Redknapp to raid Pompey for Johnson
Harry Redknapp has identified Portsmouth's full-backs Glen Johnson and the on-loan Algerian international Nadir Belhadj as his January transfer targets, as well as the midfielder Lassana Diarra, after his former club's financial plight was made clear to him last week. It is understood that Redknapp's mind was made up when he was told by the club's hierarchy that the £5m compensation paid for him to become manager of Tottenham Hotspur would "come in useful" at struggling Portsmouth.
The eagerness with which Portsmouth and their chief executive, Peter Storrie, told Redknapp that they had accepted the £5m deal with Spurs demonstrated to him their readiness to accept bids for their players during the next transfer window. Redknapp is keen to sign Johnson (below) and Belhadj, who has been extremely impressive since his loan move from Lens in September. Even Redknapp was said to have been shocked at the speed with which Portsmouth accepted the offer from Spurs.
Redknapp has given squad numbers to five of the players who were left out in the cold by Spurs' sacked manager Juande Ramos at the start of the season. Under the previous regime, Paul Stalteri, Ricardo Rocha, Hossam Ghaly, Adel Taarabt and Kevin-Prince Boateng were told that they were not even permitted to change in the first-team dressing room at the Spurs Lodge headquarters.
At a civic reception today in Portsmouth, Redknapp is due to receive the freedom of the city from Portsmouth city council, along with the rest of his FA Cup-winning squad. It is understood that he has not yet decided whether to attend and the leader of the council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, has said that the event would now have a "different tone" to it after Redknapp's departure.
With Portsmouth's debt of around £30m modest by Premier League standards, they are, however, in a position where they are prepared to invest less as their owner, Sacha Gaydamak, searches for a potential buyer. Storrie has denied that the club will have to sell players in January to stay afloat. However, Redknapp is confident of acquiring the players he needs from Portsmouth. Assistants Tony Adams and Joe Jordan, as well as Sam Allardyce, are both potential candidates to succeed Redknapp, but Portsmouth are considering their options.
Redknapp would also like to bring Portsmouth's highly rated chief scout Ian Broomfield to Spurs to rebuild the scouting network that was changed radically this summer by the former director of football Damien Comolli. Redknapp will meet Tim Sherwood again today to try to persuade the former Spurs midfielder to give up his pundit's role at Setanta Sports and join his back-room team along with assistant Kevin Bond. The goalkeeping coach Hans Leitert, the one survivor from the Ramos regime, is also expected to be moved on in time.
Tottenham made enquiries about Fabio Capello's right-hand man Franco Baldini, who plays an integral role with the England team as a fixer and communicator with the players. Baldini, formerly a director of football at Roma and Real Madrid, had also been a target for West Ham in the past. He turned down Spurs' interest. Poaching a key member of the England set-up would have caused great disquiet at the Football Association.
"It has been very flattering to be linked with the club," Sherwood said. "If I had ever wanted to get back into football, the club I would choose would be Tottenham and the manager I would work for would be Harry Redknapp. I spoke to Harry yesterday and will do again tomorrow. I have to make my mind up whether or not it is the right time to get back into football. It's a great opportunity and I bet there's a queue a mile long to take the job. What it boils down to is if I want to get back into football again and I have to make that decision, because a club like Tottenham and a manager like Harry Redknapp demands that and you wouldn't expect it any other way."
Speaking to the Spurs players for the first time on Saturday, Redknapp said that he had full confidence in them and believed that they could get out of their relegation battle. The Spurs captain, Ledley King, said that Redknapp's presence had been felt immediately by the players. "It feels good after our first win but we realise that there's a long way to go," King said. "He has given us a new confidence, he said there were some brilliant players in the team and he said he believes we can get out of this."
The decision to sack Ramos was taken by Daniel Levy relatively late in the week after he had returned from a business trip to America on Thursday. Up until then the Spurs chairman had been prepared to leave Ramos in charge for the game against Bolton, but conversations with senior figures within the squad convinced him that he had to act quickly.
"It's difficult to put a finger on what was going wrong and sometimes when things are not going right it forces a change," King said. "The chairman felt it was the right time to make a change. Harry's a top manager and I think it's a good appointment. I was sad to see it not work out with Juande, because he led us to our first trophy in a long time."
The issue of King's availability is one of the first major questions to face Redknapp, whose team play Arsenal tomorrow. The condition of the 27-year-old's fitness has long prevented him from playing any more than half or one in three of Spurs' games. With Ramos controversially preferring to use him in cup competitions, Redknapp now has to decide whether to keep parachuting King into the team or settle for a more consistent pairing of Jonathan Woodgate and Vedran Corluka or Michael Dawson.
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