By Liam Mackey
As England prepare to take on Croatia in the World Cup semi-final in Moscow this evening, former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp has admitted that Harry Kane's arrival as one of the biggest players on the big stage has surprised even him.
“I didn’t see him becoming the best centre-forward in the world, which is what he has become,” said Redknapp in Dublin today.
“But I knew there was a player there because of his attitude and the way he was. He just wanted to be a player, trained hard, worked hard, fantastic person, dedicated, just practiced and practiced. He spent an hour after training just working on his game. He deserves all the success he’s had. But none of us could have sat here and said he’d become what he’s become.”
There was one moment, though, when the penny dropped for the manager who would give Kane his Tottenham debut in 2011.
“We played a game at the training ground one day and the chief scout of Arsenal, Steve Rowley, rung up and asked if he could watch the game with Pat Rice,” Redknapp recalled.
“They were really looking at Scott Dann who was playing with Birmingham. Arsenal wanted to sign him. He just wanted to check his fitness. He had already agreed terms with the club, I think.
“He came over to our training ground to watch this U-21 game. You could play over-age players. Scott Dann was playing in this game and Harry scored four goals that day against him. They didn't take Scott Dann, but Harry scored four goals.
“He was a player. I had him in the first team. He came over and played in Ireland (scoring his first goal for Spurs against Shamrock Rovers in the Europa League in 2011). He was 19, but he was still growing and maturing. He wasn't ready then. He needed the experience. He went out on loan. He went to Leicester and he didn't even get a game. They hardly picked him.
“But he had that determination. So many kids come into football clubs, get a contract and think they have made it. They don't want to work, they sit back. But Harry didn't. He wanted to be a top player.
“He's old school. He has no big time about him. There's nothing flash about him. And the boy on the other side tonight, Luka Modric, is exactly the same kind of person – family man, great professional, low maintenance, never a problem. So there iare two of them there tonight.”
Harry Redknapp stars in the new series 'The Toughest Rivalry', along with Gianluca Vialli, as the Premier League legends take charge of rival GAA clubs Castlehaven in West Cork and Erin's Isle in Dublin.
The first episode, exclusively available across AIB’s social channels, will air this Friday, July 13.