Redknapp admits he was desperate to avoid Portsmouth

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The Independent Football

Harry Redknapp sees himself as one of the best things to have happened to the FA Cup in recent years, as the only manager of a club outside of the so-called "big four" to have lifted the famous trophy since 1995.

Yet the Tottenham manager admits his return to Wembley for tomorrow's semi-final with Portsmouth was the one fixture he had been hoping to avoid, such is his affection for the club he left in October 2008 and which has subsequently fallen on harder times. Indeed, Pompey will be relegated before that game even kicks off should West Ham beat Sunderland today, which represents a remarkably rapid fall from grace for a club that won the competition two years ago.

"I was pleased that Portsmouth got through but I really didn't want to draw them," Redknapp said. "If I am honest I was hoping to draw Aston Villa. I'm not saying that would have been an easy game but you would want to avoid Chelsea and I really didn't want to face Portsmouth."

Avram Grant's side will have the support of those who favour the under-dog, and Pompey, in administration off the pitch and short of fit players on it, live up to that description. However, Redknapp's experiences at the south-coast club mean it is unlikely he will be complacent. "It had got boring with the same teams winning it," he recalled of the 2008 Cup run. "But that year, when we got to the quarter-finals, Chelsea were going to Barnsley, and it was Manchester United versus Pompey. But we went to United and won 1-0 and Chelsea were beaten at Barnsley, which was a complete shock. It can happen in the Cup."

Redknapp will give late fitness tests to several players, including defenders Vedran Corluka and Michael Dawson. Dawson was confident of overcoming an Achilles problem in time for a third attempt at Wembley success, having missed Tottenham's Carling Cup victory over Chelsea in 2008 and been on the losing side against Manchester United in the final of the same competition last year.

"I was devastated not to play when we won and to walk up the stairs to collect a loser's medal was awful," he said. "Hopefully that will not happen again."