QPR boss charms with his charisma, tips on-loan Morrison to hit the heights
REPORTING FROM LONDON
Before Jose Mourinho, there was Harry Redknapp.
English football's media darling, the Cockney Guv'nor, a proper East End geezer.
Now in charge of Championship side Queens Park Rangers, Redknapp met the media yesterday morning at the club's training ground in Harlington, ahead of the team's clash with Blackpool at Loftus Road today.
Fashionably late, he sauntered into the press conference room with a cup of hot tea in his hand, and greeted the waiting press pack with a smile and a sprightly: "Morning, lads."
He pulled up a chair, put his cup and mobile phone on the table, and we were off.
Now, you can't say Redknapp is as handsome as Portuguese peacock Mourinho - not by a long way.
But the 67-year-old certainly has a similar charm over the media.
After the first 10 minutes of the press conference was carried out in front of a camera by the club's in-house reporters, he beckoned the other journalists in the room to pull our chairs up to his table to have a more intimate session.
There's no doubt Redknapp has entertained bigger audiences in the Premier League, when he was in charge of West Ham, Portsmouth, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and QPR.
But, leaning back on his chair, the manager still thoughtfully answered every question thrown at him.
The topics discussed - "would left-back Clint Hill get a new contract at the end of the season" - were not exactly front-page news.
But one issue he spoke most passionately about was rising star Ravel Morrison.
The 21-year-old, who joined QPR on loan a month ago from Premier League side West Ham, has been on fire with five goals in eight games for the Championship side.
But, Morrison's off-the-pitch antics - he was involved in an assault charge on his girlfriend while at Manchester United, and was fined £7,000 ($15,000) by the Football Association for a homophobic tweet in 2012 - have threatened to derail a promising career.
So much so that even Sir Alex Ferguson, who once labelled Morrison the most talented player he had seen since Paul Scholes, gave up on him.
But, Redknapp, who has managed to get the best out of a madcap talent like Paolo Di Canio at West Ham, says Morrison can still reach the top of his game.
Looking at each journalist in the eye, he said: "Everybody knows what Ravel can do (but) he's got to do it for himself, hasn't he?
"He's just got to keep his head down and work hard, play as he has at the moment, do it consistently and just concentrate on his football.
"If he does that, he's got the ability to be one of the best football players around, there's no doubt about that.
"He glides across the floor - almost doesn't touch it - and I haven't seen many people run like that.
"He's got an unbelievable ability to beat people and do special things, you know. He really is a top-class talent."
He added: "Ravel needs to push himself, but he also needs someone to believe in him. And, if you do that, and he works hard, he can be one of the best players in the Premier League, for sure.
"It'll be a real shame if, in three or four years' time, he's not a big star for England. It would be a real waste."
Make no mistake about it, Morrison is a special talent - judging by his wondergoal against Spurs for West Ham earlier in the season.
But, if you haven't seen him play before, Redknapp's comments would have you believe the kid is as good as Lionel Messi.
Talking up his players and getting the best out of them? Casting a spell over the media with his charm?
You would have thought Mourinho was the one at Harlington.
The Chelsea manager might be a rock star in his own right, but make no mistake about it, Redknapp was English football's original Special One.
*Sazali's trip was made possible by AirAsia.
Green writes off his World Cup chances
How does it feel to make a blunder at the World Cup, watched by millions of fans around the world?
If you believe former England goalkeeper Robert Green, it really isn't such a big deal.
Green (right) infamously let an innocuous-looking shot from the United States' Clint Dempsey squirm under him and into goal in England's opening match at the 2010 World Cup - the 1-1 draw kicked off a disastrous campaign for the Three Lions as they crashed out later in the tournament's Round of 16.
Now playing for Queens Park Rangers in the Championship, the 34-year-old met the press ahead of a training session at the team's Harlington training ground yesterday morning.
The New Paper asked the custodian how his life has changed in the four years since the fumble.
"I got married and had two kids," he answered with a cheeky smile, to howls of laughter.
"Apart from that, it's all just been a blur, really. Sometimes, football is a side issue in your life, as much as I love it.
"And as you said, it (the blunder) happened four years ago, and that's where it has stayed."
Immediately after dropping the clanger in South Africa, Green held his hand up and apologised to his teammates at half-time. But that wasn't enough.
The Internet exploded with jokes.
One said Green has his own version of the vuvuzela, a South African trumpet, called the "boo-boozela".
Another online joker claimed his computer had the Robert Green virus - it can't save anything.
Ironically, after a stellar performance in QPR's last game - a 1-0 win over Wigan - Latics manager Uwe Rosler said that Green should be considered for Roy Hodgson's squad for this June's World Cup in Brazil.
But Green's not having any of it.
He said: "I think there are enough goalkeepers playing in the Premier League to be considered ahead of me.
"And you've got Fraser Forster with Celtic in Scotland, he's kept a record number of clean sheets, played against Barcelona in the Champions League...
"Without being disrespectful, the standard of some of the teams we play in the Championship is just of a different level.
"Yeah, I've done it before and I know I can do it, but there's a time and place.
"When I was playing every week in the Premier League, I didn't consider guys playing in the Championship as competitors."
QPR stint an eye-opener
As Andin Addie Djayady laced up his boots yesterday afternoon at the academy of Championship club Queens Park Rangers, his mind wandered a bit.
"I'm starting to feel as though I'm actually an academy player at QPR," the 17-year-old said dreamily.
"Training with the team every day, wearing the kit, I feel inspired. "I wish a miracle would happen and they would sign me!"
Throughout the past week, Andin and seven other young footballers have been training at the QPR academy with the club's youth team after excelling during a coaching clinic - a regional initiative by QPR's shirt sponsor AirAsia - held in Singapore and Malaysia last November.
Three others are also Singaporeans - Syafiq Irawan (16), Shanthana Barthi (16) Saifullah Akbar (15). The rest are Malaysians.
They will all return tomorrow, after marching out together with QPR's professional players just before today's Championship clash with Blackpool at Loftus Park.
Andy Evans, the chief executive of QPR in the Community Trust - QPR's charity arm - said: "Our aim is to use football and the QPR brand to inspire young people. What we've tried to do this past week was try to show them what life is like as a young player at a professional club here in the UK.
"They've also been to watch the first team, so they understand the time and discipline required to make it in football.
"Everyone at the club has been impressed by the Singaporean boys - they've got a very, very positive attitude, and they're very open in wanting to improve their game."
The experience has been an eye-opener for the local boys.
"The cold weather got some getting used to," said Andin of the 10 deg C temperature.
Saifullah, who has trained at French side FC Metz, said: "The intensity here is very high, they train like they're playing in a World Cup final. From start to finish, they train hard. In Singapore, we tend to go all out only in games."
Rikram Jit Singh, the Football Association of Singapore's assistant director of commercial and business development, said: "Our partnership with AirAsia has been mutually beneficial and we hope more corporate partners will step forward to work together with us to bring Singapore football to greater heights."