Redknapp remains unrepentant after move along coast

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The Independent Football

Harry Redknapp turned both Saint and, for some, sinner yesterday when he was confirmed as manager of Southampton. But Redknapp himself was stridently unapologetic about accepting the post just two weeks after walking out on the south coast club's bitter rivals, Portsmouth, claiming he needed a break from football.

Harry Redknapp turned both Saint and, for some, sinner yesterday when he was confirmed as manager of Southampton. But Redknapp himself was stridently unapologetic about accepting the post just two weeks after walking out on the south coast club's bitter rivals, Portsmouth, claiming he needed a break from football.

Indeed, he simply confirmed what was known all along - that his departure from Fratton Park was solely to do with his deteriorating relationship with the chairman, Milan Mandaric, and the arrival of the executive director, Velimir Zajec. If the Croatian had not been appointed, Redknapp said, he would still be there. Instead, he becomes Southampton's fourth manager inside 12 months, their ninth in eight years, and only the second man, after Alan Ball, to be in charge of both clubs.

At St Mary's Redknapp, who has signed an 18-month contract, replaces head coach Steve Wigley, who had been offered the opportunity to revert back to a coaching role but chose to make a "clean break" after 14 Premiership games, and just one win, in charge.

Such is the animosity that has now developed between Redknapp and his former employers that Wigley's successor declared that he was forgoing £150,000 he is owed in wages. "I walked away and have not taken a penny," he said. "I told them [Portsmouth] they could invest it in their youth policy." That was in bitter reference to Mandaric's claims that Redknapp had neglected that area of the club.

When Redknapp left Portsmouth he had replied to a fan's plea not to go to Southampton - who were clearly looking to replace Wigley - by saying, "I will not go down the road, no chance". Yesterday he explained his change of heart and revealed a deep sense of anger, especially after it was alleged by Portsmouth director Terry that he must have been in negotiations for some time to join Southampton.

"What could I do?" Redknapp said. "I walked away and sat at home for two weeks seething about the way I've been treated, watching the results come through on Sky and thinking 'Harry, that's not your nature'. I like to enjoy life. I couldn't go out last Saturday night because I was so down."

Redknapp, who had been due to go on holiday to Dubai last night and had just signed a contract to be a pundit on Sky Sports, continued: "Suddenly I get a phone call on Monday. I was interested in the Wolves job at one time and I thought 'I've got to get back into football or I'll drive myself mad.' Suddenly I get this call and was asked to go and speak to the chairman of Southampton, down at his house in Cheltenham on Monday night. I went to my father-in-law's funeral on Monday morning. I said I was going to speak to him and my wife said 'are you sure you want to get back in?' I met him and he said he'd love me to come."

Interestingly, the deal was brokered by agent Dennis Roach, who also represents Glenn Hoddle. Hoddle was the first choice of Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe but took over at Wolves on Tuesday instead. Small world.

Redknapp, whose Dorset home is just 20 minutes from Southampton's ground, said he had not committed any "act of betrayal". "I left Pompey half way up the Premiership table and circumstances at the club had changed," he said, referring again to Zajec's appointment. "It did not suit the way I wanted to work and I wanted to move on." He added: "If the people at Portsmouth look at it realistically they should be thankful for the job I done and I'm thankful for their support, but that's in the past."

Redknapp said that "all I needed" was for Portsmouth to say "well done". Mandaric said yesterday that he was not "bitter, disgusted or angry, just disappointed" at Redknapp's decision. Redknapp may now poach Portsmouth coach Kevin Bond, a former Southampton player, whose contract runs out this summer. "It's history now and I'm only looking forward to working at Southampton. Keeping them up will be a massive challenge," added Redknapp.

Indeed Lowe, who will make funds available in the January transfer window, and who is likely to sell striker James Beattie, said that the target for this season was simply to avoid relegation. "This season we need to re-group," he said. "We need to concentrate on each game at a time and under Harry hopefully we can climb the table."

The personal chemistry between the two men will be interesting to observe. Lowe is not a benign chairman, and Redknapp likes to be in control. However Lowe, who knows this appointment has to work after so many others have mis-fired, said: "The club has been accused over the last few years of having too many managers and the board has not got the last two appointments right, we have to accept some responsibility for that. But we have become a lot stronger as a club and that has enabled us to attract someone like Harry."

Lowe added: "Harry brings with him 900 games of management expertise and is a fabulous motivator. On top of that he brings a media presence that we hope will change the tone of the coverage the club receives."

He has certainly garnered headlines in the past few days.

BREAKING WITH THE PAST: THE DIFFERENCE 14 DAYS MADE TO HARRY

'I have had 20 years of it and I just thought I needed a break. It may last for a week, it may last for a month, I don't know. I'll have to wait and see.' Redknapp, 24 November 2004, explaining his departure from Portsmouth

'I've sat at home for the last two weeks watching football on TV and didn't enjoy it. I got a phone call late on Monday from the chairman and it was too good a chance to refuse.' Redknapp, yesterday

MANAGERS WHO HAVE CROSSED THE DIVIDE

Alan Ball Portsmouth (1984-89 and 1998-99) and Southampton (1994-95)

Ron Saunders Aston Villa (1974-82), Birmingham City (1982-86) and West Bromwich Albion (1986-87)

George Graham Arsenal (1986-95) and Spurs (1998-2001)

Steve Coppell Crystal Palace (four separate times between 1984 and 2000) and Brighton (2002-03)

Brian Little Wolves (1986), Aston Villa (1994-98) and West Brom (1999-2000)

Billy Bonds West Ham (1990-94) and Millwall (1997-98)

John Ward Bristol Rovers (1993-96) and Bristol City (1997-98)

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