Former Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder, Jamie Redknapp, makes no secret of his love of football, the sport that continues to give him a good income, even if punditry has replaced playing.
But mention golf to the 46-year-old son of Harry Redknapp will tear off into conversation about a passion for a sport that animates him with very same excitement as football. And that sport is golf, as he reveals to RSNG.
RSNG A couple of years ago you were made a Laureus Ambassador with a special focus on golf – how did that feel?
JAMIE REDKNAPP, FORMER FOOTBALL INTERNATIONAL ‘Yeah, really nice actually; it’s been a charity that I’ve followed for a while now. I’ve played in the Alfred Dunhill Links Golf Championship, and always done bits and pieces for them, and to then be asked to be an ambassador is something I’m very proud of.’
‘A few of my friends are ambassadors… Ruud Guilit, I think Andriy Shevchenko’s become one as well, and most fancy themselves as golfers too!’
‘Golf has the ability to make you look like a king one minute and a court jester the next’
RSNG Would you agree that golf still has a reputation as being elite?
JR ‘I think it depends what sort of golf you want to play. Of course, some courses are quite restrictive in terms of the entry policy, but there is a municipal golf course in probably every town in the UK, so as a place to start and to perfect your swing before moving up, the opportunities are definitely there.’
RSNG What appeals to you about golf?
JR ‘I think part of it is the fact that this is a sport that has been the same for years, for decades. In other sports, the way technology has come along has totally transformed it – consider cricket, consider football now with VAR, even tennis with Hawkeye.’
‘These are all interventions that have totally transformed how those sports are viewed, how those competing are assessed and, ultimately, the decisions made. We have outcomes now of tournaments, championships and leagues that would have been totally different now had technology not intervened.’
‘While moving forward and making sure decisions are correct is a vital part of sport, technology is such a defining factor for those sports – it has become a bigger force than even the referees and umpires, and it’s difficult to see how we will ever go back from that technology.’
‘Golf, on the other hand, is still a very traditional, manual sport. And by that I mean when it comes to being out on the course, there is no technology that will help the golfer there and then. Okay, the manufacturers will tell you how much science has gone into creating the perfect ball or the perfect club, and of course you can get brilliant bits of tech to assist your swing and all that, but at the heart of it, it’s a stick and a ball, and that’s the way it’s always been.’
‘That’s what I really love about golf: the most determining factor will be how good you are at it, and how you feel on that day.’
RSNG Golf does tends to be the great leveller, doesn’t it?
JR ‘Yes, and that’s another reason to admire it – it’s probably the most random sport out there. Golf has the ability to make you look like a king one minute and a court jester the next.’
‘You can go from the sublime to the ridiculous – it’s probably right up there with batsman trying to bowl at cricket, and bowlers trying to bat. It’s such a contrast and I love that.’
RSNG Do you prefer to watch or get out there and play?
JR ‘You’ll never beat the thrill you get from playing golf, but we had a Creston app for the house and there is something nice about watching sport – golf, football or whatever – on a big screen; just soaking up real drama in the comfort of your own home, but always playing above watching.’
‘I love the intensity of breaking down technique… where the club face should be, body shape, downswing – it’s such a technical game’
RSNG Have you looked into some of the technology that’s there to help improve swing?
JR ‘Yes I have and it’s great to really drill down on the details. I think for me though, if I could get behind an app to help me play golf better it would need to go a lot further than just my swing!’
‘But as an ex-sportsman I do love the intensity of breaking down technique. I think cricket and golf are the best for that, especially the swings of the best players in the world… where the club face should be, body shape, downswing – it’s such a technical game and needs that level of scrutiny.’
RSNG National pride for our golf heroes seems to come from a very different place to football?
JR ‘I think that’s understandable – golf is a very individual sport and it’s more difficult to get behind one person. I’m just relieved we have a national team to be proud of again.’
RSNG Do you think having an British manager for the England football team is a big part of it?
JR ‘Definitely, and I’ve always said we should have done that, even when it’s not worked out in the past with English managers. Ultimately, we had people like Capello, who was obviously a great club manager, but his English was poor. How can you have an England manager who doesn’t speak great English?’
‘Gareth [Southgate] not only speaks the language but understands what it’s like to be in a successful England team. It’s so obvious now when you look at it that way.’
‘When you have something to repeat – and by that I mean Gareth’s experiences in major tournaments as a player – it’s much easier than doing it from scratch; that’s why we practise golf, after all!’
RSNG And what about the future manager? Maybe Eddie Howe?
JR ‘Definitely, when he makes the step up. If he went to, say, Man United or Liverpool or somewhere like that, then yeah, he’s in with a chance. But he’s got to move up to that next level before we can say he’s ready to manage England.’
‘Bournemouth was my first club, he’s done a great job and I’m a big fan of Eddie, I just think he needs a little more experience before we can say: “Yeah, he’s ready to manage England.”There’s no reason he won’t in the future, through – he’s got the composure, the pedigree. He’s also very calm and I think you need that to be a great manager.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Jamie Redknapp play his part in one of the most memorable goalkeeper saves ever at the old Wembley Stadium.