REDKNAPP RELISHES MCCLAREN MEETING
IT’S NOT quite master versus apprentice but QPR’s victory over Wigan has set up a reunion for Harry Redknapp and Steve McClaren at Wembley – and the Rangers boss is relishing the challenge.
Charlie Austin’s extratime winner sealed an aggregate play-off semifinal win for the R’s after the striker had earlier equalised James Perch’s first-half effort.
It pits 67-year-old Redknapp and Derby boss McClaren – who guided his side to a convincing 6-2 semi-final victory over Brighton – against each other in the winner-takesall clash this Saturday.
Rams boss McClaren was given a coaching role by Redknapp last summer after his career took a nosedive – a disastrous ten-game spell at Nottingham Forest was followed by the sack at Dutch side Twente.
And despite seeing his former ally jump ship to take the Pride Park hotseat in September, Redknapp is looking forward to getting reacquainted.
“We’ve got a great game to look forward to with Derby,” said Redknapp. “It’s going to be a great day out and a great game.
“It’s a cup final, two good teams and I’m really looking forward to it. Steve McClaren is an excellent coach and Derby are a sharp, bright team.
“There is not much between us. It will be great for the owners and fans and players and that is all that matters to me. I would love to see them back in the Premier League.
“The fans drove us on, the players drove us on against Wigan and it was an excellent performance.We kept going, they competed with their lives.”
Despite a raucous setting at Loftus Road it was Wigan who scored first as James McClean’s cross was tapped home by Perch from three yards after he nipped in front of Clint Hill.
It took until 17 minutes from time before the R’s levelled, Gary Caldwell brought down Junior Hoilett just inside the box and Austin kept his cool from the spot.
And the former Burnley striker superbly diverted Bobby Zamora’s ball past Scott Carson for a priceless winner six minutes into the first period of extra time.
“We gave it our all,” said Wigan boss Uwe Rosler. “The players squeezed every little drop they had.
“The squad of players have been tremendous.We started with players who ordinarily would not have started. Before they scored we had some good chances and in extra time I thought we were the better side and we were unfortunate not to get to penalties.”