Autobiographies always tell a story. Just like the newest John Grisham lawyer drama, an autobiography is an attempt to weave a story out of common human experience and present the reader with a linear series of events meant to entertain and impress. Whereas fiction relies on real elements to sell an imagined tale, autobiographies and their cousins – biographies – rely on facts that have been or can be experienced by the reader, just through a different viewpoint. A good autobiography, just like The Firm, weaves a narrative that leaves the reader wanting more and becoming engaged in events, except these are events often they’ve experienced themselves (or at least read about prior).
So how can we judge Harry Redknapp’s autobiography, which was released around the same time as the more-discussed Sir Alex autobiography? ‘Arry Redknapp, the loveable Englishman who stands for the common folk and relies not on tactics but emotion, instinct and cunning to win games. This is a slight exaggeration but in truth that is how he presents himself: an old school chum who wins because he knows talent. Yet there is a vastly different tale out there in the media – a man who buys the big-name players and depends on others for tactical knowledge, a pompous man who commits all manner of financial impropriety but hides behind his (as Americans would say) “aw shucks charm”, a man who uses the newspapers as a weapon to get what he wants and trash his enemies. These contradictory narratives exist, and a quality autobiography would either firmly fall into one camp or the other while explaining sufficiently why the other narrative is incorrect. If this is our standard for a good story in this case, this book falls well short as it presents Redknapp as the former without explaining away the latter.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am an Arsenal fan, one that took exceptional joy in Redknapp’s Spurs teams finishing behind Arsenal every year he was there in the league. Despite this, I can assure you that I read this book as neutrally as possible and my critiques are based on his style of writing as well as his factual recollections of events.
The purpose of the autobiography is apparent from the beginning, as the first two chapters are not about the beginning of his life or career (you get that beginning in Chapter 4) but about his trial for financial improprieties and the rumors about the England job. Again, for a man who cannot work a computer (as he claimed at his trial and again in the book) and someone who has trouble operating his smartphone (as he writes in the book), this book has a distinctly working-class London diction, again to emphasize his everyman appeal.