Redknapp conjures up hand signals but touchline antics fail to do trick

By Conrad Leach
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The Independent Football

There were enough photographers on hand at kick-off, positioned near the players' tunnel, to make you believe a celebrity B-lister might emerge and take their place by the dug-out. They got a name, Jordan, but it was Joe Jordan, a fine footballer in his time and now an honest servant of Portsmouth but not the desired target for the Nikons in attendance.

The man they wanted, of course, was Harry Redknapp, who chose to go all camera-shy. Never go back, they say, but there he was in comparative hiding high up in the directors' seats, ensconced alongside his new best friend, Milan Mandaric, the Portsmouth chairman and the man who lured Redknapp back from Southampton last week.

Coming back must have seemed like a good idea ­ for 56 minutes anyway. Then three referee's decisions and three goals got him riled and Premiership football came back to him in a flash.

Redknapp can do cameras if he wants, hosting a press conference last Wednesday to announce his return to the club he felt so attached to he walked out on them in high dudgeon 387 days ago.

So how long will Redknapp last at Fratton Park? He has joined the Premiership strugglers on a six-month contract. Keep us up, Mandaric is saying, and then we'll talk again. On this evidence, there may not be much to talk about in May.

But Redknapp was certainly on call to Jordan. The Scot was barking orders and then all was revealed when he charged to the touchline, mobile phone in hand, Redknapp on the line. The new man was there in spirit.

Whatever he said seemed to work because four minutes later the visitors took the lead. Lomano LuaLua was brought to the club by Redknapp, signed from Newcastle, but was deployed as a single striker last night. LuaLua had no support, he chanced his arm, swung a boot and scored the opening goal.

Betting is Redknapp's forte but even he might have hesitated before punting some of his or even Mandaric's money on the Democratic Republic of Congo international beating Paul Robinson on the turn from 25 yards.

Still it is that sort of inspiration he was unable to manufacture at Southampton. His was a Premiership rescue mission gone wrong last season and Saints started this campaign setting a club record for consecutive draws. Not the sort of thing to get supporters dreaming about an instant Premiership return.

Redknapp led Southampton to only five League wins this season as well as the ignominy of a Carling Cup exit against Mansfield of League Two. Could that be Pompey's fate a year from now?

With his magic touch deserting him at Southampton, maybe the time was right to leave, but upping sticks and decamping has left him with few friends at the St Mary's, although that is now the least of his worries.

Redknapp's absence in the first half was all a calculated ploy. Only a few hardened photographers expected him to change his mind, the rest clearly ignorant of the man's recent history.

He duly turned up at the start of the second half, all agitated hand signals and screamed messages to players out of earshot ­ none of which were enough to prevent Ledley King's headed equaliser, Mido's penalty or Jermain Defoe's last-minute strike.

The Pompey defence have now conceded 13 goals in their last five games. Given their parlous position one from the bottom of the Premiership his team needs a lot of chopping and changing. That, at least, is something Redknapp knows all about.