We may only be at half time but Harry Redknapp is already bookies’ favourite to win the I’m A Celebrity crown.
And while the 71-year-old football manager has become an unlikely double act with emperor Noel Edmonds, there is no doubting who this possible King of the Jungle would share his reign with – the queen of his heart, wife Sandra.
Harry has made no secret he is missing his wife, the pair not spending as long apart since they met 54 years ago.
Now here, in an abridged extract from Always Managing: My Autobiography, Harry, reveals why his beloved Sandra, 71, might not be his campmate, but is certainly his soulmate….
I loved Sandra to bits from day one. I always say she was my best signing.
Harry in the jungle
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I met her at The Two Puddings pub in Stratford. It used to have a dance upstairs on Sunday nights and I would go with my mate Colin. There were two girls there that we asked to dance, Susan and Sandra. Colin got Susan; I got Sandra. I think Sandra thought she’d pulled the bad draw. She was hoping Colin would ask her to dance!
So I’ve never felt anything less than very, very lucky.
One of the couple’s hardest times came in the late noughties, when Harry was investigated for tax evasion. His name was finally cleared at court in 2012. He wrote:
The trial lasted 15 days, but the ordeal overtook five years of my life. It began on Wednesday, November 28, 2007.
I had just landed from Stuttgart and could hear Sandra’s voice, in a terrible state, crying down the phone, hysterical.
She’d been woken at 6am. She thought it was a burglar. It was a police raid.
They didn’t need to do it like that, as if I were some hardened criminal. All they did was terrify my poor Sandra. Later that day I found myself in a police cell, bars no windows. There were real crooks coming in.
Harry Redknapp, with his son Jamie, in 2012 during the second week of his trial for tax evasion
(Image: The Daily Mirror)
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Throughout the investigation, I became convinced people were talking about me. Sandra found it difficult just going to the shops.
Then came the trial. [My son] Jamie came with me, but I wouldn’t let Sandra. I would have looked over and cried every time our eyes met and she would have done the same.
It would have slaughtered me, and slaughtered her, too. I can hardly bear to recall how desolate it felt for my two days on the witness stand. I felt mentally exhausted. Then I’d look at the 12 people that held my future in their hands: What if they were all Arsenal fans?
The night before the verdict I didn’t say goodbye to anybody. No last farewells, just in case it was bad news.
I was facing two to three years. That was a proper villain’s sentence. I didn’t even have a washbag. Did I go straight there? Questions were still going round my head, when the foreman said: “Not guilty.” I jumped straight in my car and drove south. I needed to be back with Sandra again. I didn’t cry during the court case, but I did when I saw her.
Just as Sandra supported Harry, he always wanted to support her, doing whatever it took to make her happy.
Harry Redknapp tells of his love for Sandra in his autobiography
(Image: Ebury Press)
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Sandra’s dad, Bill Harris, was a foreman down Albert Dock. He was a huge bloke. I used to take Sandra back to her house after going out, and if I was there longer than 10 minutes the old man used to bang on the floor from the bedroom upstairs.
It wasn’t long before we were making plans to be married. However I had to save up first – times were different for footballers then, I was earning £20 a week at West Ham.
So to help us buy our first house I got a job in the supermarket. The next Friday I went to collect my pay packet from West Ham still in my white coat, [the boss] Ron Greenwood said: “What are you up to? Decorating?”
“I’m working in a supermarket,” I told him. “I want to buy a house and I can’t afford it on what West Ham pay me.”
He got me another two quid a week – and in 1967 we got married in a church in Barking and went off on honeymoon… to Torquay. Modern players have got nothing on the glamorous life we lived!
In 2005, Harry was abused by fans after leaving Portsmouth for rivals Southampton – a decision he would later reverse. He explained:
Harry wife wife Sandra, Jamie, and their pet pooch
I would be out in my garden and I would hear the unmistakable accents. “You f***ing scum, Redknapp.” Sandra would hear it, too. “Oh my God, Harry, what have you done?”, she would ask. Then there were the phone calls. Wicked phone calls … real filth.
“I hope you crash your car and kill your wife; I hope your wife gets cancer.” It was too much.
And Sandra was there to pick him up, whenever his team lost.
As a manager I am representing people who love their team. When you lose, it feels like you have let them down. Sandra knew it took me a day or two to recover. She’d cook me pasta, maybe open a bottle of wine.
She never put any pressure on me to stop. When her sister died of pneumonia in 2008, it was a sobering moment. The time I spend with Sandra is so precious.
I wouldn’t have a clue what to do without her support.
- Extracted from Always Managing: My Autobiography by Harry Redknapp (Ebury Press, £9.99)
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