To what extent Harry Redknapp actually colluded in the events that resulted in Billy Bonds’ resignation remains a matter of debate to this day.
Redknapp is adamant that there was no stitch-up. Bonzo refuses to talk about it – just as he refuses to talk to Redknapp. Perhaps we will never know the truth, but there is little doubt who most West Ham supporters side with.
As a player who had been schooled by Ron Greenwood, Redknapp knew exactly what sort of football West Ham supporters want to watch.
However, much of his first season in charge was spent flirting with the relegation zone until a late rally pulled us clear. Halfway through the following season the European Court of Justice took a decision that was to radically change the game.
The Bosman ruling allowed the free movement of footballers within the EU and prevented member countries imposing quotas on foreign players.
In effect, it opened the floodgates and a renowned wheeler-dealer like Redknapp was more than happy to take advantage of the opportunities that offered.
Some of his overseas purchases were better than others. Florin Raducioiu and Ilie Dumitrescu were disappointing, Paulo Futre and Hugo Porfirio were over the hill, and Marco Boogers was utterly clueless.
On the plus side, his imports included a certain Slaven Bilic, Eyal Berkovic and the excellent Marc-Vivien Foe. He made some shrewd domestic buys, as well. Trevor Sinclair, Ian Wright, Stuart Pearce and Christian Dailly all made their mark.
Redknapp also oversaw the introduction of some great young talent. Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard Jnr and Jermain Defoe all made their debuts on his watch. But his greatest coup was the signing of Paolo Di Canio – a player who went on to become a club legend.
Whatever you think of Redknapp – the Marmite of managers – he was always good for a one-liner. This is the man who, when West Ham were staring relegation in the face in 1996/97, joked that we needed snookers.
After the relegation fight of 96/97, West Ham enjoyed two successful seasons, finishing eighth in 1997/98 and fifth a year later – the club’s second highest position in the top flight.
And, unlike 13 years beforehand, league success meant West Ham qualified for European football – winning the Intertoto Cup at the start of the following season.
But that was as good as it got for Redknapp. The 2000/01 season was particularly disappointing, and with one game still to go he was surprisingly sacked. As he described it later: ‘I walked into his office expecting to sign a new contract – and walked out without a job!’