Redknapp lets rancour replace romance

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The Independent Online

After a weekend when pundits and players rediscovered a sense of magic and tradition in the FA Cup, yesterday's fourth-round draw produced at least one tie where romance is likely to give way to rancour. Given the manner in which Harry Redknapp resurfaced at Southampton, two weeks after he left Portsmouth pleading for a rest, the derby at St Mary's Stadium may be as volatile as any the south coast has seen.

After a weekend when pundits and players rediscovered a sense of magic and tradition in the FA Cup, yesterday's fourth-round draw produced at least one tie where romance is likely to give way to rancour. Given the manner in which Harry Redknapp resurfaced at Southampton, two weeks after he left Portsmouth pleading for a rest, the derby at St Mary's Stadium may be as volatile as any the south coast has seen.

Their meeting is a distraction for Redknapp from the priority of preserving his new club's Premiership status, as well as providing a possible policing headache. Eighty arrests were made when the teams met at Portsmouth in the league last season, but Sgt Alex Taylor, clearly a glass-half-full man, anticipated "a good occasion for both cities".

There will be plenty of opportunity for police overtime at another highly parochial match, the all-Lancashire affair between the League One conquerors of Manchester City, Oldham Athletic, and their Premiership neighbours, Bolton Wanderers. Nevertheless, the game at Boundary Park, along with the match at Southampton, saved a draw that had been eagerly awaited from a feeling of anticlimax.

If we accept that much of the appeal of the tarnished old competition lies in the wealthy élite being placed in an uncomfortable position on a glue-pot pitch, with spectators jeering every mistake from within touching distance, then most of the 16 ties simply came out the wrong way round. Ten of the 16 Premiership survivors were handed home games, including Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool, assuming the latter pair prevail in their outstanding third-round fixtures. Of the six drawn away, only Bolton will definitely visit lower-division opposition.

Redknapp, who has been joined at Southampton by Jim Smith and Kevin Bond from his old Portsmouth staff, will be relieved to be at home, although he played down the impact his move may have had on a rivalry that often spills over into enmity. Asked whether he feared a backlash, he replied: "There may be something. But I walked away from Pompey with my head held high and I still have lots of friends there that know exactly what I did." The chairman he blamed for his exit, Milan Mandaric, also sought to defuse any tension, saying: "We will have a professional approach and treat each other the way we deserve to be treated."

Exeter City, the club from the Nationwide Conference that held Manchester United to a draw before nearly 68,000 spectators at Old Trafford, would be at home to another of the Premiership's higher-placed sides, Middlesbrough, were they to spring the greatest FA Cup surprise of all time in the replay a week tomorrow. Even if they do not reach the fourth round, Exeter will bank around £750,000 from the two tussles with the holders, having been guaranteed a fee of £150,000 by the BBC's decision to take live coverage of United's visit.

Chelsea, who overcame the shock of falling behind to Scunthorpe United before prevailing at Stamford Bridge, will play Birmingham City, where they won 1-0 early in Jose Mourinho's reign. The Birmingham manager, Steve Bruce, in an assessment which possibly underlines a shift in the balance of power within the English game, described it as "the toughest draw that we could possibly have had".

Birmingham's co-owner, David Sullivan, admitted he was "gutted" by the draw, saying he would have "loved" a lower-division side at St Andrew's. "Chelsea are probably the best team in the world at the moment, let alone in Britain," he complained. "They're a fantastic team with the best players, best manager, best owner."

Tottenham Hotspur's trip to West Bromwich Albion has a nostalgic ring for Spurs' manager, Martin Jol, the Dutchman's midfield prowess having helped Albion reach the semi-finals in 1982. Arsenal, who came through with a weakened team against one Championship outfit, Stoke City, will be confident of beating another, Wolverhampton Wanderers, in a contest that reunites former Monaco allies Arsène Wenger and Glenn Hoddle.

The last Cup winners from the second tier were West Ham United a quarter of a century ago. West Ham and Sheffield United both overcame supposed superiors from the Premiership on Saturday, their reward being to play each other for a place in the last 16.

* The average attendance at last weekend's 31 FA Cup ties was 17,273 - the highest at the third-round stage since 1981. The FA chairman, Geoff Thompson, claimed last night that the aggregate turn-out of 535,487 "dispelled any doubts about the unique and enduring appeal" of the competition.

FA CUP FOURTH ROUND DRAW THE ROAD TO CARDIFF

FOURTH ROUND

Derby v Watford or Fulham

Man Utd or Exeter v Middlesbrough

Cardiff or Blackburn v Colchester

Chelsea v Birmingham

West Ham v Sheff Utd

Oldham v Bolton

Arsenal v Wolverhampton

Everton v Sunderland

Nottm Forest v Peterborough

Brentford v Hartlepool or Boston

Reading or Swansea v Leicester or Blackpool

Burnley or Liverpool v Bournemouth

Southampton v Portsmouth

West Brom v Tottenham

Newcastle v Coventry

Charlton v Yeovil

Ties to be played weekend of 28/29/30 January.

THIRD ROUND

Burnley v Liverpool (Tues 18 January)

THIRD-ROUND REPLAYS

Swansea v Reading (Mon 18 January)

Blackpool v Leicester (Tues 18 January)

Blackburn v Cardiff (Wed 19 January)

Boston v Hartlepool (Wed 19 January)

Exeter v Man Utd (Wed 19 January)

Fulham v Watford (Wed 19 January)

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