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Redknapp revisited: Harry takes over at Saints
11:20am Friday 1st March 2013 in Sport
"It’s a terrific job for me." Those were the words of Harry Redknapp after taking over at Saints in December 2004.
Redknapp had just been appointed at St Mary's, shortly after his departure from Fratton Park, and was full of praise for the club and the job.
Among the highlights from his opening press conference were Redknapp saying:
- "You don’t get an opportunity to manage a football club like this every day."
- "I’ve never been relegated from the Premier League and I don’t intend to start now."
- Joining Saints from Pompey was "not an act of betrayal."
- "This is a proper football club. It’s a great move for me and a great club."
Ahead of his return to St Mary's as QPR manager tomorrow, the Daily Echo re-prints the full transcript from the press conference. You can compare it with his first press conference following his defection to Pompey a year later here.
How tough is this job you’re taking on, Harry?
It’s a massive challenge. Saints are sitting third from bottom, so it’s no good me saying there’s no problem – they’re obviously not playing well. To keep the team up is going to be a big task but I feel I can do that. I’ve never been relegated from the Premier League and I don’t intend to start now. I’ve just done 900 games and I want to get through to 1,000 managing, but I’ll only do that if Saints stay in the Premier League. That’s where this team belongs and where they’ve got to stay.
When Portsmouth lost here a few weeks ago, did you feel there was ever any chance of you managing Southampton?
Never ever. It never crossed my mind. I didn’t think the chairman would ever take me, having been at Portsmouth, so when I got a phone call on Monday, it was a complete and utter shock. When we lost to Southampton, it was around the time changes were being made at the club and I just felt it was time for me to move on.
How do you think the Southampton fans will react?
I don’t know – if you win football matches, fans always love you.
People are saying that negotiations have been going on for some time...
Monday was the first time I spoke to anybody about this job. I left Portsmouth and, after what happened to me a week or so a go, I don’t owe anybody anything. It’s my life and this is a great opportunity for me. I left there saying all the right things and a week later I got badly hurt by people. Milan Manadric has said negotiations have been going on for some time but don’t believe everything Mr Mandaric says.
Success at Portsmouth was keeping them in the Premiership – do you feel you have to do a bit more here?
Keeping them in the Premiership is all I’ve got to do this season. If I can keep this team in the Premiership, we’ll all be delighted.
You spoke to Rupert Lowe three years ago but didn’t get the job then...
I would have joined three years ago if I’d been offered the job. When I left West Ham, I met the chairman and, at the time, Stuart Gray had taken over at the end of the season and done a great job. He then got the chance he deserved and I moved on to go to Portsmouth. I think my record there speaks for itself – I’ve turned the club around. I think, if the people at Portsmouth look at it realistically, they should be thankful for the job I’ve done. I’m thankful for the fantastic support they gave me but that’s in the past. You don’t get an opportunity to manage a football club like this every day and it came along and I thought: ‘I might never get this chance again,’ so I took it.
Two weeks ago, you said you needed a break. What’s changed?
I felt I walked away from there without wanting to blame anybody or causing any aggravation – I just wanted to move on. I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing at that particular time and I have only had two weeks out, but I’ve missed football so much I needed to get back into it. I paid for a holiday on Monday to go to Dubai for a week with Jim Smith and his wife but this came completely out of the blue.
Did you ever think, even for one second because of the Portsmouth connection, it might not be a good idea?
No. I’m football man. If I’d have walked away from Portsmouth leaving them in dire straits, it might have been different but I know the job I’ve done there and so does everybody at that football club. I can walk away from there with my head held high having given the fans two-and-a-half of the best years they’ll ever see in their lives. I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. I’m very proud of what I did at Portsmouth.
How much surgery have you got to perform on the squad?
It’s confidence. We need to get playing, to get them believing in themselves and, if we can do that, I’m sure we can pick up results.
Are your ambitions more than that?
Of course but I can’t look beyond that. It’s no good me saying I want to get into the Champions’ League when we’re sitting third from bottom in the Premier League. We’ve got to stay in this division and there’s nothing else that matters. There’s 22 games to go and we’ll look ahead after this season’s finished.
Are you worried about the number of managers Saints have had here?
If I’m successful, I won’t have a problem. The club has had long staying managers and fantastic ones over the years. The chairman wasn’t here when Ted Bates and Lawrie McMenemy were here but Gordon Strachan did a great job and left for his own reasons. If I’m successful, I’m sure I’ll be here for a long time. If I’m not, then I won’t be and I accept that.
You only have three weeks before the transfer window...
We met for the first time on Monday, so I’ve had no time to look at that yet. I’m going to need some help on Saturday from people like Dennis Rofe when it comes to picking the team. I’ve got an idea but there’s one or two areas I’m not sure about.
When you were at Portsmouth, there were a lot of players coming in and out...
They were fourth from bottom when I took over and I decided there was only three of them that had any chance of playing in the Premiership. I had to get 16-18 people in – like Arjan De Zeeuw and Shaka Hislop and Steve Stone and put a new team together.
Do you think you have to get 16 or 18 players in here?
No. Unfortunately they’ve lost one of the best centre halves in the league in Michael Svensson, who’s fantastic. But a few new players have come in and it takes time to gel.
What is your longer term view in terms of keeping James Beattie at the club?
I just need him to help the club stay up. That’s the priority. He’s got a contract here with 18 months to go, so there shouldn’t be a problem.
You are renowned for playing good, attacking football – is that how you’re going to try and get Southampton out of trouble?
We’ll do whatever it takes. You have to play to the strengths of the players you’ve got. I’ve got to quickly look at the players and quickly see how we can play winning football. It’s no good saying ‘we’ve played well today but lost 4-0.’ We’ve got to win matches.
Many Pompey fans see your move to Saints as an act of betrayal – are you worried about how they will react?
It’s not an act of betrayal. I left Portsmouth a couple of weeks back in the top half of the Premiership table and I’d taken them from fourth from bottom in the first division. Circumstances at the club changed. I decided what was happening at the club didn’t suit that the way I wanted to work and I decided to move on. A new chap came in, a director of football – it is the chairman’s club and he can do what he likes with it – but it wasn’t a situation that suited me. I’ve moved on and have spent the two Saturday afternoons watching the results come in on TV and didn’t enjoy it one little bit. I got a phone call on Monday from Rupert Lowe asking me if I’d like to have a meeting with him about the possibility of joining this football club and it was too good a chance to refuse. I’ve always said it – this is a proper football club. It’s a great move for me and a great club.
You are clearly quite angry about some of the things that have been said about you since you left Portsmouth...
These things tend to happen for some unknown reason. All this nonsense about walking away from Portsmouth with lots of money is rubbish. I didn’t ask for a penny and just cancelled my contract, so I was a completely free agent. Then this offer comes along and it’s a terrific job for me. Only a fool would think it’s not a good job.
Are you planning to go back and sign any Portsmouth players?
Not at the moment, no. I left them with some fantastic players that you’d like to have at any Premiership club.
Are you looking ahead to the next derby game?
No I’m looking at the fixture list for the next few games and we’ve got some good teams to play. It’s going to be a tough 22 games but I’m looking forward to it.