Saints vent fury at bid for Redknapp

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The Independent Football

Harry Redknapp's extra-ordinary return to Portsmouth hit a stumbling block last night after they refused to pay the £220,000 compensation demanded by their bitter rivals, Southampton.

The chances remain that Redknapp will complete one of the most amazing switches in football but Southampton, who are prepared to let the 57-year-old go, are adamant they must first receive payment for the seven months left on his contract.

The acrimonious row ended a day of twists and turns which started with Neil Warnock declaring he would stay at Sheffield United instead of moving to Fratton Park. It ended with the Portsmouth chairman, Milan Mandaric, revealing that he now intended to approach the Northern Ireland manager, Lawrie Sanchez (who may be interested if he could combine the jobs), and the former Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr.

Both men were, nevertheless, surprised to hear that they had been named publicly by Mandaric. The approach to Kerr is the more intriguing as he believes he may be able to bring Roy Keane with him as a player-coach even though the former Manchester United captain remains adamant he will not join another Premiership club. The two men have a strong working relationship.

Portsmouth may also make another attempt to speak to Rangers' Alex McLeish, but it is understood that Pompey still hope to announce Redknapp as their new manager after the weekend. There is little chance he will be offered a new deal at Southampton ­ his present contract expires next summer ­ and it seems that Redknapp is desperate to leave and return to the club he walked out on a year ago. Another intriguing possibility is what would happen if he resigned.

Portsmouth finally moved for their former manager after Warnock, their number one target, said he would remain at Bramall Lane ­ even though, with his contract running out next summer, he has not been offered a new deal. However, Warnock's future has been assured after a series of meetings with the club's directors.

Yesterday, Warnock implied he had also refused Portsmouth's approach for other reasons, citing the "politics involved" at the club. "I don't want to get into that," Warnock said. "I don't need the hassle."

It is believed that there has been a split in the Portsmouth board ­ with Mandaric keen to recruit Warnock or McLeish while the managing director, Peter Storrie, is said to favour Redknapp. There also appears to have been a hitch with the details of the offer made to Warnock, who said yesterday he had been tempted to move but was happy to stay put. "It's nice to have everything cut and dried and know what we're doing," Warnock, who celebrates six years in charge of the club today, said.

After being told of Warnock's decision, Mandaric approached the Saints. "I don't have a problem with Harry," he said. "I think he did a great job here and that's the main reason why I want him back." However, he was rebuffed after Southampton were told they would not receive compensation. Although Redknapp is concerned at the reaction if he returns to Fratton Park, he wants to take the plunge and believes he can keep the club up. An added complication is that although Portsmouth are willing to pay him an increased salary ­ and a substantial bonus, believed to be £500,000 if he keeps them in the Premiership ­ Redknapp may only be offered a six-month contract which will then be reviewed.

Matters have turned increasingly sour at Southampton, however, and despite public shows of support, the relationship between Redknapp and the club's performance director, Sir Clive Woodward, has become strained.

If Redknapp does go, it raises the amazing prospect of Woodward taking over as manager ­ although the likelihood is that will not happen until next summer with an interim regime of Dave Bassett and Dennis Wise being put in charge. However, if Redknapp stays, then Portsmouth will have to look elsewhere. Last night, Mandaric said: "We are leaving no stone unturned in our search for the right man."

Sanchez said he was "flattered to be mentioned" with the post but added "whether the two jobs can be compatible is something that needs to [be considered]".

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