TORONTO – As England exits the World Cup after yet another disappointing campaign, veteran Premier League manager Harry Redknapp has poured fuel on the fire by suggesting some England players skirted their national team duty.
Redknapp, now manager of Queens Park Rangers in the UK’s Premier League, said it happened during his 2008-12 stint at rival club Tottenham. The England players on the team at the time included current Toronto FC striker Jermain Defoe.
“I was at Tottenham and I’m telling you now, when full internationals came around, two or three players didn’t want to play, they did not want to go and play for England,” Redknapp told BBC’s Sportsweek.
“They’d come to me 10 days before the game and say: ‘Gaffer, get me out of the game. I don’t want to play in that game, get me out of it.’ And that was how it was.
“And I said ‘You’re playing for your country, you should want to play.’ [They said] ‘Nah, my girlfriend’s having a baby in four weeks, I don’t want to play.’ And that is the truth. It makes you wonder.”
That drew immediate reaction from England captain Steven Gerrard and manager Roy Hodgson.
“In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve seen a greater interest in playing for England, so Harry’s comments come as a bit of a surprise, quite frankly,” Hodgson told reporters in Brazil.
Gerrard urged Redknapp to name names.
“I tell you what, I’d be interested to find out who those players are,” Gerrard told reporters in Brazil. “If Harry is making a comment like that, he should name them and embarrass them. Hand on heart, no one in this group wants to go home.
“No one has said to me they don’t like playing for England or that they don’t want to be here. If (what Redknapp says is) the case, it’s disgusting. For me, if a player doesn’t want to be here, he doesn’t deserve to be at a World Cup.
“But should Harry not name them? ‘They’ didn’t want to play for England. Who? Name them. We need names. Is it Aaron Lennon, Kyle Walker, Andros Townsend? I don’t know who he means. Does he mean five years ago? Or 10 years ago?”
Redknapp says he won’t name names.
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Defoe insists he is not one of the guilty parties.
“I’ve always been available for England and not once pulled out of a squad when I’m not injured,” Defoe told England’s Sun newspaper. “Playing for my country has been the pinnacle of my career. When Roy Hodgson rang me to say I was not in the squad this summer, it was the most devastating news I’d ever received.”
Hodgson said he did not believe Defoe was one of the players Redknapp was referring to. And Defoe was also backed by the England skipper.
“I’ve spoken to Jermain Defoe and he’s devastated [not to be at the World Cup],” said Gerrard.
With England (0-2-0) concluding its World Cup campaign against Costa Rica in Brazil on Tuesday, the post-mortem is well underway back in Britain.
Toronto FC did not hold an open practice Tuesday.