CAST your mind back to the glorious spring of 2001 and think about all those wonderful images that were taken as Liverpool went gathering cups in May.
A youthful Steven Gerrard and Gary McAllister gripping tightly to the UEFA Cup on top of an open top bus, Patrik Berger and Vladimir Smicer dancing in Dortmund, Gerrard, Emile Heskey and Robbie Fowler mobbing Michael Owen after he had sunk Arsenal.
Perhaps the most heart-warming of all, however, was the picture of Sami Hyppia and Fowler flanking Jamie Redknapp, as he hoisted aloft the FA Cup; it is significant, of course, as the first two named are wearing kits, while the latter is in a shirt and tie.
Redknapp, you will remember, suffered the outrageous misfortune of missing the entire treble-winning campaign after he was forced to undergo career saving surgery on his badly damaged knee the previous summer.
So when Hyppia and Fowler, who had skippered Liverpool in the prolonged absence of the club captain, ushered Redknapp forward to receive the trophy, it was a gesture that showed the esteem in which he was held by his team-mates and supporters alike.
True, he might not have been to everyone’s liking as a player – he was never the type of midfielder who would relish being involved in a war of attrition – but there was a grace to Redknapp’s game that was a joy to behold when he was on song.
At one stage he was the youngest player to represent Liverpool in Europe, he scored on his debut to salvage a draw at Southampton in December 1991 and possessed a shot like a cannon when presented with an opportunity to let fly from distance.
Above all, though, he was one of the nicest men you could wish to meet. Always happy to talk at Melwood, never short of time to help out and humble with it, he may have been raised on the south coast but Redknapp was attuned to what made Liverpool fans tick.
With that in mind, then, consider how some think of him now. In his role as one of Sky’s main Super Sunday pundits, his manner in front of the camera and the way in which he speaks about Liverpool means, regrettably, his popularity is plummeting.
So sad. Of course, part of Redknapp’s role is to be controversial and say things that evoke debate; nobody, for one minute, is questioning his right to be in the studio with Richard Keys, as he certainly has sufficient credentials.
Yet the perception this season has been his ability to offer fair analysis has been hindered by vested interests. It is only natural he wants his father, Tottenham manager Harry, to flourish but it seems as if he has taken every opportunity to deride Liverpool.
Recently he made a faux pas when declaring Xabi Alonso had been instrumental in Liverpool’s 4-1 triumph at Old Trafford then followed up by saying that Bayern Munich wouldn’t have conceded against Manchester United had they been using zonal marking.
This coming from the man who, time and again, has berated Rafa Benitez for using the same system and blamed all Liverpool’s defensive ills on it; it all adds to the thought there is one rule for one and one for another.
“I was surprised to see some comments by some experts talking about how they could see Alonso playing in the 4-1 win against United he didn’t play,” said Benitez, barely able to conceal his sarcasm last week.
“This expert said he (Gerrard) cannot play on the left but he is playing with the national team on the left.
“He was playing here on the right and scoring 23 goals so Gerrard can play everywhere.
“It depends on the team. He can help and that is the main thing.”
There are a huge number of Liverpool players earning a living as pundits but it would be a crying shame if Redknapp continued down the road on which he is currently embarked and, dare we say, ended up being stuck in the same bracket as Stan Collymore.
He never spoke as loudly or brazenly at Liverpool as he does in Sky’s studios and that he is currently ‘starring’ in a nauseating travel advert has also done him few favours; these, needless to say, are not the images with which we want to associate Jamie Redknapp.
But, until he rediscovers the traits that made him so popular here, he and his thoughts are unlikely to be taken seriously any time soon.
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