Harry Redknapp: I don't think I could live without my wife of 51 years Sandra

As his new book hits the shelves, Harry Redknapp talks to Hannah Stephenson about life after the jungle, long-lasting love and why he'd never do Strictly

Harry and Sandra Redknapp – 'If anything was to happen to her, it would kill me'
Harry and Sandra Redknapp – 'If anything was to happen to her, it would kill me'

HARRY Redknapp picks up the phone, seemingly bewildered that we have an interview – even though he's been doing the rounds all morning and I'm his last slot of the day.

Still, we plough on amiably as the ex-football manager, jam roly-poly lover and jungle king (he won I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! in 2018) talks about his life beyond football and other musings in his new book, The World According To Harry.

It's really difficult not to like Redknapp (72), who worries that he loves his wife too much, says family is his top priority, and reckons he'd like to be remembered as a nice person who had time for everybody – whether billionaire or pauper – and treated them with equal respect.

He's quick to tell you what's wrong with football today – crazy money, players not being in touch with the fans, social media watching their every move – and how the England squad would catch the bus to the match in his day, rather than the souped-up sports cars they possess today.

Yes, like all of us, he has flaws. He's a gambler, betting on the horses, which he says is his biggest weakness. He says he can't do anything around the house – not even boil an egg – and clearly relies on wife Sandra for a lot.

Yet surely there's a harder side of Harry we don't see? How could he have been such a successful football manager without a killer edge? "I can't say there's a hard side to Harry," he reflects. "I'm pretty gullible. In football, I might have a go at someone but when it was finished, it was finished, and I didn't hold grudges. I don't think there's a ruthless streak in me."

The only time during our chat that I sense his hackles rise is the mention of the 2012 case in which he was charged with – and cleared of – tax evasion.

The former Spurs, QPR and West Ham manager writes in the book: "Not only did the police seem to think I was some sort of east London villain, they also seemed to think I was a criminal mastermind, shifting my money all over Europe in order to avoid paying tax. The truth was very different."

Today, he reflects: "What a waste of taxpayers' money. It was an absolute disgrace that it ever went to court. It affected me badly. It was just a farce."

Six years later, the grandfather-of-seven – whose son Jamie and nephew Frank Lampard are former top soccer players – was crowned king of the jungle, which has given him many more opportunities.

He's currently doing a one-man theatre tour and is set to present another series of Harry's Heroes: The Full English, following the success of the first, in which he rounded up some of English football's most beloved icons from the 1990s to give them once last chance at a win against old rivals, Germany.

"I'm much more in demand now, not that I want to be," he says. "I'm not chasing anything, and I thought I'd retired and can go and do what I want with my life now. I can play golf every day, we can go on holidays, but I've been so busy with interesting things that have come along.

"Since the programme, more women and kids come up and speak to me than blokes," he adds. "No problem. As long as they're nice, I speak to everybody."

He dismisses rumours that he'll fill in for James Corden on sports panel show A League Of Their Own – in which his son Jamie is a team captain – while Corden fulfils his US commitments.

"No chance," he declares. "I couldn't replace James Corden – oh my God, he's fantastic! I think they'll find someone far more talented than me to do that job. I could lace his boots."

And he wouldn't appear on Strictly, he says.

"I'd only make a complete fool of myself. I can't dance very well. There are some great dancers on that show but it wouldn't be for me. I'm not interested in doing too many more reality shows."

The constant in his life is his wife Sandra, who he met at an East End pub when he was 17 and they've been together ever since, married for 51 years. They have two sons, Jamie and Mark.

"We got married at 21. I don't know what the secret is," he adds with a chuckle. "We just get on great together. I'm just madly in love with her. You couldn't have a row with my missus if you tried. She's so placid, so laid-back. She's not aggressive at all."

Sandra has had her share of health issues in the past five years – she contracted sepsis before Redknapp entered the jungle, and prior to that suffered a broken kneecap after falling over the vacuum cleaner.

Probably the most famous incident was when he accidentally ran her over when reverse-parking, leaving Sandra with a shattered ankle which required surgery.

And he is still concerned about her health. "I've got to find a good surgeon to do a hip replacement for her. She's struggling a bit, she's in a lot of pain, so that's my main concern for her at the moment."

Today, he says he fears how he'd cope if Sandra was no longer around. "I don't think I could live without her. But I'm not the only one. I've got lots of friends who have lost their wives or husbands.

"When you hit your 70s, those things enter your mind for the first time," he writes. "I wouldn't have a clue what to do without Sandra's support. I try not to think about it too much because it scares me.

"I sometimes wonder if I love Sandra too much. If anything was to happen to her, it would kill me."

He agrees that people of his generation and before tried harder to keep their marriages together.

"My mum and dad were married all their lives, as were Sandra's. That's how I was brought up. Perhaps it is too easy to get divorced now if something goes wrong."

When his son Jamie and Louise Redknapp separated in 2017, Harry admitted he hadn't seen it coming, but said recently that he had no issue with his ex daughter-in-law. "I love Lou, I've got no issues with Louise," he said.

Clearly, romance isn't dead in his own relationship. There's a passage in the book in which Sandra reveals that her husband can be romantic.

"No!" he exclaims, as though he's not read that bit. "I've never been called romantic before. I might be soft but I don't think I'm romantic."

But according to Sandra, Harry said one Christmas, "I didn't know what to buy you" – and when they went to bed there was a present of a bracelet under the pillow. Another Christmas he put a ring in a cracker.

For now, he has no thoughts of retirement.

"There's no slowing down, I'm going quicker," he says. "I'll just run out of petrol one day."

:: The World According To Harry by Harry Redknapp is published by Ebury Press, priced £20.