Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand maintains several of the game's top players owe "a debt of gratitude" to Harry Redknapp.

The 61-year-old, who guided former club Portsmouth to FA Cup glory last season, was honoured by the Football Writers' Association at a gala dinner in London on Sunday evening, with England World Cup winner and former West Ham team-mate Sir Geoff Hurst leading the tributes.

Ferdinand wrote in his tribute to Redknapp: "Harry was my inspiration, the manager who took a chance on a gangly, slightly awkward teenager and gave me the momentum to become a Premier League and Champions League winner, and an England international."

He added: "Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, Frank Lampard, my brother Anton and many others who have made a career either at the top or lower down the leagues also owe Harry a debt of gratitude.

"Harry makes you feel 10 feet tall. We went out on that pitch believing we were the greatest footballers who ever lived, whatever our ability.

"He had you working for that moment on a Saturday where you would truly believe you were a better team than Manchester United or Arsenal.

"Few managers can walk into a dressing room and generate an instant feel-good factor the way he does."

Redknapp is often seen as a jovial character, but Ferdinand maintains a steely determination hides behind that colourful exterior - as the Spurs squad are currently experiencing.

"Harry has an image as this happy-go-lucky type, but believe me he is deadly serious about his football - he could not be without football," said Ferdinand, who was sold by Redknapp to Leeds in November 2000 for a then a British transfer record of £18million, which also made him the world's most expensive defender.

"He lives and breathes it. He hates players showing the slightest hint that they are taking the game for granted."

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