Redknapp to earn new deal as Pompey resurgence finally wins over Gaydamak

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The Independent Online

Portsmouth are on the brink of offering their manager Harry Redknapp a new contract - whether they stay up or are relegated.

The co-owners, Milan Mandaric and Alexandre Gaydamak, are ready to discuss a new deal for the 59-year-old who, according to chairman Mandaric, is also considered by his young billionaire partner as the right man for the job. Although there were hotly denied reports that the Franco-Russian businessman Gaydamak - who invested £15m for a 50 per cent share in the club in January - was not happy with Redknapp's managerial performance, Mandaric insists the pair believe he has done enough to keep the job next season.

His current deal expires in May but new contract talks could start in three weeks after a sequence of three successive home games - even though Redknapp is adamant he is not looking beyond the end of the season.

Gaydamak, 30, who is believed to have an option on buying the rest of Mandaric's investment, needed convincing of Redknapp's qualities after waiting more than two months to see a Premiership win.

But he has been won over by the three wins from three games that have lifted Pompey towards safety. Mandaric, 67, said: "Sacha is finally seeing what I told him about. He is 100 per cent behind Harry. When results were not going well Sacha did not jump to conclusions. He didn't do anything silly.

"He wanted to give Harry time and that is what he is doing. I believe we will stay up but if, God forbid, we didn't I don't think there would be a better man to get us back in the Premiership."

He added: "I cannot see why Harry Redknapp will not be here next season. I do not think there's a better man for the job. I have discussed it with Sacha and we will sort it out in the next two to three weeks. We both believe Harry is the man."

Gaydamak's investment gave Redknapp room to use his famous negotiating skills in the transfer market. Although it has taken his glut of January signings time to settle in, the benefit has suddenly been realised with three wins in a row. Redknapp was a picture of misery when trying in vain to keep Southampton up last season and the same again after his return to Pompey just before Christmas. Right now there will be few happier figures in the game.

As for Redknapp's relegation rivals, Birmingham's win over Bolton at St Andrew's on Tuesday night took them out of the bottom three for the first time since losing at home to rivals Aston Villa on 16 October.

Birmingham are away to Wigan on Saturday evening and by kick-off time at the JJB Stadium they will know what they have to do after Portsmouth, now a point behind with a game in hand, have hosted Blackburn at Fratton Park. Then, on Sunday, West Bromwich Albion, also a point behind, will have played a game more when the Midlands derby at Villa Park comes to an end.

After taking a vital point off Chelsea and then beating Bolton, Birmingham manager Steve Bruce's feelings will echo those of his rival, Redknapp. Bruce has had plenty to complain about this season yet never falls back on the injury list at St Andrew's for excuses.

When he took over from Trevor Francis five years ago it was triumph via the play-offs that enabled him to put Birmingham into the top flight, despite finishing fifth in the old first division - three places behind Albion. The Baggies went straight down again and after that difficult period of Gary Megson's guidance, they recruited Robson, despite his troublesome stint at Bradford, for a bit of stability and leadership.

Few can remember Robson with a smile on his face last season - until Albion clung to Premiership status with a last-day victory over Portsmouth.

It has been much the same this term, although he started well with a draw at Manchester City followed by a win at home to Pompey. There were random golden days against Arsenal (2-1), Everton (4-0), Spurs (2-0) and, most recently, Blackburn (2-0).

But that last win was back on 4 February, and Robson's bottom lip has been much in evidence.

Like Bruce he has lost star players to injuries during the campaign, the Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Gera and goalkeeper Chris Kirkland - although the Pole, Tomasz Kuszczak, has proved an able replacement.

But Robson never sufficiently tapped the potential of striker Robert Earnshaw, now with Norwich, or £3m signing Nathan Ellington, who has scored five League goals yet rarely starts.

Redknapp always keeps faith with what could be termed his established first-choice team, while Robson has chopped and changed much more when encountering a bad patch, with little success.

This indecision from the Baggies manager might prove his club's downfall.

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