Portsmouth hope to appoint Harry Redknapp as their manager later today or tomorrow. Their chairman, Milan Mandaric, said last night he will contact Southampton's chairman, Rupert Lowe, to open talks.
Mandaric said: "We will make an attempt to get it all together to get Harry. I desperately need a leader for the team, someone who can get the team together."
However, Mandaric, who wants a manager in place by Wednesday, insists that there are other candidates, and the feeling among Redknapp's friends is that he weakened his position by walking out on Southampton over the weekend. They believe he could have had a case for constructive dismissal because of alleged interference at the club.
Redknapp last night admitted he is worried that the move might fall through. He said: "I have a feeling it is not going to happen. At the moment, things are not looking good. If something was going to happen, I honestly believe it would have done by now. I have not spoken to Milan. It is all a bit strange.
"There were a couple of messages [on my phone] but none were from Portsmouth. The one thing I do know is I won't be going back to Southampton."
In this saga, it is possible Mandaric will wake up this morning and have changed his mind about re-employing Redknapp, who resigned at Portsmouth a year ago, even though the manager is prepared to work without a contract until the end of the season. The likelihood is, however, that Mandaric will agree to pay the £175,000 in compensation the remaining six months of Redknapp's contract that Southampton want. It is also possible that Redknapp will pay a portion of the money himself.
Yesterday, the attention switched to who will take over at St Mary's. The performance director, Sir Clive Woodward, is understood to have informed Lowe that he would not take the job. Woodward added that "it was just too early for him" and that "I do not think I am ready for the manager's role". However, he also reiterated his desire to go into management eventually and will be handed more responsibility by Lowe regardless of who takes over.
Southampton will hold a board meeting on Wednesday. Brentford's Martin Allen is being considered while the former Southampton players Matthew Le Tissier and Francis Benali are also interested. "We did talk about going in there together to work alongside Clive," Le Tissier said. "If that is an option the chairman wants to consider, he's got our phone numbers."
Southampton are unlikely to move for Glenn Hoddle, having failed to persuade him to return before employing Redknapp. Dave Bassett, who took charge on Saturday against Burnley, along with Dennis Wise, wants the job but is not thought to be in the running. Indeed, his coaching contract runs out at the end of this month and will probably not be renewed, although Wise may be included in the new set-up.
Another possibility is Rangers' Alex McLeish, who continues to also interest Portsmouth.
Redknapp, who said Portsmouth "are not the team I left behind", said he had no option but to resign at Southampton where, he claimed, in a swipe at Woodward and Lowe, that he was "only keeping the seat warm for someone else".
Redknapp, who insisted he had had no contact from either club yesterday, added: "I found it quite difficult at times so I'll take the chance I won't work for six months if I'm out of football now, then so be it."
He claimed the last year had been "the worst of my life" and that he had made a "monumental mistake" in leaving Portsmouth in the first place following a series of rows with Mandaric.
Redknapp, still technically Southampton's manager, is likely to be offered a six-month contract by Portsmouth, which will double his £350,000-a-year salary at Southampton plus a bonus of £500,000 if he keeps the club in the Premiership.
Lowe, who has complained to the Premier League about Mandaric's public wooing of Redknapp, said he found the "whole thing bizarre". " Why would Portsmouth, having said what they said about Harry, want him back?" he added. It is a question that may finally be answered today.
Four bosses who prove you never go back - and an exception to the rule
* SIR MATT BUSBY Manchester United - 1945-1969, 1970-71
The statue of the legendary manager at Old Trafford underlines the sense that Busby never left Manchester United, before or after his death in 1994, although he did reclaim a more hands-on role following Wilf McGuinness' one season in charge in 1969-70. Busby was by then United's general manager but, although he stepped back into the breach in 1970-71, he did not arrest an ageing team's decline.
* MALCOLM ALLISON Manchester City - 1972-73, 1979-80
As assistant to Joe Mercer, the flamboyant fedora-wearing Allison shared in the glory of City's golden era, a period that yielded the First Division title in 1968, the FA Cup, League Cup and the 1970 European Cup-Winners' Cup. Back on his own, however, the magic faded.
* HOWARD KENDALL Everton - 1981-87, 1990-93, 1997-98
"With City it was an affair but with Everton it's like a marriage," said Kendall (pictured) when he left Maine Road for the club he had led to two League titles, the European Cup-Winners' Cup and the FA Cup. But the marriage hit the rocks. He resigned three years into his second spell over the board's refusal to sign Cambridge striker Dion Dublin, only to return for one final, ignominious brush with relegation four years later.
* GRAHAM TAYLOR
Aston Villa - 1987-90, 2002-2003
Taylor led Villa out of the Second Division and to the brink of the First Division title, earning the call to become Bobby Robson's replacement with England. Came out of retirement to manage Villa again in 2002, but, following a miserable first season in charge, returned disillusioned whence he came.
* STEVE COPPELL
Crystal Palace - 1984-93, 1995-96 (technical director), 1997-98, 1999-2000.
Never had the same obvious triumphs as his first spell, when he took Palace into the top flight, the 1990 FA Cup final and their two highest League finishes before relegation, but still succeeded. Won promotion to the Premiership in his second spell and, perhaps most importantly, kept Palace in the First Division during their spell in administration.Reuse content