Mandaric ready for Redknapp showdown

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The Independent Online

The Portsmouth chairman, Milan Mandaric, wants to change the management team at the Premiership club because he has become angered by suggestions from Harry Redknapp that he has brought success on the cheap.

The Portsmouth chairman, Milan Mandaric, wants to change the management team at the Premiership club because he has become angered by suggestions from Harry Redknapp that he has brought success on the cheap.

A meeting between the two men is scheduled for tomorrow but may be postponed until after Saturday's final league game against Middlesbrough as speculation grows that Redknapp is being forced out along with his assistants, Jim Smith and Kevin Bond.

It is unlikely that Redknapp, who signed a new two-year deal just two months ago, will be sacked but Mandaric is prepared for him to walk out in the next few days if he does not agree with plans to bring in a so-called "super-coach" to work alongside the manager.

Mandaric has made it clear to Redknapp that he is not prepared for another summer of wholesale comings and goings and wants to get more out of the players Portsmouth already have. The Serb-born Californian-based millionaire has told Redknapp he will not sanction the arrival of the half-dozen or so new players which the manager has identified as the minimum he requires to build on this season's success.

Mandaric feels that over the past two years he has bankrolled Redknapp's ambitions to an extent that is no longer sustainable.

Redknapp has brought in 44 players during that time - with many, of course, leaving as well. Nevertheless the wage bill has more than doubled and now exceeds £20m with around £7m spent last summer on transfer fees and agents' costs. Mandaric, according to sources at the club, expressed alarm at the £300,000 paid to one agent over the signing of a player on a Bosman free and the costs involved in other so-called free transfers. Portsmouth have also continued to contribute to the wages of Paul Merson, now at Walsall, and players who have been out on loan such as Carl Robinson and Deon Burton. Mandaric does not want to repeat such deals.

At the same time several high earners have arrived including Eyal Berkovic, Teddy Sheringham, Tim Sherwood and Steve Stone, who are all being paid more than players receive at more successful clubs but who are coming to the end of their careers. Although Mandaric acknowledges the work that Redknapp and his team have undoubtedly done - in gaining promotion and consolidating a place in the top division - he has become irked by the manager's comments about a shoestring budget.

Mandaric has questioned the coaching that has taken place and heard allegations, from former players such as Boris Zivkovic who arrived and left within months, that Redknapp shows little interest. Tensions have existed for months. For example, after a defeat against Birmingham City last October, Mandaric was aghast to discover that the wage bill at his club was greater.

The chairman owner is also aware that though Portsmouth's revenues have increased hugely because of the Sky TV money through being in the Premiership, the club is limited. The capacity at Fratton Park is less than 20,000 and it is the only ground without executive boxes. Among Mandaric's plans is a £40m scheme for a Pompey Village development with a 35,000-capacity stadium.

It has all added to the pressure and a meeting last Saturday - which was curtailed because of a fire alarm in the team hotel - at which Mandaric along with the chief executive, Peter Storrie, started to question Redknapp. Yesterday Mandaric denied he wanted to sack Smith and Bond and was effectively forcing Redknapp out. "Someone is making mischief here," Mandaric said.

He also dismissed claims that he was planning to employ George Leekens, a former coach of the Belgian national team, who is due to leave the club side Mouscron. "That is a load of rubbish," he said. "It's not true. That's just speculation from people who are trying to destroy the club. I've never met the guy." However, Mandaric yesterday remained in Belgium "on business" and, on Monday, Leekens was telling the Belgian press that he was due to meet the Portsmouth chairman next week. Whatever the truth, Mandaric is clearly angry that the story - or part of it - has leaked out. "They should be professional and come and talk to me," he said of any of his staff who were unhappy.

Redknapp, although annoyed, was attempting to be conciliatory as he also remained defiant. "Let's get Saturday's last game of the season out of the way first and then see what happens," he said. "I'm very disappointed this has come up. It has tarnished the end of the season and I don't want it unsettling the players.

"I know what is being suggested but I see no super coaches coming through. I don't know any. If I lose Jim I'm struggling. We came to Pompey together and everyone knows we've pulled the club up by the bootstrings and done a great job."

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