Harry Redknapp left penniless and living in dingy motel after conman scammed him

Harry Redknapp has revealed the extraordinary story of how he was left unemployed and penniless after being scammed by a criminal football club owner in the US.

The 75-year-old, who had notable spells in charge of West Ham, Tottenham and Portsmouth, explained in his new book, 'When Harry Met Sandra', that he and his family were forced to stay in a run-down motel after being told he had nothing left in his bank account.

"We couldn't get anything else as we had no money," Redknapp wrote. "He stole the lot."

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'He', in this case, was Len Lesser, an American businessman who had just launched a brand new football franchise in the States, Phoenix Rising.

It was 1979 and Redknapp's playing career was drawing to a close. He'd spent the best part of the previous four seasons as player-coach for Seattle Sounders, but decided to jump ship to Phoenix after being offered, what he claimed was, a "silly" amount of money.

Redknapp admitted he "wasn't sure" about Lesser, despite the fact the man had bought him and his wife brand new sports cars, and his concerns were amplified when the squad turned up for their first pre-season match to discover they had no kit.

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When the kit eventually arrived, apparently just a few minutes before kick-off, they realised the goalkeeper's shirt was identical to the rest of the team.

Redknapp wrote: "I told him: 'Len, our keeper can’t wear the same kit as the players. He needs his own kit!' 'Harry,' he replied patronisingly, 'we will be the smartest team in the league, we are all going to wear the same uniform'.

"I still didn’t have a good feeling about Len. And my instincts were proven right when during a trip to the bank a few weeks later the cashier told me I had no money in my account. 'That can't be right,' I told her. 'I have just been paid my first month's wages.' But it was right. I hadn't been paid."

Redknapp soon found out why he hadn't been paid. Len was a conman, and had managed to get six investors to pay millions of dollars into this fake club of his, before stealing the lot and disappearing.

Thankfully, the authorities eventually caught up with him and chucked him in prison for three years, but Redknapp, the players and the coaching staff were all out of jobs.

Redknapp moved his family back to England, where he was given a lifeline by his former West Ham team-mate, and England World Cup-winning captain, Bobby Moore, who hired him as his assistant at Oxford City.

Two years later he was handed the reins at old club Bournemouth, where he spent the next nine seasons, before being appointed West Ham assistant in 1994. A few months into the job he was promoted to manager, kicking off what would end up being the third-longest managerial career in Premier League history, behind only Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Not bad for a man who started his coaching career in a budget American motel, eh?

When Harry Met Sandra is out on Thursday (September 29), £20, published by Mirror Books


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