HARRY REDKNAPP insists Rupert Lowe holds the key to his Pompey return rather than Fratton Park chairman Milan Mandaric.

Redknapp, still a Saints employee despite all the recent controversies, believes his remains Mandaric's No 1 choice to take over from Alain Perrin.

That's despite Mandaric yesterday saying Redknapp was NO longer a candidate after he failed to agree compensation with his St Mary's counterpart Lowe.

Redknapp, in Bournemouth last night to switch on the town's Christmas lights, said he "trusts" Mandaric to stand by him following his decision to walk out on Saints at the weekend.

Mandaric yesterday hit out at Lowe, accusing him of being more interested in "hunting the ducks than football."

That was after Lowe on a previous shooting trip, turned down Pompey's "derisory" offer of £50,000 compensation for Redknapp's services plus another £75,000 if he did for Pompey what he couldn't do for Saints - keep them in the Premiership.

That came just a day after Mandaric insisted he wasn't prepared to pay anything in compensation.

Redknapp said last night: "I'd be surprised if Portsmouth were looking elsewhere for a manager.

"I trust Milan not to do that.

"I've been at home all day and have had no contact with anyone at either club.

"I'm keen to talk to Milan, I just think there's a problem trying to agree compensation.

"Milan has no problems with me at all, the problem is with Southampton doing a deal.

"The Southampton chairman has gone shooting today so is not available, but hopefully they can get together and get a deal done.

"That's obviously what I would like to happen. I'm in limbo and there's nothing I can do about it, it's not my money."

Though Redknapp remains a Saints employee, he understands there is no going back to St Mary's.

"I can't expect to go back to Southampton, it would not be fair on the Southampton fans," he said.

"I've got no problem with them at all, they've been good to me."

And with a further swipe at the behind-the-scenes politics at St Mary's, he added: "I was just put in a difficult position there."