Harry Redknapp completed his extraordinary return to Portsmouth last night with a bitter parting shot from Southampton, who said: "The saga [was] an embarrassment to football as a whole."
The rivalries between the two South Coast clubs were evident in the statements of the Southampton chairman, Rupert Lowe, who even talked about conducting the "last rites" on Redknapp's brief, unhappy 12-month tenure of St Mary's, the anniversary of which would have been today.
"We do not believe that this episode has been conducted within the rules of the game," Lowe said, "and have made our understanding of the last week available to both the Premier League and the Football League." He is hoping there will be an inquiry over Portsmouth's behaviour.
That provoked an angry response from Portsmouth's chairman, Milan Mandaric, who said: "I don't know what game he is talking about. Is it hockey or rugby? I have done everything properly and consulted with the Premier League. I have done nothing wrong."
Mandaric added, of Southampton's own plight: "I think they have enough on their plate to worry about. I don't think he [Lowe] should be unhappy. He got what he wanted. I got what I desperately wanted."
Mandaric said that he had paid £218,000 in compensation to Southampton to cover the final months of Redknapp's contract. In a clear indication of the enmity between the two clubs he said the wrangle of the last few days "wasn't just a money issue. It was of principles."
Another Southampton director, Andrew Cowen, went even further than Lowe, questioning the flood of money - £12m by some estimates - that has been staked on who would be the new Portsmouth manager. "Money continued to back Harry for the Pompey job on the betting exchanges," he said. "Perhaps in the future you should look at what happens there rather than what people say."
Redknapp, too, was talking of gambling - but only in relation to the decision by Mandaric to bring him back. The relief at Fratton Park was palpable soon after 5pm as the two men walked through the doors of the Montgomery Suite.
"We are bringing back the man who left us a year ago, bringing him back home, to his home, the manager who was the best manager, at least during my time, at this football club," Mandaric said.
Redknapp, who arrived at 1pm, once a compensation deal had been agreed between the clubs, said that such was his haste to rejoin Portsmouth that he had "signed a contract with no figures in it" and claimed he did not even know what his salary would be. "Milan said we will look after you," he said. "I have not made any demands on anyone."
His contract runs until the end of the season and "let's see what happens". Redknapp added: "If we stay up then let's talk about it. It was not a money situation. I wanted to come back." However, he said he would hope to remain "for three of four [more] years - that is my aim".
Redknapp said he was delighted at his return. "Milan has taken a big gamble," he said. "He has shown fantastic courage. The easy thing was to say 'no, Harry'. I made a massive mistake leaving. It's a massive challenge - you only have to look where we are."
Both men claimed that Frank Lampard Snr - Redknapp's brother-in-law and the father of the England midfielder - had been the conduit for the deal following Chelsea's match against Portsmouth on 26 November - two days after Mandaric sacked Alain Perrin.
"Milan got him a couple of tickets," Redknapp said. "He [Lampard] rang me and said, 'I've had a cup of tea with Milan and I think he wants you back'. That was the first inkling I had."
Mandaric insisted that he had continued to pursue other candidates - but had not formally offered the job to Sheffield United's Neil Warnock. But he said that after he knew of Redknapp's interest, "I only had one man in my mind".
Mandaric, who has received abusive text messages balanced by support in polls of fans and from the local media, said that he and Redknapp would now look at the big picture and try not to repeat the rows that had led to the manager quitting in the first place.
One of the public reasons for that departure was Redknapp's insistence that Portsmouth did not need a director of football when Mandaric appointed Velimir Zajec.
Yesterday, Redknapp said he did not think another would be appointed. "I have not discussed that with him and I think he will not go down that road again," he said. "He does not need one when I'm here."
There will be some frenzied transfer activity next month, although Redknapp insisted the games up until the end of the year will be crucial to Portsmouth's chances of survival.
He said that he realised he had made a "bad mistake" in joining Southampton. "I should never have done it and I say that without being disrespectful to Southampton," he said.
Redknapp will not be rejoined by his former assistant Jim Smith while he brushed aside suggestions that coach Kevin Bond will also rejoin. He said he had a huge task ahead of him - one of his problems was that he "didn't know half" of his new squad - starting with Monday's away game at Tottenham. "Some people in life never take a challenge on," Redknapp said. "But at the end of the day people cannot say that I didn't have a go."Reuse content