When Harry met Sandra: It was 54 years ago in the pub when she was dancing around her handbag. But now he’s the King of the Jungle, we’re ALL smitten
He boasts that they have never had an argument in 54 years and that without her he’d be lost.
She knows how to keep him in line, telling him to calm down when he ‘gets the hump’ — which, as a famously bad loser, he is prone to — cooking all his meals, making his coffee and doing his writing for him (she’s the only person he has ever written a card to).
And yesterday the stars of the most unexpected of jungle love stories — former football manager Harry Redknapp and his wife Sandra — were enjoying a much-anticipated reunion after his triumph on I’m A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here!
Harry Redknapp was crowned King of the Jungle on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! in the Sunday night final. He is pictured with his wife Sandra Redknapp as Harry wears his jungle crown
Sandra, of course, wasn’t in the Australian jungle with Harry. He was in there — separated from the woman he calls his ‘missus’ — for the longest period in his life. It was that enforced separation that had television viewers drawing a collective ‘aaaaah’ with Harry’s unashamedly soppy, but most of all utterly genuine outpourings, as he pined for his Sandra.
‘We do everything together,’ he told his campmates. ‘I have been with Sandra for 54 years and I hate being away from her.’
No romantic blockbuster could rival the tearful moment (for them and the viewers) they were reunited, briefly, in camp last Friday, when the surviving inmates were allowed a visit from loved ones.
‘I’m not going to let you go,’ he said. ‘You’re not going anywhere. You can come in my hammock!’
Harry and Sandra’s wedding in 1967. They met in the Two Puddings pub in Stratford, both aged 17. Harry says that she was his ‘best signing’
Every love story has a place where it all began — and for Harry Redknapp, 71, it was an East End boozer named the Two Puddings, in Stratford.
It was, in 1964, one of London’s busiest and most fashionable (if notorious) pubs, drawing TV presenters, sportsmen, occasionally even gangsters.
And it was here that a 17-year-old young footballer named Harry introduced himself to a 17-year-old hairdresser named Sandra.
She was dancing around a pile of handbags with a friend; Harry decided she was ‘the one’.
‘I loved Sandra to bits from day one,’ he said. ‘I always say she was my best signing. [My son] Jamie tells me I won the Lottery the day I met her and I did.’
The Redknapps appeared on ‘All Star Mr & Mrs’ TV show. On the TV quiz, the couple got every question right about each other
Sandra lived in a house with a garden in Barking and Harry, who was earning just £20 a week as a young player at West Ham and lived in a block of flats in a rougher area, was impressed.
Sandra’s Royal Albert Dock foreman dad, Bill Harris, was a formidable presence (‘arms bigger than my legs,’ recalled Harry, in his autobiography). ‘I used to take Sandra home after going out, and if I was there longer than 10 minutes the old man used to bang on the floor from the bedroom.’
Harry nearly came a cropper when Bill followed him to the dogs one night, resulting in a stern telling off from his prospective father-in-law, who didn’t approve.
Undeterred, the couple began making plans to marry — Sandra was earning £1.50 for a wash and set and Harry, who had left school with no qualifications, found work in a supermarket stacking shelves to supplement his wages in order to afford the ceremony.
The then West Ham midfielder Harry with Sandra and their one year-old son Mark in 1971
When he confessed to his West Ham boss Ron Greenwood, his pay was increased by ‘two quid a week’, and the couple finally wed in 1967, with a ceremony at Barking Abbey church, followed by sandwiches and cake at a social club in Ilford. The honeymoon was in Torquay.
By coincidence, the marriage wasn’t the first footballing relationship in Sandra’s family, her twin sister Patricia, who died in 2008 of pneumonia, married Harry’s friend and teammate Frank Lampard Sr.
Like many young couples, they struggled financially and were once so ‘skint’ they could barely afford the mortgage on their £6,000 semi when Sandra was pregnant with second son Jamie, 45, the former England star and now Mail columnist. They have an older son, Mark, who’s 48 and made his career in modelling.
Sandra helped out by doing hairdressing from home in Hampshire, where they lived when he played for Bournemouth. But good times were just around the corner.
Harry is pictured in hospital after a car crash in Italy in 1990. The crash killed his friend Brian Tiler and three young Italians
By the time he was made West Ham manager in 1994, later moving to Portsmouth, he was earning £800,000 a year — plus £500,000 bonus for guiding the team to promotion to the Premier League).
It enabled the couple to pay £3 million for their beautiful home on Dorset’s exclusive Sandbanks peninsula. (When they moved in 2015, it was to a new home just around the corner.)
Indeed, until he retired from football management last year his long-standing routine was to make the quickest getaway possible, returning to his wife and home in Poole.
‘When I go home, I want to get away from all the football for a short while by taking the dogs for a walk and just chatting to my missus,’ he said.
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Harry admits he lives in fear of something terrible happening to Sandra
‘I couldn’t cope,’ he told the Mail in an interview in 2013. ‘She treats me like a baby. She does everything. I can’t cook, I can’t make a coffee, I can’t do nothing. I could make a cup of tea and a cheese sandwich, but that’s it.’
He nearly had to test his own resilience, when something terrible did happen in 2016. In a freak accident, Sandra’s coat got caught in the car door and he ran her over, leaving her needing surgery on her ankle.
‘Sandra went across the road and unfortunately she had gone behind the car and as I went to drive off I caught her,’ he said. ‘I drove over her ankle, basically.’
The Redknapps, who both love Italian food, are pictured on holiday in Sardinia in 2011
It’s not the only calamity they have overcome — there was the terrifying road accident in Italy in 1990 which killed his friend Brian Tiler and three young Italians. Harry was seriously injured, but recovered, though it cost him his sense of smell and left him with those trademark droopy eyes.
He’s had a cancer scare (a tumour was removed from his bladder), and heart surgery, and there was the time in the late Noughties when he was investigated for tax evasion. His name was finally cleared at court in 2012.
Harry turned down a job managing Newcastle because working 370 miles away would have forced too much time away from Sandra.
A glamorous figure at 71, Sandra is the original footballer’s wife; albeit a modest one. Harry describes her as a ‘very gentle and quiet person’. She once described herself as ‘the woman behind the man’.
In a freak accident in 2016, Sandra’s coat got caught in the car door and he ran her over, leaving her needing surgery on her ankle
Not that it’s always been easy: ‘Being married to someone like Harry or any of these men in the football world is quite hard sometimes. You try to keep things normal, but it can be a struggle. Harry drives me mad sometimes. It can feel like there’s not enough time for us.’
When asked about the key to a successful marriage to a high-profile footballing figure, she said: ‘You’ve just got to be there in the background and support them all the way. There’s no big mystery, you’ve just got to be there.’
Devoted and generous (she once loaned their new Polish cleaner £10,000 because she needed somewhere to live), Sandra is seemingly content to let her husband take the lead, while shoring up the home front, raising their two children and doting on their five grandchildren.
While she didn’t routinely go to her husband’s games, when her sons were young she would traipse around the country supporting them as they played football.
The death of Sandra’s twin sister hit them both hard. They support the charity Leukaemia Busters.
Those close to Harry know he has always worn his heart on his sleeve as far as Sandra is concerned.
In 2008 he celebrated Portsmouth reaching the FA Cup Final by calling his local radio station and requesting Billy Joel’s hit I Love You Just The Way You Are for Sandra.
In 2003, he told sports reporters: ‘People might think I’m the chirpy wheeler-dealer, but that’s not me. We never go to parties or the West End. We love to find somewhere nice and quiet to go to dinner. That’s how we live our lives.
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