We’re slimming for England! Knocking a bunch of overweight ex-England footballers into shape for a match against arch-rivals Germany is Harry Redknapp’s goal in his new show, but will he achieve it?
- Harry Redknapp, 72, stars in new two-part series Harry’s Heroes: The Full English
- Retired football manager coaxes a bunch of ex-England players back to fitness
- He put the players on a regime of regular exercise, strict diet and protein shakes
- Legends including John Barnes, 55, are challenged to a match against Germany
- Former Liverpool midfielder John last played professionally 20 years ago
- John admits giving up takeaways he loves for the ITV series was hard
When Harry Redknapp retired from football management in October 2017, he vowed to concentrate on his family, golf and horse racing.
That peaceful life was interrupted by last year’s I’m A Celebrity…, which he won thanks in part to his professions of undying love for Sandra, his wife of 51 years.
So you’d think he’d be happy to go back to spending time with her at their home in Sandbanks, Dorset.
But when ITV wanted a manager to coax a bunch of overweight ex-England players back to fitness for a match against arch-rivals Germany, the lure of the beautiful game was too hard to resist.
Legends including John Barnes, David Seaman, Paul Merson and Chris Waddle had to shape up for one last grudge match against their old enemies, who beat England in the 1990 World Cup semi-finals, for two-part series Harry’s Heroes: The Full English.
Harry Redknapp coaxes a bunch of overweight ex-England players into fitness for new ITV series Harry’s Heroes: The Full English. Pictured far left with his team of ex-players. Back row, from left: Lee Sharpe, Steve Howey, Mark Wright, David Seaman, Chris Waddle, Razor Ruddock, Mark Chamberlain and John Barnes. Front row, from left: Paul Merson, Robbie Fowler, Matt Le Tissier, Rob Lee and Ray Parlour
‘The opportunity was too good to turn down,’ admits Harry, 72.
‘They’re a great group of lads, who’d lost a bit of shape, but they can still play like a dream.
‘I’m not one for sitting around doing nothing, and this got me so excited. I wanted them to win so much.’
Harry is a hero himself to many fans. As manager of Portsmouth he won the FA Cup in 2008.
He also guided Tottenham Hotspur to the Champions League for the first time in their history in 2010.
But does he still have the magic touch?
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First, the players were assessed. The results ranged from a little out of shape to downright dangerous.
Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock, 50, who played for Liverpool and Tottenham, struggled to run for more than a few seconds.
‘I couldn’t say I wasn’t shocked by some of them,’ says Harry.
‘I worried about Razor. I worried about the shape of him, his lifestyle.
‘I love him, he’s such a good lad, but he said he puts away 14 pints in a night!
‘Others were only as bad as any middle-aged blokes. When you get to your 40s and 50s it’s difficult.’
Harry introduced a regime of regular exercise, protein shakes and a strict diet to get the former footballers in shape for a match against Germany (pictured: Robbie Fowler takes on a youngster in a warm-up match)
So Harry introduced a regime of running exercises, football training and gym sessions, coupled with a strict diet of chicken, broccoli and protein shakes.
Some struggled at first, but with Harry’s encouragement they were soon shedding the pounds and picking up speed.
‘These boys were super-fit when they were playing,’ says Harry, ‘so it came back to them.
‘They might not be able to run as fast as they did, but they were still doing things with the ball that they could do 20 years ago.
‘They were fantastic.’
There were plenty of laughs along the way too, as the players slipped back into the changing room banter, enjoyed some bonding days out and reminisced about old times.
Former Liverpool midfielder John Barnes, 55, had to pull out before they even started due to injury.
But he stayed on as Harry’s assistant manager, and attempted to stick to the diet.
In John’s heyday in the 80s and early 90s players pretty much ate what they liked, and he admits that giving up the takeaways he loves was hard.
Former Liverpool midfielder John Barnes (pictured left today and right in 1997) who hasn’t played professionally for the past 20 years recalls eating what he liked during his heyday
‘It’s 20 years since I played professionally and if you don’t have to get up and train, you don’t,’ he says.
‘When you’re training you can eat a lot.
‘I used to go to McDonald’s and KFC – nobody told me about eating the right things.
‘Now I still eat huge amounts but I don’t burn it off.’
The players even recorded a new version of World In Motion, the chart-topping single the England team sang with New Order for the 1990 World Cup, with John re-creating his famous rap.
‘The song had the line “We’re singing for England”, but we’ve renamed it “Slimming For England”!’ he laughs.
Former Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman, 55, has kept fairly fit by ice skating with his wife Frankie Poultney, a professional skater he met on the Dancing On Ice tour in 2008.
‘We did a warm-up match and then everyone had a full English breakfast,’ he says.
‘But at our age you can get fat around your organs even if you’re not that overweight.
Harry Redknapp (pictured in 2008 during the UEFA Cup) was able to get the team shedding pounds and increasing their speed before their match at Leyton Orient’s east London staidum
‘We know that now and we’re doing something about it.’
One of the show’s success stories was former Manchester United player Lee Sharpe, 47.
‘I hadn’t been in a gym for God knows how long,’ he says.
‘I hadn’t played football for four years. When we started it killed me.
‘Your body seizes up. But once you get over that you enjoy it.
‘Now I’m strict at home so that on holiday I can have a few pints and cheat with my meals.
‘It’s about changing your lifestyle generally, not being strict all the time.’
Finally, the team were let loose at Leyton Orient’s east London stadium to play a group of German veterans of similar ages to the Brits, who’d been training in the meantime.
We won’t give away the score, but we can say that thanks to their hard work the team didn’t disgrace themselves, and most of them managed to stay on the pitch for the full 90 minutes!
‘It was great,’ says John Barnes.
‘It felt like we’d never been away. The team spirit was fantastic.’
Harry’s Heroes: The Full English, Monday and Tuesday, 9pm, ITV.
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