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Harry Redknapp: I regret leaving Portsmouth for Southampton in 2004

Harry Redknapp

Harry Redknapp has admitted that he should not have left Portsmouth for their arch-rivals Southampton in 2004.

The two south coast sides will renew hostilities in the third round of the EFL Cup on Tuesday.

Redknapp swapped Fratton Park for St Mary’s 15 years ago, after falling out with Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric over the appointment of Velimir Zajec as the club’s director of football.

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The future Tottenham (opens in new tab) boss spent a year at Southampton (opens in new tab) but was unable to prevent them from dropping into the Championship in 2004/05.

He returned to Portsmouth midway through the following campaign, before leading them to FA Cup glory in 2008.

And speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo (opens in new tab) (issue 303), Redknapp says he should never have taken the Southampton job.

“I fell out with Milan Mandaric at Portsmouth. I’d got into my car to drive home one day, and suddenly I had four phone calls from the press saying, ‘I see you’ve got a director of football coming tomorrow?’

“I said, ‘No chance, what are you going on about? I’ve just been with Milan and we haven’t got a director of football. We have Jim Smith, Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond. None of us are young – what do we need a director of football for?’

“The next day, I got to the training ground and this guy was there, Velimir Zajec. I went back to Milan, who’d told me, ‘No one’s coming in.’ We had a row and I quit.

“Soon after, I got a call from Southampton. I lived down here, so why shouldn’t I work? It was a crazy move. I didn’t realise the hate between them.”

Redknapp was labelled a traitor by Portsmouth fans for accepting Southampton’s offer, although they eventually forgave him following his return to Fratton Park.

And the 72-year-old says it was impossible to escape the abuse after his move to St Mary’s.

“It was [very bad]. Non-stop phone calls all day, leaving horrendous messages,” he said.

“At home, I’d be outside and the boats that went past always seemed to be fishermen from Portsmouth. They would go past, a big gang of them on their boats going out through the harbour, yelling abuse.”

Redknapp’s last managerial job came with Championship side Birmingham in 2017.

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Greg Lea
Greg Lea

Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).