Crouch has faith in revival

Southampton 2 Liverpool 0
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The Independent Football

Harry Redknapp's first act as Portsmouth manager was to get rid of Peter Crouch. Not because he wanted to but because Aston Villa offered "ridiculous" money. Any sum, Villa fans would later complain, would be ridiculous for the 6ft 7in striker who failed miserably in the Midlands having cost a whopping £5m. Indeed, Southampton's supporters were hardly enamoured by his arrival, for £2m, last summer.

Harry Redknapp's first act as Portsmouth manager was to get rid of Peter Crouch. Not because he wanted to but because Aston Villa offered "ridiculous" money. Any sum, Villa fans would later complain, would be ridiculous for the 6ft 7in striker who failed miserably in the Midlands having cost a whopping £5m. Indeed, Southampton's supporters were hardly enamoured by his arrival, for £2m, last summer.

Redknapp used the cash from Crouch's sale to build a team that reached the Premiership. Now he hopes to construct a side around him instead. "He's a gentle giant," said Redknapp after Crouch had led Southampton to their first Premiership win, at their eighth attempt, under their new manager. "But he can play, he's got a good touch."

As, it seems, has Redknapp. He may be known for being a wheeler-dealer but Redknapp is also a good man-manager, one who deliberately seeks out damaged goods and puts them back in the shop window. Crouch spoke from the heart when he said "I've been waiting for this opportunity for three years and I'm relishing it".

However, it could easily have been fellow goalscorer David Prutton. "He was in the wilderness when I came here," Redknapp said of the midfielder who arrived at St Mary's two years ago for £2.5m with such high, and still unfulfilled, expectations.

Redknapp did the same job on Nigel Quashie at Portsmouth. Now he is a proven Premiership performer and someone in whom Redknapp invested £2.1m to save Southampton. Damaged knee ligaments ruled him out against Liverpool, however. And then there is Harry's son, Jamie, who having lost his Spurs performed magnificently against his former club, consigning them to their third consecutive defeat for the first time in six years.

"It's confidence, isn't it?" his father said. "I tell the story about being in America with Mooro [Bobby Moore] and he said he never got a pat on the back all the time he played at West Ham, Ron Greenwood never said 'well done'. Maybe because he didn't expect him to need it. But we all do. We all need someone to believe in us."

The belief returned with this surging victory over an appalling Liverpool for whom Steven Gerrard was patently unfit and Fernando Morientes a pale shadow of a Champions' League striker. Indeed, Alan Hansen declared the first half the worst he had seen his old club play in the 14 years since he retired. He was not wrong. But goodness knows what, privately, he also made of the lumbering, disinterested Mauricio Pellegrino who was utterly outplayed by Crouch, who set up Prutton's goal and headed in the second from the midfielder's cross.

"We had almost forgotten what it felt like to win," Crouch said. On this evidence, Liverpool could share that sentiment, their manager Rafael Benitez admitting that his players had lost "confidence". It's a commodity Redknapp restores.

Goals: Prutton (5) 1-0; Crouch (22) 2-0.

Southampton (4-5-1): Niemi; Telfer, Lundekvam, Davenport, Higginbotham; Nilsson (Jakobsson, 76), Redknapp, Prutton, Delap, A Svensson (Jones, 89); Crouch. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Oakley, Ormerod.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Dudek; Carragher, Hyypia (Raven, 67), Pellegrino, Warnock (Sinama-Pongolle, h-t); Garcia, Gerrard, Hamann (Biscan, 78), Riise; Baros, Morientes. Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Traoré.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booked: Southampton Redknapp; Liverpool Hamann, Garcia.

Man of the match: Prutton.

Attendance: 32,017.

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