Redknapp poised for St James' switch

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Portsmouth rebuffed an official approach from Newcastle United for Harry Redknapp yesterday morning but Redknapp's subsequent failure to turn up for his weekly Portsmouth pre-match press conference strengthened the belief that he has verbally accepted the vacancy at St James' Park.

Senior backroom staff at Portsmouth have let it be known that they are moving north with Redknapp, though until there is formal confirmation of Redknapp's acceptance of the post, there remains a sliver of doubt as to his appointment as Sam Allardyce's successor.

Redknapp was driven away from Portsmouth's training ground by chief executive, Peter Storrie, at lunchtime with the South Coast club still hopeful that they can retain their manager.

But even optimistic officials at Fratton Park were describing their chances as 60-40 against, though until Redknapp is given permission to speak officially to Newcastle he remains Portsmouth manager. Consequently he is expected to be on Portsmouth's flight north this afternoon. They play at Sunderland tomorrow.

Should Redknapp be missing, however, then presumably Joe Jordan and Tony Adams will take charge of the team at the Stadium of Light.

There was a rumour that Redknapp had flown to the North-east late yesterday afternoon, and cameramen were stationed at the airport, but given that Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is in the Far East on business and that chairman Chris Mort was not in the region, that was being downplayed at St James'.

But Redknapp, 60, is sufficiently far down the line mentally to be discussing accommodation on Tyneside with colleagues at Fratton Park. The idea that he will be given a private plane or helicopter by Ashley in which to commute from his Dorset home was being scotched by those colleagues: Redknapp and his wife Sandra intend to move to Newcastle together and purchase a house, it is being said.

If compensation with Portsmouth is agreed quickly then Redknapp may be announced as Newcastle's fourth manager in under two years on Monday or Tuesday. His first game would then be the FA Cup third-round replay against Stoke City at St James' on Wednesday night. The first Premier League game would also be at home, against Allardyce's former club Bolton Wanderers next Saturday.

The Newcastle team set off for Manchester yesterday afternoon with caretaker Nigel Pearson in charge for today's early evening kick-off against Manchester United.

The Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said he does not know what to expect from Newcastle – but he will be seeing Alan Smith captain them. Smith left the stability of Old Trafford in the summer for the instability of St James' and, speaking an hour or so before Allardyce's dismissal on Wednesday, said: "I'm looking forward to seeing Sir Alex because I never really got a chance to say goodbye. I'm looking forward to meeting up with loads of people there that I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to. I'm looking forward to rattling a few cages."

Smith sees the contrast between the club he left and the one he joined but he has no regrets, even when booed at home. "People might be criticising or having a go at you when you're not playing well," he said, "but there's no better place to be than on a football field when they're all behind you. Would I rather have unpleasantness than boredom? Of course – nobody wants boredom, do they? I'd rather have 52,000 having a go at you, than have empty seats. No one wants to play in front of empty seats."