The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By John Wragg

HARRY Red­knapp has called Gary Rowett to try and make sure giv­ing up fam­ily life to man­age Birm­ing­ham will be worth­while.

Red­knapp, 70, would have been think­ing about driv­ing down to see his horses at the sta­bles, maybe hav­ing egg and ba­con at a café and watch­ing the grand kids play­ing foot­ball.

In­stead, he will be in the dugout at Villa Park to­day try­ing to halt Birm­ing­ham City’s dis­as­trous slide and keep them from rel­e­ga­tion to League One.

So, to get the SP, ‘Arry rang Gary. Rowett, now at Derby, had the Blues three points off third place in the Cham­pi­onship when he was amaz­ingly sacked in De­cem­ber and Gian­franco Zola ap­pointed.

Birm­ing­ham are still liv­ing off the 34 points Rowett to­talled with Zola only adding 13 in his des­per­ately poor four months in charge that brought two league wins out of 22.

“I spoke to Gary Rowett and had a good chat,” re­vealed Red­knapp. “Gary sent a mes­sage over with his num­ber and asked if I wanted a chat.

“I rang him about the play­ers. He filled me in quite a bit and was re­ally help­ful. He knew the play­ers here well, brought in a lot of them. It was in­ter­est­ing.

“Gary talked about a few of the play­ers that have not been in the team but were be­fore and they could do a job.”

Red­knapp, in charge of a team in Eng­land for the first time since his QPR side lost to Stoke two years ago, has had to make in­stant as­sess­ments of the mess he has in­her­ited.


Birm­ing­ham will prob­a­bly need at least one vic­tory out of the three games left – and go straight into the lions’ den at rowdy, noisy, emo­tional Villa Park. As­ton Villa fans ex­pect a vic­tory.

Life would be tran­quil at Sand­banks in Poole, Dorset.

Red­knapp was up at five am at his lux­ury home there on Fri­day to make the drive up to Birm­ing­ham’s train­ing ground and says: “I’m not in the dog house at home, but when I got up at five to come up to Birm­ing­ham the wife did say I was mad again, just like she said I must be mad in the first place to do this.

“On Sun­day I would go and watch the grand­kids play. They al­ways play Sun­day morn­ing so I’m al­ways watch­ing them. And then I watch foot­ball on TV. That’s my nor­mal Sun­day.

“I don’t get up­tight about the grand­kids play­ing, I stand out the way, mind­ing my own busi­ness, you know? Just letting them get on with it and play. It’s good fun with the kids.

“But this at Birm­ing­ham, it’s what I do, in­nit?

“I can’t do any­thing in the gar­den, I’m not any good at that. I can’t change a plug. If I don’t have a game of golf there is noth­ing else to do, is there?

“I go up the lit­tle caff up the road, read the pa­per, have a bit of egg and ba­con. Then it’s ‘What’s the time? What do I do now?’ There’s my sta­bles. I’ve bought my own sta­bles, my own yard. I en­joy that. I go up there early in the morn­ing, watch the horses work on the gal­lops. I’ve got a boy who trains for me called Nick Mitchell.


“The sta­bles are near a lovely lit­tle vil­lage in Dorset with a fan­tas­tic coun­try pub. Beau­ti­ful. I’ve had a cou­ple of win­ners.”

Whether his time at Birm­ing­ham will be a win­ner Villa will ques­tion to­day.

Villa drew the game at St An­drew’s 1-1 in Oc­to­ber when Rowett was in charge and Blues were a handy eighth, well ahead of their neigh­bours who had been strug­gling and had re­placed Roberto Di Mat­teo with Steve Bruce four games ear­lier.

Bruce, a vet­eran of these der­bies in his ten years as player and man­ager at Birm­ing­ham, has re­vamped the Villa squad but has come to rely on Mile Je­d­i­nak, signed by Di Mat­teo and de­scribed by Bruce as a “colossus” .

Je­d­i­nak made his Sec­ond City derby de­but in that game and will use the ex­pe­ri­ence and the fiery games he played in Turkey as a guide for this re­match.

“There are peo­ple at the en­trance to the train­ing ground in the last few days want­ing au­to­graphs,” says Je­d­i­nak. “All they want to know about is the derby and how we are go­ing to win. If that doesn’t tell me and all the other play­ers what this game means then you don’t have a very good un­der­stand­ing of foot­ball.”

Bruce isn’t shy in say­ing mid-ta­ble in the Cham­pi­onship isn’t good enough for Villa. He will ship out un­wanted play­ers this sum­mer and get ready for a ma­jor pro­mo­tion push.

Aussie Je­d­i­nak, 32, is key to Bruce’s plans.

He is praised as a colossus for the way he gets off long-haul plane trips af­ter play­ing for his coun­try and still turns out for Villa.

“We have missed Jonathan Kod­jia when he’s not been with us and we’ve missed the Big Aussie too,” says Bruce.


“Just look at our re­sults when they’ve not been in the team. That will tell you ev­ery­thing.”

Kod­jia is miss­ing through sus­pen­sion but Je­d­i­nak will talk to his team­match mates about how to cope at sold-out Villa Park based on his ex­pe­ri­ences in fierce Turk­ish games.

While he was with Gen­cler­birligi, Je­d­i­nak scored the win­ner in a 1-0 vic­tory over Fener­bahce and then went out on loan to An­talyas­por.

“Peo­ple are talk­ing that Birm­ing­ham could go down if we beat them. I don’t know about that, we will go out there and fo­cus on what we have to do,” says Je­d­i­nak.

“I played in a cou­ple of der­bies when I was in Ankara and go­ing to sta­di­ums like Fener­bahce and Be­sik­tas there was a big at­mos­phere.

“I won at Galatasaray. You go there and their fans make it in­tim­i­dat­ing.

“Be­ing a for­eigner go­ing to Turkey, I loved ev­ery mo­ment. It was hos­tile, the play­ers talked about it as if it were a do or die ev­ery time. You could see some were in­tim­i­dated, but you learn to get through that.

“Hav­ing seen the first derby at Birm­ing­ham, the best way to deal with it is to keep the clear­est head and be most calm.

“I watched Be­sik­tas on TV in the Europa League this week and the whole time it was noise. You can hardly speak to the guy right next to you.

“I’m not go­ing to say I don’t fancy it. I’ll be rel­ish­ing my first derby at Villa Park. When there is more at stake, the more I like it.

“Some play­ers can’t do it, they ride ev­ery sin­gle emo­tion, but it’s about keep­ing things in check.

“If I am asked to give a bit of ad­vice I will leave it as close to the game as pos­si­ble so it’s fresh in the play­ers’ minds.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

NEW COLOURS: Harry Red­knapp at his Birm­ing­ham un­veil­ing Insets, from left: Mile Je­d­i­nak, Gian­franco Zola and Gary Rowett

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