Alan Hubbard

Tyson Fury's was not the only sporting resurrection to hit the headlines recently. Britain now has another new national treasure - or rather, an old one - in former football manager Harry Redknapp.  

Almost 11 million viewers tuned in at the weekend to see the 71-year-old Redknapp crowned King of the Jungle on the immensely popular ITV reality show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!

The ex-Tottenham and West Ham manager beat showbiz stars Emily Atack and John Barrowman in the final and his is a name which now seems to have overtaken even the beleaguered Theresa May on everyone's lips.

Sports personalities have a habit of doing well in these TV reality shows but Harry's performance during his 23 days living in the bush in shorts and t-shirt was as spectacular as anything he has done in a football tracksuit.

He was a hugely popular winner by viewers' votes and the programme itself has been a big hit this year, with an average of 10.8 million watching Sunday's (December 9) final live, the highest ratings the show has had for five years.

Harry Redknapp was crowned the winner of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! ©ITV
Harry Redknapp was crowned the winner of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! ©ITV

It certainly proved a refreshing seasonal alternative to the parliamentary pantomime now going on in Westminster over Brexit. 

'Arry turned out to be the show's Prince Charming. His perpetually cheery demeanour and East End wit earned him the popular vote. There is now talk of him having his own TV show.

This year's contestants were put through a series of trials in the Australian bush involving snakes, cockroaches and other terrifying creepy-crawlies. They had to eat a range of gruesome items like worms, a dead spider, goat's eyes, a bull's penis and a kangaroo's anus.

In Redknapp's case one of his challenges was to squeeze the juice out of fish eyes, drink it and then chew the eyes.

Contestants, who originally included TV host Noel Edmonds, also had to negotiate assault courses blindfolded, bake cakes while plastered in treacle and climb through stinking sewers and clean toilets in order to win food and other necessities for camp-mates.

Redknapp was first to volunteer to empty the "dunny" as he has no sense of smell following a car crash 28-years-ago.

There was no grumbling in the jungle from Redknapp whose final trial saw him trapped in an underground chamber while rats and bugs ran over him in the pitch black.

He became the show's oldest ever winner at 71 and said it was "so surreal" to emerge victorious.

"My grandkids will be jumping around the living room now. They'll be so excited," he said after being crowned and emotionally reunited with his wife of 51 years, Sandra, mother of their ex-footballer son Jamie Redknapp, now a TV pundit.

It was a tearful and touching surprise reunion. Spotting his missus perched on a tree stump he shouted 'no' in disbelief before hugging her tightly and kissing her with tears rolling down his cheeks. The three weeks were the longest they had been apart.

"I love you so much," he told her adding: "I can't help this. It's not like me. I don't normally cry. I'm pretty old school."

Redknapp, a man of numerous clubs (the last one was Birmingham), who many thought should have become the England manager, said he did not think he would survive so long in the show, and praised his camp-mates for being "amazing" and pulling him through.

While he has a "very happy home life", he added that football can be a "lonely business" and the show had "taught me how to laugh again".

Harry Redknapp is more accustomed to the touchline of a football pitch ©Getty Images
Harry Redknapp is more accustomed to the touchline of a football pitch ©Getty Images

But he admitted he had struggled with the meagre rations - and unusual foods - and that he looked forward to getting well-fed with a "nice bit of grub" every night. 

Already a multi-millionaire from his football and business ventures - he once famously admitted during a court battle with the Inland Revenue that he had a bank account in the name of his pet dog in tax haven Jersey - he emerged from the jungle some half a million pounds richer.

"Harry was the favourite all the way though," TV critic Emma Bullimore told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"With all of his little idiosyncrasies and little catchphrases, he was absolutely brilliant entertainment value and a very worthy winner.

"There was no game plan, there was no pretence, he was just himself. He came across as such a genuinely nice man."

The ever-controversial former football boss was the bookies' favourite to win this year's series, despite having never watched the show before.

After leaving the show and being shown his highlights, he said: "Great show, innit?"

Many viewers agreed. Lots thought it was one of the best series in the show's 16-year history, and Redknapp was one of the most popular winners.

No surprise there. After 34 years and 1,395 games as a football manager he was well equipped to survive in a jungle.