Redknapp ready for fireworks
Spurs manager expects hot reception at Fratton Park but insists he served Pompey well
Saturday 17 October 2009
The vitriol will rain down on Harry Redknapp when he returns to Portsmouth today for the first time since he walked out on the South Coast club to take charge at Tottenham.
The cries of "Judas" that peppered the ceremony when he was made a freeman of the city just a few days after his defection almost 12 months ago will reverberate round Fratton Park, such is the depth of the resentment felt by many Portsmouth supporters.
But yesterday as he considered the bitter reception that awaits him at the club where he won the 2008 FA Cup, his only major trophy, Redknapp made little attempt to diffuse what is likely to be a nasty atmosphere.
"It shows you what a good job I must've done because they were so upset that I left," Redknapp said in between slurps of tea from his personalised Spurs mug. "I went to get the freedom of the city, so I must have done OK."
Redknapp, 62, bristled at suggestions his activity in the transfer market saddled Portsmouth with an over-inflated wage bill and punishing debts, prompting the fire sale of leading players that has left the club at the foot of the Premier League.
"If they hadn't had such an astute manager, who was so good in the transfer market, they would've been skint," a bullish Redknapp said.
"Everybody goes on about Pompey being in debt, when they're about £30m or £40m in debt, but that's nothing to do with me, it's to do with the people who handle the finances at the club, that's their part of the club.
"Without what I did financially they wouldn't be there. Because all I did was bought players and sold them for massive profits. I don't pay their wages. Wages or whatever they earn is nothing to do with me."
Redknapp remains unapologetic. His contention is simple – he played a large part in the revival of the famous old club during his two spells in charge, taking them from the mediocrity of the Championship to stability in the Premier League, and an FA Cup victory at Wembley just 17 months ago.
Under his charge, Portsmouth won their first trophy for 58 years, with a team packed with internationals playing attacking, attractive football. He believes the fans should be grateful, not resentful, and looking at it dispassionately, he certainly has a point. But fans do not forget that he had walked out before in 2004 to take the job at the club's hated rivals Southampton, before returning to Portsmouth in December 2005 to mastermind a successful attempt to avoid relegation.
The club's subsequent success made fans overlook their simmering resentment at Redknapp. But when he left the club for a second time last October to take the vacant job at Tottenham, who at the time were bottom of the Premier League, that resentment boiled over.
Death threats followed. Redknapp said: "It hurt, yes, they were from sickos. People said 'I hope you get cancer', 'I hope that your car overturns and you kill your wife'. They are not human beings. They really need help."
To make matters worse, Redknapp has since bought three of Portsmouth's best players in Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Niko Kranjcar. In this town rich in Navy history, Redknapp has been portrayed as the rat that left the sinking ship. The Spurs manager insists the truth is different.
"I see Portsmouth supporters every day and they're fine. I've got lads painting my house at the moment who are all Pompey mad, nice lads. I don't see why I should be singled out. Mark Hughes goes back to Blackburn, Steve Bruce is going to back to Sunderland. You move on in life. If fans want to shout, I'm not bothered. I won't lose any sleep over it – I'll only lose sleep if we get beat. I left them with a great team of players, players worth fortunes, that sold for fantastic value."
Trading places: Spurs and Pompey swaps
*13 months ago Redknapp's Pompey beat Spurs 2-0 at Fratton Park, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch scored. A month later Harry had gone to Spurs. He has since taken Defoe, Crouch and Niko Kranjcar plus two coaches (Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan) to the Lane. Kevin-Prince Boateng and Jamie O'Hara (on loan) have gone the other way
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