Redknapp rues lack of Cole fire in attack

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The Independent Online

The Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp is ready to call for Andy Cole after the missed chances that cost his team their top spot in the Premiership.

Redknapp admitted that he changed his mind about putting the veteran striker on the substitutes' bench for the 1-0 defeat by Bolton on Monday night, when Pompey were beaten for the first time this season despite dominating Sam Allardyce's team. Now Cole, 35 next month and second only to Alan Shearer as the Premiership's all-time leading scorer, is in line for his League debut for the club at Tottenham on Sunday.

Redknapp, who paid Manchester City £500,000 for the former England striker in August, with the promise of more to come if he makes an undisclosed number of first-team appearances, said: "If I have one regret it is not putting Andy Cole on the bench against Bolton. I nearly did. I changed my mind, thinking we might take the lead and need an extra midfielder to hold it. But Andy is just the type who could have come on and stuck away one of the many opportunities we created.

"We can all second guess after the event but we really did have a lot of chances and should have buried some of them. Andy hasn't played - or he's had one game in six months - but he's getting fit and wants to do a job."

Portsmouth also surrendered their five-match sequence of clean sheets when Kevin Nolan hit a 22nd-minute winner for Bolton. And their profligate performance could also lead to changes in midfield, with the new boys Manuel Fernandes and Nikola Kranjcar coming in against Tottenham.

Fernandes is on a season-long loan from Benfica with a view to a £7m record deal if he proves his full recovery from a groin injury which caused him to fail two medicals and delayed a permanent switch.

Kranjcar, a Croatian international, cost £2.5m from Hajduk Split last month and has played only in the Carling Cup so far for Portsmouth. Fernandes, a Portuguese international with two full caps, made an encouraging Premiership debut on Monday night as a 75th-minute substitute and impressed the Fratton Park crowd with the quality of his control and passing.

There are now rumours that Manchester United might try to hijack Portsmouth's attempt to secure a long-term contract for the holding midfielder.

"Fernandes is a really good player who reminds me of a young Paul Ince," Redknapp said. "He can do everything that a midfield player should. Kranjcar is a fantastic player as well and we have a lot of players still to come in. So I'm in no way despondent after letting in just one goal this season and sitting joint-second in the table."

Redknapp laughed off suggestions that the departure of Portsmouth's erstwhile chairman, Milan Mandaric, from Fratton Park would leave his own position more vulnerable under the new owner, Alexandre Gaydamak.

"Yes, I think he will sack me because I haven't done very well here," Redknapp said. "I came back last year when we had 10 points in December, kept us in the Premier League and I have been top of the table with Portsmouth. I must be under massive pressure."

Redknapp's counterpart on Monday night, Allardyce, paid a defiant tribute to his Bolton players for their victory, which came after a week dominated by allegations made on the BBC's Panorama programme. The Bolton manager said that he, his chairman, Phil Gartside, and the club's owner, Eddie Davies, all shared in the excitement of the 1-0 victory at Fratton Park.

Allardyce and his son Craig were last week alleged by Panorama to have received illegal payments relating to player transfers. Both deny any wrongdoing. "This typifies us as a football club," Allardyce said. "Everybody has pulled out the stops but my thanks must go to the players and their terrific efforts.

"It's something that, after a difficult week for me and my family, personally, is a great bonus. It's great to see the chairman back and to give him a victory after his trek in the Himalayas. He'll be as excited as me, as will Ed, the owner.

"It's a great response from the players. We are all delighted but no one more so than me and the rest of my family at home."

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