Belfast Telegraph

Redknapp to raid Portsmouth for Johnson

Harry Redknapp has identified Portsmouth's full-backs Glen Johnson and the on-loan Algerian international Nadir Belhadj as his January transfer targets, as well as the midfielder Lassana Diarra, after his former club's financial plight was made clear to him last week.

It is understood that Redknapp's mind was made up when he was told by the club's hierarchy that the £5m compensation paid for him to become manager of Tottenham Hotspur would "come in useful" at struggling Portsmouth.

The eagerness with which Portsmouth and their chief executive, Peter Storrie, told Redknapp that they had accepted the £5m deal with Spurs demonstrated to him their readiness to accept bids for their players during the next transfer window. Redknapp is keen to sign Johnson (below) and Belhadj, who has been extremely impressive since his loan move from Lens in September. Even Redknapp was said to have been shocked at the speed with which Portsmouth accepted the offer from Spurs.

With Portsmouth's debt of around £30m modest by Premier League standards, they are, however, in a position to invest less as their owner, Sacha Gaydamak, searches for a potential buyer. Storrie has denied that the club will have to sell players in January to stay afloat. However, Redknapp is confident of acquiring the players he needs from Portsmouth. Assistants Tony Adams and Joe Jordan, as well as Sam Allardyce, are both potential candidates to succeed Redknapp, but Portsmouth are considering their options before making an appointment.

Redknapp would also like to bring Portsmouth's highly rated chief scout Ian Broomfield to Spurs to rebuild the scouting network that was changed radically this summer by the now former director of football Damien Comolli. Redknapp will meet with Tim Sherwood again today to try to persuade the former Spurs midfielder to give up his pundit's role at Setanta Sports and join his back-room team along with assistant Kevin Bond. The goalkeeping coach Hans Leitert, the one survivor from the Juande Ramos regime, is also expected to be moved on in time.

Tottenham also made enquiries about Fabio Capello's right-hand man Franco Baldini, who plays an integral role with the England team as a fixer and communicator with the players. Baldini, formerly a director of football at Roma and Real Madrid, had also been a target for West Ham in the past. He turned down Spurs' interest. Poaching a key member of the England set-up would have caused great disquiet at the Football Association.

Speaking to the Spurs players for the first time on Saturday, Redknapp said that he had full confidence in them and believed that they could get out of their relegation battle. The Spurs captain, Ledley King, said that Redknapp's presence had been felt immediately by the players. "It feels good after our first win but we still realise that there's a long way to go," King said. "He has given us a new confidence, he said there were some brilliant players in the team and he said he believes we can get out of this and it looked as if there had been a weight lifted off the players' shoulders. We played with a belief, with a freedom and it was more like the old Tottenham."

The decision to sack Ramos was taken by Daniel Levy relatively late in the week after he had returned from a business trip to America on Thursday. Up until then the Spurs chairman had been prepared to leave Ramos in charge for the game against Bolton, but conversations with senior figures within the squad convinced him that he had to act quickly.

"It's difficult to put a finger on what was going wrong and sometimes when things are not going right it forces a change," King said. "The chairman felt it was the right time to make a change. Harry's a top manager and I've admired him for a long time and I think it's a good appointment. I was sad to see it not work out with Juande, because he led us to our first trophy in a long time and he did it in such a short space of time.

"It was magnificent to be part of that but our form – and we accept it as players – has not been good enough in the league. That's why it's happened. I think we do have a point to prove with the manager. The players have to start again and everyone has to perform and that's when you get the best out of players when they are under pressure to perform, and if their performances are not good enough then they won't be playing the next game. That can be a good thing."

The issue of King's availability is one of the first major questions to face Redknapp, whose team play Arsenal tomorrow. The condition of the 27-year-old's fitness has long prevented him from playing any more than half or one in three of Spurs' games. With Ramos controversially preferring to use him in cup competitions, Redknapp now has to decide whether to keep parachuting King into the team or settle for a more consistent pairing of Jonathan Woodgate and Vedran Corluka or Michael Dawson.

King, who played against Udinese in the Uefa Cup last Thursday and Bolton on Sunday, his first consecutive games of the season, said: "I can see the question. It's an important position in the team, centre -half, and it's nice to have consistency in there. We'll see what happens. I'm trying to find out my situation and we'll see what happens. It's not surprised me that I could play consecutive games back to back.

"I thought I could do it earlier in the season and stop people talking about it so much. We'll take it to the game against Arsenal and see what happens. I'm not about to try and play every game, I'll build up to it and see what happens now."

Belfast Telegraph


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