Sheffield United 1 Portsmouth 1: Redknapp makes his point with simple philosophy

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The Independent Football

Coming from a graduate of the self-styled Academy of footballing arts and sciences that was West Ham under Ron Greenwood, it was a clock-stopping statement. "I keep reading about good coaches," said Harry Redknapp, "but I ain't seen 'em."

His Portsmouth side trailed to a sumptuous Stephen Quinn free-kick, yet collected a deserved point with a late Gary O'Neil goal that owed more to the dithering of Sheffield United's Claude Davis than to any routine plotted on a laptop. The Pompey manager, explaining a 12-month metamorphosis from propping up the Premiership to pursuing a Uefa Cup place, insisted that it was all about identifying top-class talent and coaxing the maximum from people.

"That's what wins matches. That's what Alex Ferguson does," Redknapp said. "He's not a coach. He's a great manager. When people say, 'Oh, Ferguson had him and he was a great coach', that's rubbish. There's only one man doing it at Manchester United - and that's Alex Ferguson."

Malcolm Allison, Dave Sexton, John Bond and others steeped in the West Ham way might have viewed it as heresy, but Redknapp was on a roll.

"Brian Clough didn't coach," the Portsmouth manager said. "I asked Stuart Pearce what Cloughie did. He said he'd come in on Tuesday, walk up the Trent, have a cuppa. On Friday he brought his dog to the training ground. On Saturdays he'd come in 10 minutes before kick-off, give 'em a few words of wisdom. He'd pick the right team and they went out and won European Cups."

Redknapp's point is that no coach can transform dross into gold. "What does me is when people call me a wheeler-dealer. Well, last year I took over the worst team in the Premiership. I had to do something, so I bought five players and we stayed up.

"I couldn't have turned that other load of old rubbish into a good side. Half had bad attitudes, half were no good. Some people, who might have played for 20 years, couldn't pick a player if he hit 'em in the face. Some are judges, some aren't."

He cited a revived Kanu and Sol Campbell as proof of his prowess. Therein lies a sharp difference between the clubs. Neil Warnock adheres to much of Redknapp's thesis, noting pointedly that "you don't get qualifications for man-management, unfortunately". But although he maintained that "Harry knows we're a bigger club", he has neither his transfer kitty nor, crucially, his budget for salaries.

Whereas Redknapp signs faded gems and restores their lustre, Warnock finds rough diamonds to polish up. Last week he bought Jon Stead and Matthew Killgallon from Sunderland and Leeds. Which is where coaching comes in. Stead's work-rate made it obvious what the United manager saw in a 23-year-old on his fifth club, and the know-how and teaching skill of Brian Kidd may yet improve his scoring rate.

Kilgallon's arrival probably signals the end of Chris Lucketti's time at Bramall Lane. If he does depart, it will be with praise for an outstanding Premiership debut at 35.

"I haven't met anyone like him, as a character, in all my career," Warnock said, adding that Lucketti lacked only the pace to complement his professionalism. Had the former Rochdale, Bury and Halifax veteran been involved in the prelude to Pompey's equaliser, mused Warnock, the ball would have been belted into the fabled Row Z. Instead, Davis hesitated over a routine clearance as Paul Gerrard left his line uncertainly. Happily for O'Neil, United's indecision was final.

Goals: S Quinn (22) 1-0; O'Neil (81) 1-1.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Gerrard; Kozluk, Lucketti, Davis, Geary; Gillespie, Jagielka, Montgomery, S Quinn (Tonge, 84); Hulse, Stead (Nade, 76). Substitutes not used: Bromby, A Quinn, Kazim-Richards.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Johnson, Primus (Kranjcar, 53), Campbell, Traore; O'Neil, Davis (Benjani, 74), Pedro Mendes, Taylor; Cole, Kanu (Hughes, 88). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Griffin.

Referee: L Probert (Gloucestershire).

Booked: Portsmouth Primus, O'Neil.

Man of the match: Stead.

Attendance: 30,269.