Woodward set for top job at Saints

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The Independent Online

Sir Clive Woodward is set to join Southampton as the club's sporting director. An exact title for the former England rugby union coach is still to be agreed but his role, which he will take up after the British Lions tour to New Zealand this summer, is likely to be much more far-reaching than had been expected. It could also include a seat on the Southampton board.

Sir Clive Woodward is set to join Southampton as the club's sporting director. An exact title for the former England rugby union coach is still to be agreed but his role, which he will take up after the British Lions tour to New Zealand this summer, is likely to be much more far-reaching than had been expected. It could also include a seat on the Southampton board.

Contrary to reports, Woodward will not work at the club's youth academy, which is run by the former head coach Steve Wigley. Instead he will be involved in "technical" aspects of the club in an initial two-year deal. Both Southampton and Woodward insist nothing has been finalised, but neither side deny that an appointment is imminent and is likely to be announced before the start of the Lions tour in June.

Attention will undoubtedly focus on how the move will affect Southampton's manager, Harry Redknapp. He flew out on holiday to Dubai immediately after Sunday's Premiership victory over Middlesbrough, which lifted Southampton out of the relegation places.

Redknapp quit Portsmouth after having a director of football appointed over his head. Ironically, he postponed a holiday to the same destination to join Southampton instead.

However, Woodward's role is likely to be different than that taken by Velimir Zajec. He will not, for example, be involved in transfers, and yesterday Redknapp indicated that he was not against his arrival.

"We are all concentrating on the next eight games of the season and Clive has his hands full and is totally focused on the Lions tour," Redknapp said. "I have met with Clive on several occasions, most recently at an annual dinner organised by the chairman [Rupert Lowe] at the stadium. He has definitely got a lot to offer football. I am very much looking forward to meeting Clive again after the Lions tour to see if we can take matters further."

Woodward, who revolutionised England's approach to rugby coaching, bringing in a battery of specialist coaches, has made no secret of his desire to move into football. Lowe, in particular, is an admirer of his skills and has had him as his guest at several Southampton matches. He has lauded Woodward's motivational skills and called him a "great leader".

There have also been persistent questions about Lowe's relationship with Redknapp, who was effectively imposed upon him by the Southampton board after Wigley's sacking. Lowe had wanted to appoint the former Southampton manager Glenn Hoddle. Instead, after an 11th-hour change of heart, Hoddle agreed a six-month deal at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Nevertheless, it may well be that Lowe expects Redknapp, who has been kept fully informed of the talks with Woodward, to depart this summer in any case, opening the way for Hoddle to return. Redknapp has already said he will go if Southampton are relegated and it is difficult to see how he will work with Woodward if the rugby coach is given an expanded role. If Southampton stay up, Redknapp is to receive a bonus which may be as high as £500,000, so he is unlikely to do anything to jeopardise that.

Lowe is also at pains not to rock the boat while the club's Premiership future remains in peril. An indication of Lowe's thinking was revealed earlier this season when he changed the title of the then manager Paul Sturrock to head coach. He has always hankered after a European-style coaching structure.

In response to speculation that Woodward had already signed a deal, Lowe said yesterday: "We must not allow anything, least of all unsubstantiated press reports, to detract from our improving form." He added: "There are no plans to change our academy structure, as has been suggested."

Reverse logic what Harry said about Clive

16 January

I'm told his strength is the motivation side of the game. But this is football, not rugby, and it's not motivation we lack - we're just short of quality in the team.

Whether he has anything to offer us, I don't know. But he is not going to get involved in the coaching or football any more than I would want to get involved in rugby.

Yesterday

I've met him on several occasions including at a dinner organised by the chairman at the stadium.

He has definitely got a lot to offer football and I'm very much looking forward to meeting Clive again after the Lions tour to see if things can be taken further.

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