FOOTBALL: Redknapp hits out at ' harsh' replay decision

HARRY REDKNAPP was in critical mood over the Football League's decision that his West Ham side's Worthington Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa must be replayed next month.

The Hammers fielded an ineligible player, Emmanuel Omoyinmi, during last Wednesday's penalty shoot-out win at Upton Park, but Redknapp, the West Ham manager, had insisted that the club should be given a "heavy fine" instead.

While he was relieved that his team had not been thrown out of the competition - which was the Villa chairman Doug Ellis had called for - Redknapp still felt that the Hammers have been harshly treated.

"I'd find it difficult to go to Wembley through someone being thrown out after you've lost," Redknapp said. "None us knew the kid had played, it was an honest mistake. There was a letter to the Gills saying he could play, but I did not expect to see him back. In racing parlance, interference took place but it did not affect the result. We're not talking Paolo Di Canio, we're talking Manny Omoyinmi, who's never been near the first team. I don't even know why I put him on."

Redknapp believes that, as Omoyinmi had little effect during his six minutes on the pitch, a little discretion was called for. "I've seen the video," Redknapp said. "He had two touches and both times he gave it to Villa. Why should 28,000 people who love this football club have to suffer for a slight oversight by someone? That is very harsh."

Redknapp said he had no knowledge of Omoyinmi having played in an earlier round while on loan at Gillingham. He accepts that West Ham gave Gillingham permission to field the player, but maintains that, when checks were later made with the Second Division club, his secretary was told he had not played in the Worthington Cup. Omoyinmi must share some of the blame, having told his manager that he "didn't think" about his previous involvement in the competition.

The Villa chairman, Doug Ellis, was pleased to get a second chance, but believes the League has been kind to West Ham. Ellis said he could have pursued the matter via a Football League commission, confident that such a panel would have thrown out West Ham. But, following discussions with the West Ham chairman Terry Brown and the League secretary David Dent - with the Premier League chairman Dave Richards acting as an arbitrator - Ellis backed down.

He did, however, insist that Villa fans who can produce ticket stubs for the original tie should be let in for free. West Ham are to follow suit.

"I'm not entirely annoyed," Ellis said. "I'm delighted we at least have an opportunity to restage the match, rather than call it a replay. Naturally I felt at the time it was entirely right and proper that West Ham had broken the rules and that the game should have been awarded to us. But having spoken to Terry Brown, David Dent and Dave Richards, I said `all right, we will go back to Upton Park on one condition and that is our supporters be let in free of charge'.

Ellis added: "If the situation had been reversed I'm quite certain we would have admitted our mistake and allowed West Ham to take their place in the semi-final because it's a strict rule which has been in place for years. But I do feel for Harry Redknapp in many respects. Although pleased for us, I still feel a little bit for him - and the same thing might have happened with us if we had taken the word of Benito Carbone.

"When Benito signed for us one of the first things I asked him was if he had played in the Worthington Cup and he said `No.' I asked him again and he gave the same answer. But our secretary Steve Stride chased the matter up and, in fact, he had actually played five minutes for Sheffield Wednesday against Stoke City."

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