Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Harry in His Pomp at Old Boys' Reunion; Smith and Merson Help the New 'Duke of Wellington' as Portsmouth Make Their Play for the Premiership

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Harry in His Pomp at Old Boys' Reunion; Smith and Merson Help the New 'Duke of Wellington' as Portsmouth Make Their Play for the Premiership

Article excerpt

Byline: KATE BATTERSBY

HARRY REDKNAPP was putting his Portsmouth players through their paces on the manicured pitches of the club's new Wellington training ground near Eastleigh. Paul Merson's children were playing kickabout in the late summer sunshine nearby - albeit in their father's erstwhile Arsenal colours rather than the blue of Pompey.

This scene of pastoral bliss is very different from recent miserable seasons. With Graham Rix gone, Redknapp has been freed from what he calls the "non-job" of director of football and is relishing management again.

Five games into the season and undefeated Portsmouth are top of Division One.

No wonder there is an air of tangible wellbeing at Wellington.

In the dead calm of the summer transfer market, Portsmouth were hoovering up astute free transfers left, right and centre. Merson was joined on loan by his old Middlesbrough team-mate Gianluca Festa in time for the Bank Holiday win at Grimsby, which sent the club two points clear at the top. Contrary to rumour, their ex-colleague Paul Gascoigne has never been on Redknapp's shopping list. Tim Sherwood is said to be his next target, ironically unsettled at Spurs by the arrival of Redknapp's son Jamie from Liverpool.

"Quality is the only way to the Premiership," confirmed the manager, who commutes to the job from his home along the coast at Poole. "We have a lot of good young players but we need know-how and experience, so Paul Merson on a free with a cut-price wage bill was too good to turn down. But we don't have that many old 'uns so I don't think they'll run out of legs come February.

Festa may be 33 but he's a fitness fanatic.

"It's a good chance for Merse. He was out of the picture at Villa but he's a big player here. He needs to be made to feel important. Kids here see him and it makes a big difference to them."

Merson makes it clear Redknapp was the reason he signed.

"Coming here has given me a new buzz,'' said Merson, 34. "It's a very young team. Most players are in their very early 20s. It's a good mix.

The youngsters are bright and they want to learn. I can give them the benefit of my experience.

"Harry's great. I've admired him for years. He's normal, you know?

Some managers you can't approach. But he's different."

Redknapp's policy is to treat everyone as he would wish to be treated himself, which is especially pertinent in the case of Jim Smith.

Redknapp's assistant manager could be forgiven for not relishing the supporting role after so many years in charge elsewhere. But he too is thriving.

"It's great to be involved with the club at this time," said Smith.

"We've got a great chance to be in the promotion race, although an automatic spot will be difficult. It's not wise to get too excited too early but the fans are really up for it. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.