At first Harry Redknapp feigns ignorance. "I have no idea, not a clue," he says with a shrug when asked why, last summer, the manager who had steered Tottenham Hotspur to fourth place in the Premier League arrived at a meeting with his chairman apparently hopeful of securing a new contract and departed shortly afterwards out of a job. Fast forward through an insistence that he bears no grudges, however, and an inkling of an explanation emerges. "I've got my own feelings about why things happened but it's difficult for me to say … It was political."
At some stage on Saturday afternoon, Redknapp may find himself contemplating the personal cost of those politics. The 65-year-old has flung himself wholeheartedly into his new role as manager of Queens Park Rangers but, with his current employers still wincing under the weight of the Premier League even after a win at Chelsea in their last outing, nothing will expose his rapid descent from the pursuit of the Champions League to an attempt to scramble clear of the drop to the Championship more acutely than Spurs' visit to Loftus Road.
Redknapp speaks glowingly of almost four years in north London, a period where he hoisted a team from the foot of the table into Europe's elite competition and two top-four finishes. His dismissal in June centred on the breakdown of his relationship with the chairman, Daniel Levy, and by extension Joe Lewis, the billionaire owner of Enic, the company who control the club. The manager's newly appointed agent, Paul Stretford, had sought a new four-year deal arguing security over his client's long-term future could be key to retaining the squad's better players. Yet the team's spluttering form over the season's final months, a period when most were unsettled by talk of the manager taking the England job, and Chelsea's success in winning the European Cup to oust Spurs from contention put paid to those ambitions.
The agent ended up negotiating a settlement for the remaining 12 months of the existing deal. "I went to see Daniel about signing a new contract and that was it, it ended with me leaving," Redknapp recalls. "That's life, isn't it. I was supposed to be getting the England job, then I didn't. It happens. And there were more important things happening in my life last year than that [a reference to his acquittal for tax evasion at Southwark crown court]. There are people out there with little kids suffering from leukemia so this is nothing, and what has actually happened to me? I had four great years there and got very well paid. I've now come to QPR, don't get so well paid but I'm here and I'm loving it.
"Daniel was the first on the phone to me when I got this job, wishing me all the best, and we spoke again on Thursday. That was just about players – I don't mix socially with him – but they've got a few there and I wanted to see if there was anyone we could use. Let's not kid ourselves. Daniel's not going to say: 'Good old Harry, let's help him out. I love QPR.' He isn't going to give us a special deal because it's me. He'll look to get whatever he thinks someone's value is, that's what he does. And January is his time of year. He'll be offering those 'three for one' deals, or buy one get one free, on the last day. That's how he works."
The transfer window has offered Redknapp a reminder of the differences between life at Spurs and Rangers, a contrast neatly encapsulated by his endearing interest in the Marseille striker Loïc Rémy. A year ago he had travelled to the Bouches-du-Rhône hopeful a deal could be struck with the player eager to move to Tottenham, only for the £22m price tag to scupper the move. Last weekend Redknapp was back at Stade Vélodrome hoping to entice the forward again. "But I couldn't even get a meeting with him," he said. "I just think he felt embarrassed coming to see me this time to say he wasn't interested in coming to QPR. But plenty see you at the bottom of the league and probably think … well, you know."
The same may be true of another target, Rennes's Yann M'Vila, even if making an impact in a successful Premier League fight against relegation can serve to elevate a player's profile. Spurs, of course, were operating in another market and still are. At the same stage last year Tottenham were third, as they are now under André Villas-Boas, though seven points better off and travelling to Manchester City very much involved in the title race. Matters unravelled thereafter, but the former manager recognises them as contenders these days. "I think they can win the league," he says. "They've got a stronger squad than Arsenal, and they're not far off Chelsea. They're a club who can keep improving and they'll go for it.
"I wouldn't have done any better than [Villas-Boas] has done. He's done a fantastic job, getting the best out of a great squad. Good luck to them – I hope they win the league one day. I'm not a jealous, bitter, twisted person about anybody. People have taken liberties with me in my life like you'd never believe but I forgive and forget and shake hands." Perhaps no explanation will be required. Redknapp has moved on.