League 2 clubs made these future England stars - Harry Redknapp

Premier League squads are getting bigger. Promising talent needs a place to be tested. Development squad games offer short-term solutions. Loan deals further down the leagues have proven to be a better option. 



The loan system has been the saviour for many clubs. It can be a try before you buy situation or more often than not, securing the short-term services of players the club couldn't afford to buy. It's a two-way street on the face of it the receiving club is the winner. Inside the game though, the club sending the player out has just as much to benefit. It can get a players wage off their books or put a player in the shop window for a potential transfer.

A real benefit though is to get their player some valuable game time. This has proved essential for players returning from injury pushed down the pecking order in their current squad. A real benefit is to test talented young players. Once a youth footballer has reached a certain level, it can be a limbo situation. Too good for the development squads but not ready for 1st team football at that level.



Harry_Redknapp_and-Frank_lampard_senior_watch_a_premier_league_game_at_west-ham-football4footballjpegWATCHING: Redknapp and his assistant, Frank Lampard Snr. structured career pathways for West Ham's talented youth


Harry Redknapp is a manager who has proven astute with his selection and timing. Beyond the footballer sat in front of him, he was brilliant knew how to stimulate the person. This ability crosses generations. Whether it was getting the 'buy-in' from a seasoned pro like Paolo Di Canio or bringing through the most talented group of teenagers, the Premier League has ever seen - 'Class of 92' aside. 

Redknapp found himself with a potential treasure chest of young talent as the manager of West Ham. The Hammers academy had yielded a plentiful harvest after cultivating its precious crop. Listing these players is mind-blowing. There were six teenagers who'd all play for England. Harry knew he had something special, but you don't know until you know in football.


Frank-lampard-slides-for-the-ball-during-a-premier-league-game-football4footballGROUNDING: As a teenager, Frank Lampard went on loan in the lower leagues


Here to help


The opportunity to find out came when Harry started loaning his players to lower league clubs. Redknapp was a fantastic manager for bringing the best out in players. When his youngsters went away, he'd watch them. He wanted to see if he got it right. Both in football terms and in character. One of his old clubs, Bournemouth, a League 2  side at the time needed to call in a favour. 

Veteran manager, Mel Machin needed the most valuable item in the game - goals. Assuming that West Ham would have surplus senior squad members, the call went in. Redknapp was more than willing to help. He saw an opportunity. His youth team striker who'd been hitting the net for fun at that level needed a new challenge.



I said I've got a kid here. I said he's fantastic.

Harry on Defoe-to football4football



Bournemouth were over the moon until they explained the details. The striker in question was Jermain Defoe. At the elite level of the game, they knew him. Call-ups to the England youth teams were enough for West Ham to secure his services from Charlton at only 16 years old for £1.4m. 



Jermaine-Defoe-in-action-for-bournemouth-football4footballNEW SURROUNDINGS: Jermaine Defoe proved himself in Bournemouth's first team


Once under the tutelage of Redknapp, an accelerated rise to the first-team regular followed. West Ham had big long-term plans for him. They'd seen enough in training to know he would be their main striker. That all sounded great for the Bournemouth manager, even with reservations about Defoe's age. The conversation to arrange the mechanics of the deal raised further concern when Redknapp revealed that the goal saviour they hoped for was 5ft 6inches. 

With the reassurance of Redknapp - plus Machin being desperate, they agreed Defoe would go down for a week, 'just to train' in a new environment. After the first day's training - Bournemouth had seen enough. Five goals in a practice match by the West Ham live-wire made Harry's old club request him for the season. 

Defoe broke a goal scoring record during his time there, scoring ten games in a row. He finished his season there with 18 goals in 29 league games.


Jermaine-Defoe-scores-at-old-trafford-for-west-ham-football4footballTOP FLIGHT: Defoe proved he could score, no matter what level he played




Bournemouth and Harry had a long-standing relationship. Redknapp cut his managerial teeth at the club when they were in the bottom league. A famous victory over the Manchester United in the FA Cup but him on the map. So it was no surprise when another one of West Ham's teens ventured down to Dorset. Rio Ferdinand, throughout his career, was described as a Rolls Royce. Well, that finely tuned machine must've felt he was in a stock car race when he played there in 1996.


He's not got a price. He's going to be the best centre-half in Europe.

Redknapp describing a young Rio Ferdinand-to football4football


His debut for them came two days after turning 18. Ferdinand had played central midfield, but because of his physical qualities, centre-back is where he'd be able to excel. Naturally muscular & lean, his early years playing in advanced positions developed a good technique on the ball. He could receive and move with the ball comfortably, efficiently distributing the ball to teammates.



Rio-ferdinand-in-action-for-mamnchester-united-football4footballPREDICTION: Rio Ferdinand confirmed Redknapp's assessment of his future status in the game


Bournemouth travelled to the northwest of England to play Stockport County, Ferdinand stood out. So much so, a scout from Manchester United thought he'd discovered gold that day. A second division game that few were at he sees that Rolls-Royce fresh off the assembly line. Rio's performance was so good; it prompted the actual Chairman of Manchester United to contact Bournemouth to try to buy him. Once established, that he was, in fact, a West Ham player, they called Harry. 



West-ham_manager_harry-redknapp-watches-training-football4footballTAKING NOTE: Managers dealing with young talent have to think long-term


No sale


Having not been long in the job, he was taken aback. He held his nerve to rebuff a £1m offer from Martin Edwards for the young centre-back. As he calmly explained that Ferdinand would be one Europe's finest, £1m would not cut it. That said, he wouldn't have sold him, anyway. Harry knows a player. Ferdinand would transfer to Leeds United 4 years later (November 2000) for £18m, making him the most expensive defender in the world. Progress didn't stop there, as only two years later, he'd move again for £30m. Players progress at different rates; for some, the identifiers are there to see straightaway. 

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