Football: Wenger sets sympathy aside

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The Independent Online
Arsene Wenger will be full of sympathy for Harry Redknapp if he becomes a victim of West Ham's plight - but the Arsenal manager has told his West Ham counterpart that there can be no room for sentiment when the two London clubs meet in Premiership action at Upton Park tonight.

"You can't go into a boxing ring with somebody and feel too sorry for him to knock him down, because if you don't do it he'll do it to you," Wenger said yesterday. "Of course I sympathise with Harry. Nobody is happy when another manager is in trouble.

"It is stupid if a manager's future depends on any one match, but while it will be bad for him if they lose it will also be a disaster for me if we do," the Frenchman added. "We're talking about football. This is nothing to do with human feelings."

After West Ham's home FA Cup defeat to Wrexham last Saturday, and a subsequent pitch invasion by fans, Redknapp offered to resign. The Upton Park board has not taken him up on his offer - yet. "The pressure is on the board as much as the managers, and they react by buying players they can't afford," Wenger added. "That can be a financial disaster and also a distraction for the [other] players."

Tonight Upton Park could see a large-scale "red card" protest by fans against the board. "We have just got to concentrate on the job. That's all there is to it," the beleaguered Redknapp said. "We know it will be a tough game for us, but it is at home and, if the crowd get behind us and leave the other distractions of take-overs and God knows what out the way and get behind the team, I'm sure we could pull off a good result."

John Moncur is expected to return after injury for West Ham, who may also recall Hugo Porfirio after the end of Mike Newell's loan spell. Arsenal will be without the suspended Martin Keown and Dennis Bergkamp, although Ian Wright is fit and will partner John Hartson up front. Scott Marshall is due for his first start of the season in defence, with Ray Parlour likely to replace the hamstring victim, David Platt, in midfield.

David Beckham has recovered from an ankle injury and is due to return to the Manchester United midfield for Wimbledon's second visit to Old Trafford in five days. Gary Pallister and Nicky Butt may also be back for United after missing Saturday's Cup tie.

Tottenham, who entertain Blackburn, will be without the suspended Colin Calderwood. The teenage striker Neale Fenn is added to the Spurs squad. Rovers have Billy McKinlay available after a ban - he is likely to displace Garry Flitcroft.

The Newcastle defenders Philippe Albert and John Beresford are struggling to be fit for Everton's visit to St James' Park. Faustino Asprilla, who has not played this year, could be on the substitutes' bench. Derby, who go to Leeds, could be without Dean Sturridge, who has a hamstring strain, so Marco Gabbiadini stands by.

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