Marsh and Neil Ruddock has probably been more helpful than any number of videos.
Harry Redknapp sets out tactics in crab-stroking I’m A Celebrity debut
Last week Ruddock predicted that Redknapp would “snap and really have a go at people” should they fail to meet his exacting standards, though that remains to be seen – his team, who lost the only challenge before his arrival, went unbeaten thereafter and he went on to trill that he had “loved every minute of their company”. “Harry don’t like whingers,” Ruddock added. “If anyone whinges, Harry just tells you to get on with it.”
This stoicism was clear from Redknapp’s first significant involvement in the show, which saw him insert his arm into a box full of unknown nasties and rummage around in search of plastic tokens. While Hegerty – performing the same task for the other team – appeared chronically terror-stricken, Redknapp had the unruffled demeanour of someone who has to deal with significantly viler creatures in the Sky studio on an average Sunday afternoon. “Oh my God, it feels like a great big crab or something,” he said, with an air of complete calm, as he fumbled with a great big crab.
“I love animals, all animals,” he told an interviewer in 2013. “Apart from cats, I’m a little bit scared of cats.” Five years and the chance of actually meeting creatures a little more fearsome than the ones that prowl the area around his Dorset home – which amounts to his pet bulldog and the occasional slug – had shifted his position somewhat. “Am I scared of anything? Yeah, everything,” he told Fleur East (2014 X Factor runner-up).
On this showing he is more likely to be feared than fearful, particularly after telling his teammates, moments after being introduced to them, that he had once run over his wife, omitting the crucial facts that it was an accident and that she survived with nothing more than a hurt ankle. They exchanged concerned looks and said nothing, the subject thus becoming the first in the entire programme that did not inspire John Barrowman to immediately burst into song.
On ITV2’s spin-off programme Extra Camp, aimed at anyone not sated by the 105 minutes shown on the main channel, they laughed at Redknapp for failing to grasp basic Australian toilet slang when he suggested he might be good at “emptying the dummy”, though it could just as easily have been interpreted it as a direct threat against one of his rivals.
Harry Redknapp sets out tactics in crab-stroking I’m A Celebrity debut
By the time of Redknapp’s first involvement the programme had been on for 45 minutes, in which time a starting cohort of four contestants had competed in pairs for the right to choose their next teammates by means of a lengthy, vertiginous and wind-assisted flag-fetching exercise. The victors got to pick any two from Redknapp, Knowles, East and Hegerty (Redknapp turns out to be a big fan of daytime quiz shows, swiftly identifying Hegerty as “the brainy lady off The Chase”), and for no apparent reason did so while hovering in front of them in a helicopter. Redknapp, at 71 by some margin the oldest of the contestants, was left behind.
It was to be the last time that would happen, as Redknapp’s tactical acumen and team-building skills saw his small squad go the remainder of the show unbeaten, securing along the way the more luxurious campsite and bonus food rations, though he was unimpressed with both the campsite – “I’ve got to be honest, I thought it would be a bit more luxurious than what it is” – and the rations. “I don’t think I can eat emu,” he sniffed. “I definitely honestly thought there was a caravan round the back here where they’d be serving bacon sandwiches.”
Redknapp ate his emu. He doesn’t like whingers.
It had, all things considered, been an excellent start to Redknapp’s reality TV career. Two challenges, two victories and Holly Willoughby, standing in as co-host for the indisposed Ant McPartlin, already has him down as her favourite, declaring herself “a bit obsessed”. Plus having heard what he did to his own wife his teammates will be unusually keen to stay the right side of him. As Darren Bent will testify, reminding Redknapp of his wife is often a bad idea. Though unlike the former Tottenham striker, on that now infamous night in 2009 when a glaring miss inspired Redknapp to quip that “my Mrs could have scored that one”, you get the impression that the septuagenarian former manager will, when it comes to it, have no problem heading home.
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