SOUTHAMPTON, United Kingdom: Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp knows he will only be able to enjoy his 66th birthday if his side win at Premier League relegation rivals Southampton on Saturday.
The day is set to be a memorable one whatever happens, however, as Redknapp is sure to be subjected to cat-calls, or worse, from home supporters who do not like him for a variety of reasons.
Redknapp had two spells at Portsmouth, Southampton’s local rivals, and led them to glory in the FA Cup in 2008.
But it was his spell in charge of Southampton in between, from December 2004 to December 2005, that cemented a poor relationship with the supporters at St Mary’s as they ended a 27-year spell in the top flight under his leadership.
Relegation seems likely for his current club as well as they will kick off bottom of the Premier League and seven points adrift of safety against a side currently three points and two places on the safe side of the relegation zone.
“It’s my birthday on March 2 and I thought ‘There’s no better way to have my birthday than stand there and get abused for 90 minutes,’” Redknapp joked after his side’s most recent disappointment, a 2-0 home loss to Manchester United.
“They’ll be calling me ‘Scummer from Portsmouth’.”
Yet there is one chapter of his south coast past that Redknapp would be happy to relive, as the second time he managed Portsmouth saw him able to resuscitate a seemingly doomed side just in time to avoid the drop.
Redknapp argues that that could also be the case this season with Rangers, who hired him to replace Mark Hughes in November last year.
“Everyone thinks we’re gone, but we’re not,” he said.
“You can change it so quickly. At Portsmouth I had a crap team and we got 20 points or something in the last 10 games and we stayed up. It’s not impossible. I’ve said to the players we can do it. I still fancy us.”
Esteban Granero, the Spanish midfielder bought from Real Madrid when Hughes was in charge, has the same idea.
“We still have the chance to get out of this situation and, if we manage this, I will remember this as a great season,” he said.
“Then we can face a new season with new opportunities.”
In one of the quirky coincidences that football often throws up, Saturday is also the birthday of Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino.
The former Argentina World Cup defender, who replaced Nigel Adkins at the Saints helm in January, turns 41 that day.
Pochettino has already seen his players overpowered by a team picked by a former Southampton manager, as their most recent result was a 4-2 loss at Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United.
A number of players who played for Saints in League One under Pardew have made the journey to the Premier League, including French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, who signed a new contract earlier this week.
“I am a very happy man,” Schneiderlin said.
“To commit my future to Southampton is a big thing because this club has big ambitions, and I have big ambitions as well.
“I wouldn’t have signed this contract if the club didn’t have a big project. When I spoke to the chairman and the manager, I knew they wanted to do something very good at this club and I want to be a part of that.” -AFP
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