Mandaric speaks out in defence of Redknapp

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The Independent Football

The Portsmouth chairman, Milan Mandaric, has come out in firm defence of Harry Redknapp and angrily denied reports that the club's co-owner, Alexandre Gaydamak, wants to sack him.

The manager, who walked out on Pompey midway through last season and then joined the club's fierce rivals Southampton, has been unable to revive their fortunes since his controversial return in December. After last Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Manchester United, Portsmouth are now eight points adrift of Premiership safety.

Hopes of a first win this year look fanciful in the next match at Chelsea a week on Saturday. But Mandaric, who is on holiday in Dubai, was quick to hit back at reports that Redknapp's position is now under threat.

Mandaric said: "I can categorically deny this and I am very disappointed that a section of the media have decided to run an unsubstantiated story that has no truth in it whatsoever."

Mandaric added: "This is a big load of nonsense. Alexandre and myself are totally united. We are strongly behind Harry and the team. Alexandre wants to have a very stable club and does not believe in changes. He believes Harry is a good manager.

"He is only a human being, like the rest of us, and of course wants to see the club win games. But he understands football and is totally behind the manager and the team. Harry is not happy. Nobody is happy, but we have to be patient and be united and to do anything else other than get behind Harry would be wrong.

"Morale is quite strong. We know we are playing good football. We have a lot of quality players who believe in themselves and the manager. Alexandre and myself are in full support."

Gaydamak is believed to have invested £15m in Portsmouth and shared the cost of Redknapp's nine new signings in the transfer market - believed to be around £12m and including the club record £4.4m fee for Zimbabwe striker Benjani Mwaruwari from French club Auxerre, who has yet to score in in five matches.

Gaydamak, who has not yet seen a Portsmouth win because he could not attend the FA Cup win at Ipswich, is yet to be named officially as a director of the club.

He joined the club with a special interest in the redevelopment of the Fratton Park site where building permission has been obtained for flats and facilities in what is hoped to be known as Pompey Village.

But Redknapp, who has not won over the fans who campaigned bitterly against his return from Southampton, has reacted boldly to what he calls "outstanding backing" from the club to remodel the squad he inherited from the sacked Frenchman Alain Perrin.

He soon put an end to Pompey's barren home run this season with Fratton Park victories over relegation rivals West Bromwich Albion and Fulham, but he has lost eight other matches and picked up only two more points from home draws with West Ham and Bolton Wanderers.

Mick Quinn, the former Portsmouth striker, spoke out in Redknapp's defence. "I don't really know what the fans expect in this situation. The club has been in disarray for 18 months and so things are not suddenly going to be OK," Quinn said.