Ex-Spurs and West Ham boss Harry Redknapp: Portsmouth owner Sacha Gaydamak wanted to sack me - and bring in ex-Aston Villa, QPR and Derby boss John Gregory

Pedro Mendes provided one of the great iconic Pompey moments with his last-gasp winner over Manchester City.

Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 5:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 5:51 pm

Now Harry Redknapp has revealed how that memorable March 2006 triumph not only inspired the Great Escape, but saved his job.

For defeat would have seen John Gregory replace him as Blues boss.

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However, three months into his December 2005 return from Southampton, unimpressed owner Sacha Gaydamak was plotting his dismissal.

According to Redknapp, out-of-work former Aston Villa and Derby boss Gregory had been lined-up to take over a Blues side struggling to remain in the Premier League.

It would have been a second Fratton Park spell for a manager whose previous unsuccessful 12-month stay ended in January 1990.

Then Mendes intervened.

Sacha Gaydamak and Harry Redknapp hold aloft the FA Cup on Southsea Common in May 2008 following Pompey's Wembley triumph. Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

‘After we lost 5-0 at Birmingham (January 2006), Gaydamak wanted to meet me – and John Gregory was being lined up to take the job,’ Redknapp told The News.

‘Gaydamak said: “Why do the players not try?”. I replied: “They do try, they’re just not good enough. The players here are what they are”.

‘He then said: “That's not good enough”, so I answered “I agree with you, the players are not good enough. We had a good team here before I left and now you have a rubbish team”.

‘I know for a fact that Gregory was lined-up to come back. Absolutely 100 per cent he was waiting to come in – then we beat Manchester City.

Harry Redknapp claims John Gregory had been lined-up to replace him as Pompey manager before Pedro Mendes inspired a season-transforming win over Manchester City in March 2006.

‘Lost and I would have got the sack. I had only just come back, Milan had gone, we had a new owner come in, a Russian with no allegiance to me. He was well connected in Israel and friends with Pini Zahavi, with Pini also very close to John Gregory.

‘I didn’t know Sacha, I didn’t get to know him at all. I don’t even know if he had any interest in football, it was a strange situation.

‘But if I had lost against Manchester City, John Gregory would have come in, that was how it was.

‘New owner comes in, doesn’t know me, doesn’t want me, Milan’s gone – and I’m now going with him.’

Sacha Gaydamak spent three-and-a-half years as Pompey owner before selling the club in August 2009. Picture: Malcolm Wells

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That 2-1 triumph over Stuart Pearce’s Manchester City would spark Pompey’s remarkable late-season resurgence.

They racked up 20 points from a possible 27 to retain Premier League status with a game to spare.

That was achieved on an emotional afternoon at Wigan, where Benjani and Matt Taylor netted in a 2-1 victory in April 2006.

The man whose job hinged on that Manchester City outcome would subsequently lead Pompey to successive top-10 Premier League finishes.

Redknapp would also claim the 2008 FA Cup following victory over Cardiff at Wembley, thereby securing Uefa Cup involvement for the first time in the club’s history.

The 75-year-old added: ‘We won that day against Manchester City – and it was incredible.

‘At the end of the game it was like we’d won the cup, the atmosphere in that dressing room was amazing, everyone singing and dancing around.

‘That win gave us lift off and from there we stayed in the Premier League, the Great Escape.

‘Although I had heard about John Gregory coming in, it didn’t really enter my mind that Manchester City could be my last game at Pompey.

‘I never thought about it and never mentioned it to the players, we needed a win to stay up, that’s all I was concerned about.

‘If I had been sacked, it could have finished me. I put my neck on the line going back to Pompey, if we didn’t stay up I was finished, I knew that.

‘But I’m a gambler and took the gamble that I could keep them up. And we won.’

In terms of his own career, Redknapp walked out on Pompey for Spurs in October 2008.

He subsequently guided Spurs to the 2009 Carling Cup final, was crowned the 2009-10 Premier League Manager Of The Year, secured them two fourth-placed finishes, and reached the Champions League quarter-finals.

He would later manage QPR, taking them back into the Premier League through the Championship play-offs in May 2014.

Redknapp’s managerial career ended in September 2017, following a 13-game spell at Birmingham.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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