A former York City FC chairman has told how he rescued football manager Harry Redknapp from a fatal minibus crash – and has backed him to be a great England boss.
Michael Sinclair, now 70, was with his son Adam as well as Redknapp, the then manager of Bournemouth AFC, and five others in a minibus when it was hit by a car carrying three Italian soldiers, during the 1990 World Cup.
The three soldiers were all killed, as was Bournemouth general manager Brian Tiler, but Mr Sinclair pulled Mr Redknapp – hotly tipped to succeeed Fabio Cappello in the England job – to safety.
Mr Sinclair, who subsequently went into church ministry, said: “It was quite a narrow road and the three soldiers were coming towards us and drove slap-bang straight into us.
“Our minibus overturned and went sliding down the road.
“I was the only one who was conscious.
“I could smell petrol and I just thought ‘I have got to do what I have got to do’ and I just started pulling people out.”
He managed to pull his son and Mr Redknapp to safety before help arrived. Mr Tiler was the only one in the minibus to be killed.
Mr Sinclair, who was owner of the Mulberry Hall store in Stonegate at the time, said thankfully the vehicle did not burst into flames. He said: “It could have been a lot worse...a lot worse.”
The English group were returning to their hotel after watching the third-place play-off match between England and Italy, when the accident happened at about midnight.
The injuries suffered by those in the minibus were so serious that they were flown back to England in a special charter plane which flew lower than normal so the pressure did not affect the recovering patients.
As the survivors recovered in hospital, Mr Sinclair said the accident began to make him consider his future.
“I was lying in bed in hospital and it started me thinking,” he said.
“I think in a sense that changed my direction; it was a sort of catalyst.
“I was going to be ordained as a priest when I was 20 but I went into business instead and became chairman of York City Football Club.”
Mr Sinclair began his religious training in 1993 and was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1997 – a job which took him to several parishes in rural North Yorkshire during his 12 years as a full-time clergyman.
Now retired, Mr Sinclair said the country should get behind Harry Redknapp for the vacant England manager’s job.
“I think he would be a great manager,” he said. “And he deserves his chance as England manager.
“He has a wonderful eye for players and he’s a great motivator.”