Redknapp 'concerned' by threat to curb power

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The Independent Football

Harry Redknapp, the Portsmouth manager, admitted he would "be very concerned" if reports proved correct that the club are to offer Panathinaikos director of football, Velimir Zajec, a similar role at Fratton Park.

Pompey's chairman Milan Mandaric has denied the claim by the Greek club that Zajec is leaving their title-winning outfit to join Portsmouth immediately. But Mandaric revealed that Croat-born Zajec, who played 57 times for Yugoslavia and had captained them at the 1982 World Cup, is a friend and somebody he might like to appoint to the Portsmouth board in future.

Redknapp and Mandaric fell out at the end of last season over Mandaric apparently wanting to appoint a foreign coach above Redknapp's head and the manager was forced to apologise to save his job after verbally attacking his boss on television.

They have endured an uneasy relationship ever since and Redknapp, himself once Portsmouth's director of football before replacing Graham Rix as team manager, said yesterday: "Of course I would be concerned if a director of football was brought in. Very concerned.

"I don't know where such a set-up has worked in England. Can anybody show me? They are trying it at Tottenham but this is with two good friends [Frank Arnesen and Martin Jol] coming in. It is the chairman's club and he can do what he likes, of course he can. But the question is whether I want to work under those circumstances. It is all hypothetical in any case. We don't know if someone is coming in. It might all be paper talk but I was with the chairman and Jim Smith [assistant manager] for about two hours last night and nothing was mentioned."

Mandaric, a Serb-American businessman who made his fortune in computer technology and has had part-ownership in several clubs abroad, tried to reassure Redknapp about his future plans.

He said: "Harry's job is as secure as ever - there is no problem. He is doing a good job. We are doing well on the field, we are still in the cup, have a lot of good players and good organisation. But it's no secret at all I want to bring in additional people to enhance our operation. I have spoken to Zajec - but I have also spoken to three other candidates."

Mandaric, who confirmed he had spoken to George Best about getting involved with the south coast club, explained: "There is room for improvement in our football activities - you have to build a stronger infrastructure in the Premiership than in the lower divisions.

"I want to enhance our structure and extend it - and there is nothing to say Harry won't get better support than he's got today. This club is bigger than Harry and Milan - we are empowered with things to do but also have responsibilities. Whatever happens will not diminish Harry's success.

"I don't want this club to survive each year. I want it to be highly professional and successful on and off the pitch in the Premiership - and for that reason we need a stronger structure than we have today."

The latest drama between the Pompey duo comes after Redknapp - who appointed former Leeds and Scotland star Joe Jordan as first-team coach in the summer - has steered Portsmouth into the Premiership's top 10. They meet local rivals Southampton at St Mary's on Saturday.

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