Redknapp looks forward to West Ham welcome

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The Independent Football

Harry Redknapp is hoping for a warm reception from West Ham supporters when he returns to Upton Park tonight with Tottenham.

Redknapp was Hammers coach for seven years, bringing the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole through the ranks and signing Paolo Di Canio – but is unsure how fans will react now he is in charge of Spurs.

"I've been back with Portsmouth a couple of times and got a fantastic reception," he said. "I would hate that to change because the club will always be very close to my heart. I went there at 15 years of age and it's a very special football club, it always will be. I've got so many friends who are West Ham supporters, I've got loads of memories about going there at 15, growing up there and going back to manage them. It's a great club."

Redknapp is no stranger to fierce rivalry. When he moved from Portsmouth to Southampton he was reported to have hired a bodyguard for his first trip back to Fratton Park.

Aside from Redknapp being in the spotlight, the match is important for Spurs to climb towards mid-table after a positive start under their new manager.

"It's a very important game," Redknapp said. "We are where we are in the league and that is our main priority. West Ham is always a tough place to go. Monday night at Upton Park under lights means a great atmosphere and great support."

West Ham are also protecting a three-match unbeaten run, with clean sheets in all three games, and Redknapp is pleased to see Gianfranco Zola remaining in football as a manager. "He was a great player, one of the greatest foreign imports we've had," Redknapp added.

"He was a great ambassador for the game with the way he played. He was a great sportsman as well as a great footballer."