Harry Redknapp: I’ve no Ukraine regrets and England will top Group H

Harry Redknapp doesn't regret turning down Ukraine in favour of QPR last November and expects England to top a very tight Group H

harry redknapp
Harry Redknapp was unveiled as QPR's new manager in November Photo: The Sport Review

harry redknapp

Harry Redknapp could have been plotting England’s downfall this weekend if the Queens Park Rangers manager had picked Donetsk over Loftus Road last November.

The former Tottenham Hotspur boss was on the verge of becoming Ukraine’s new head coach before receiving a mayday call from Hoops owner Tony Fernandes following Mark Hughes’s dismissal.

Redknapp, who was released by Spurs last June, had missed out on the vacant England job in spring 2012 before his failure to guide Tottenham into the Champions League prompted chairman Daniel Levy to make a change.

But for one of England’s best-loved managers, the lure of the Premier League and day-to-day coaching proved too hard to resist, and so Redknapp turned his back on a prospective career in international management – for now.

“I had agreed a deal and everything,” he explained. “I was all geared up to go. This [QPR job] came along and I had a decision to make. The Premier League is home and it’s what I’m used to.

“The other job… It was probably like Fabio Capello’s Russia job. It didn’t mean living in Ukraine but I would have to go over Friday, Saturday and Sunday but keep my base at home.

“But what do you from now until September? It’s like being retired… It’s not because he’s working every day but he’s not doing what he likes to do… going out on the training ground working with the players.

“I’m looking forward to Monday night, going to Fulham, going to places like Anfield and Old Trafford.”

Redknapp, who played for the Three Lions at youth level, watched Roy Hodgson’s men battle to a rather uncomfortable point in Montenegro on Tuesday night.

Despite a confidence-boosting 8-0 win against San Marino, England were lacklustre and paid for a tame second-half performance when Dejan Damjanovic’s header cancelled out Wayne Rooney’s early goal.

Elsewhere in Group H, Ukraine beat Moldova to move four points behind second-placed England with a game in hand on Hodgson’s men, who will face the Euro 2012 hosts in Donetsk for the second time in the past 14 months this September.

“Ukraine are bang back in the picture again. It was a fantastic result for them. It’s a tough group but it could have been tougher. There are tougher teams than Montenegro.”

He added: “England have to go to Ukraine – it won’t be easy. We had a tight game in the Euros. They could have easily beaten us. But I think we’ll be OK with the home games… I still fancy England to win the group.”

With Redknapp touted as a potential candidate to succeed Capello last April, the QPR boss is well-placed to pass judgement on Hodgson’s tactics for the crunch Group H clash.

The former Fulham boss was lambasted for failing to act when England struggled to resist unrelenting Montenegro attacks in the second half, with Damjanovic finally beating Joe Hart in the 77th minute.

However, Redknapp refused to criticise Hodgson for not making a change at a pivotal point of the World Cup qualifier in the Montenegrin capital.

“In the second half, they got after England after standing off us in the first half. They got among us and we found it more difficult. It’s what I expected them to do in the tight stadium. They could have easily won the game.

“When you’re winning 1-0, it’s hard to make a change. If you alter the formation and it all goes wrong, you get blamed for making the change. You can’t win whatever you do.

“It’s called second-guessing. It’s easy to second guess when you’re watching it from a distance. But when you’re there and you’ve got to make those decisions.

“We’re winning 1-0 with 15 minutes to go, you stay with it, 13 minutes to go and they score, and you think: ‘I wish I had made the change’. It’s easy afterwards.”

QPR owner Fernandes continues to be criticised for the money the Malaysian businessman has spent since assuming control of the west London club in August 2011.

The Hoops splashed in excess of £20m on Loic Remy and Chris Samba in the January transfer window, with the Congo centre-half reported to be on £100,000-a-week – a figure refuted by QPR.

Ironically, Redknapp revealed Ukraine offered the 66-year-old a far better salary than QPR, but the former Portsmouth manager preferred the challenge of steering the R’s clear of the danger zone.

“It was hard [to decide between QPR and Ukraine]. Financially it was fantastic… better than anything I could have got it in England.

“When QPR came up, I thought I’d give it a go… I know it’s a tough job. I’m enjoying my time here. I just want to keep them up – that’s my aim. If I can do that I’ll be very happy.”

With the United Kingdom set for the coldest Easter on record, Redknapp could be forgiven for thinking he is in the Ukrainian capital – not London.

And should bottom-of-the-table QPR, who are seven points from safety, lose to Fulham on Monday night, he may wish that he’d chosen a different avenue when he reached a managerial crossroads last November.

But for now at least, Redknapp reckons Premier League survival is still an achievable goal.

“I still think we can do it.”

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