Soccer-‘Agent Harry’ offers tips for sorry Saints to bounce back

SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) – Tips on how relegated Southampton can bounce straight back to the Premier League have come from an unlikely quarter – the man known by some on the south coast as “Agent Harry” who was at the Saints helm the last time they dropped out of the top flight.

Harry Redknapp presided over Southampton’s last relegation from the top flight in 2005, before infuriating Saints fans by leading their bitter local rivals Portsmouth soon afterwards.


“I didn’t try to get Southampton relegated,” a light-hearted Redknapp told a group of students in the city, addressing the issue of how he cuts a divisive figure on the south coast. “Things just kept going against us and against us.”

The 76-year-old said Southampton’s priority must now be to target a number of leaders — even just in the short term — to make their stay in the second-tier Championship as brief as possible.

“You haven’t always got to go abroad for your players, you need good professionals and could do with a James Milner or somebody — I know he’s going to Brighton,” Redknapp told the local Daily Echo newspaper regarding the Liverpool midfielder.

“Go and get three or four players who you can rely on in the dressing room. Leaders are out there, it might be players you only get a year out of.”

Saints squad bloated to more than 30 senior players as they scrambled to avoid the drop.

“I don’t even know half the players if I’m honest with you,” he said. “It’s a lot of different players who have come in from other countries. (You need) people you can rely on who want to do a good job — they run the show.

“It’s an easy job when you’ve got good professionals policing the dressing room. They could do with a few more (James) Ward-Prowse-type players… the recruitment has got to be all important,” he added referring to Saints’ captain.

Redknapp, who won the FA Cup with Portsmouth and also managed Bournemouth, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers as well as the Jordan national team, said Southampton must scour the market for a “winner and a leader”.

“That’s what Southampton are short, and that’s what they’ve got to find. ‘Come and get us out of this league and then we can start to rebuild with some youngsters hopefully’.

“They’ve always produced good kids here at Southampton, an incredible run. But when you keep selling your best players as they have done, it does get more difficult.”

Southampton’s failure to beat Fulham last weekend sealed their fate. They visit Brighton on Sunday and host Liverpool on the final day of the season a week later.

(Reporting by Ossian Shine; Editing by Ken Ferris)