Harry Redknapp yesterday told Southampton that he wanted to leave for Portsmouth - and that he cannot even face being in the dug-out for today's home match against Burnley because he fears a hostile reception from the fans.
It is possible that a deal will be struck between the two South Coast clubs before the kick-off, to save Redknapp the dilemma, but his advisers yesterday said they expected him to turn up for the match. However it is understood that Redknapp has also said he does not feel he can set foot in Southampton again following the emotional events of the past two days in which Portsmouth have asked him to return just 12 months after his dramatic walk-out.
The Southampton chairman, Rupert Lowe, has told Redknapp he has a contract to fulfil but is unsure whether he will be at St Mary's today. If not, Dave Bassett is likely to be put in temporary charge, aided by Dennis Wise. At the same time, Southampton are furious with the Portsmouth chairman, Milan Mandaric, over some of the public utterances he has made about Redknapp in the last few days. They have consulted with Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, to see if he has breached any rules.
If Redknapp is absent today it will certainly mean the end of his relationship with Southampton. He also runs the risk of the club seeking an injunction to hold him to the final months of his contract, which expires next June and will certainly not be renewed.
Redknapp's private declaration is the latest twist in the increasingly bitter saga involving the two rival clubs who, so far, have failed to agree compensation for him to make the move. Talks continued yesterday and it was hoped that a breakthrough could be reached last night. However some of Redknapp's closest advisers are now telling him he may be better off staying at Southampton, especially as he has been offered just a six-month deal at Fratton Park, albeit with a significant pay increase and a £500,000 bonus for keeping the club in the Premiership.
Lowe is happy to let Redknapp go - and will increase the role of the club's performance director Sir Clive Woodward - but will not permit it unless he receives compensation. He is privately furious at the way Portsmouth have behaved.
The sum he would want in compensation is believed to have been revised down from £220,000 to £175,000 but Portsmouth have not offered a penny. Although it is a relatively small amount, both clubs believe there is a principle at stake. It could be that Redknapp's actions will now force a resolution, with Southampton continuing to insist the ball is in Portsmouth's court.
Redknapp is said to be at the end of his tether and has also grown increasingly tired of the fractious relationship he has with Lowe and Woodward. He also knows that there is no chance he will be retained by the club next season.
As events grew increasingly tense, Mandaric gave a bizarre interview last night in which he said "a message for Lowe is do whatever is best for his club and himself, he's looking into that situation. If he loves Harry then he should keep him there, if he doesn't love him then send him back to me! I like Harry, he's a special guy no matter what. It's Rupert Lowe's prerogative, he's chairman and Harry's his manager." Lowe is understood to have taken a dim view of the comments and is also believed to be extremely angry with Redknapp, who expressed bewilderment at events.
"They [Portsmouth] want to speak to me and so far Southampton have refused permission," he said. "I was a bit surprised by the approach, but until I hear anything different I'm just concentrating on our next game." Whether he is there for it is another matter.Reuse content