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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

Barclays Premier League
Read
By ESPN Staff

Buoyant Redknapp praises Adams' influence

Manager Harry Redknapp handed a large share of the credit for Portsmouth's outstanding season to his assistant Tony Adams and wants to see the former Arsenal ace given the top job at Fratton Park - one day.

Pompey, sixth in the Premier League, scraped a 1-0 FA Cup semi-final victory over West Brom at Wembley through Kanu's goal 10 minutes after half time, plus a solid defence.

And Redknapp, 61, admitted: 'A lot of what we've achieved is down to Tony and our first-team coach Joe Jordan. They deserve a lot of credit.

'I love having Tony with me. What a player he was, what a captain. The nearest thing I've seen to him as a captain is Martin Johnson, who has just got the England rugby job.

'I'd love Tony to be manager of this club when my time is up - one day. There's no problem there and I'm not worried about him taking it. And Joe's done brilliantly, you would never get anybody more staunch.

'So I'm lucky to be have two such smashing guys.'

Although Adams, who was recruited by Redknapp at the start of last season and persuaded to extend his contract this term, tackles all facets of coaching with the squad, he was obviously a master of the defensive art for England and Arsenal.

Pompey's progress to the final has not been pretty but they have conceded just one goal in the cup and kept 20 clean sheets in total this season with the resilience of centre-backs Sol Campbell and Sylvain Dustin, plus the enduring brilliance of veteran goalkeeper David James.

Redknapp, who signed a new three-year contract last August, loves sticking to the principles of good passing he learned at West Ham but Pompey have been tighter by far since the arrival of Adams, the inspiration of Arsenal's old 1-0 generation.

His spell in charge at Wycombe Wanderers was unsuccessful but he studied coaching abroad in Holland for a spell and wants to complete a good grounding before going into management again, higher up the ladder this time.

Redknapp is pleased his decision to remain loyal to Portsmouth has been vindicated with a place in the FA Cup final.

'It was nice to be wanted by a club like Newcastle,' Redknapp said. 'On the one hand, people said take on the challenge to prove I could do it with a big club.

'But on the other, I've brought good players in here at Portsmouth and wanted to stay loyal to them. I'm delighted that I did. It's another great day for me and the club, especially the fans.'

A place in the final of English football's showpiece cup competition represents a fine achievement for the second side that Redknapp built after he returned to the club from a spell with rivals Southampton.

But the 61-year-old admitted earning a chance to add to Portsmouth's solitary FA Cup triumph in 1939 had been the culmination of a tough few years at the club.

'I came back to a terrible team after leaving a really good one behind a year earlier. We did really well to stay up,' Redknapp said. 'At first I wondered what I'd done. As soon as I got back, the captain at the time, Dejan Stefanovic, told me I'd got the worst team here he had ever seen.

'He said 'you must me mad' - and after the first morning's training I realised he was right.

'There were a few good lads still there - Dejan, Gary O'Neil, Richard Hughes but they had got rid of the ones I had like Patrick Berger, (Ayegbeni) Yakubu and so on.

'They had gone out and bought a load of oddmarks in from everywhere around in the world. I'm not blaming (then manager) Alain Perrin because I don't think it was his fault but, quite rightly, we were bottom of the league, looking dead and buried.

'Somehow we got out of it after going to Wigan and winning in the last game but one. But what a day.

'People said to me I must be nervous before my first FA Cup semi-final but, believe me, it is nothing compared to that day at Wigan where I knew we had to win to stay up or else everybody would slaughter me.'

Redknapp admits he was foolish to go to fierce rivals Southampton after walking out and just as 'mad' to return a year later.

He added: 'If we had gone down I knew I was in big trouble because I can't say truthfully that everybody welcomed me back. At first there were banners up saying 'Judas' nice things like that.

'But in the end you have just got to stay true to yourself and I've got time for everybody. I'd rather do somebody a good turn than a bad turn, that's for sure.

'I got a letter last week from a fan who wrote saying he'd been with his wife to every round in the cup, been to Ipswich, been to Preston but couldn't get tickets for the semi-final. He'd tried for his life.

'So I took it on face value, rang him up, not knowing it was April Fool's Day and left a message on his answerphone saying `Hello Geoff, it's Harry Redknapp, I've got you two tickets and would ring back'.

'Of course, when I did he couldn't believe it. He said he'd had a big ruck with his mates who said somebody was playing a joke. But I was delighted to get him the tickets.

'My wife Sandra said what other Premier League manager would do that, but that's how I am.'

Milan Baros, on loan from French champions Lyon, missed several chances for Pompey but denied he deliberately handled in the lead up to Kanu's winner.

He said: 'The ball may have touched my hand as I tried to control it on my chest but it was not deliberate.'

Kanu, who will consider a new one-year extension to his current contract this summer, hopes to start an FA Cup final for the first time after twice being a substitute for Arsenal.

He said: 'It was important that we did not disappoint the fans because they were fantastic. When we were drawn away to Manchester United in the quarter finals no-one thought we would get to the final. Now we have to win it.'

James, who barely had a save to make despite Pompey's poor performance, admitted: 'We have made it hard for ourselves in every round so far, but we have made it through to the final and it is a tremendous effort by the lads.

'It has been an FA Cup this year where all the favourites have been getting knocked out, and we struggled against West Brom, but I thought we managed to do enough.

'I've been to two FA Cup finals before and lost both. So this is a chance to rectify that. I am confident enough in this side to believe we are good enough to win it.'