HARRY’S GAME IS ALL OVER

Red­knapp axed af­ter Pre­ston de­feat

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By John Lyons

IT WAS a match made in heaven last sea­son, but Harry Red­knapp and Birm­ing­ham City’s love af­fair came to an end last night af­ter a 3-1 de­feat against Pre­ston. It made it five Cham­pi­onship de­feats on the trot for the Blues, who slipped to se­cond bot­tom af­ter their lat­est loss. It’s a far cry from end of last sea­son when Red­knapp won two of his three matches in charge to main­tain Birm­ing­ham’s se­cond tier sta­tus. The 70year-old then signed a one-year deal and it was ex­pected the Mid­lan­ders would chal­lenge for pro­mo­tion.

Yet de­spite bring­ing in 14 play­ers this sum­mer, in­clud- ing Brent­ford trio Jota, Har­lee Dean and Maxime Colin for more than £10m as the trans­fer win­dow closed, the for­mer Tot­ten­ham and Portsmouth boss has been un­able to build any mo­men­tum.

The Blues said: “Un­for­tu­nately due to the poor start to the cam­paign which sees the club se­cond from bot­tom of the Cham­pi­onship, we are left with no choice but to terthe mi­nate the con­tract of the man­ager with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.”

While Red­knapp clears his desk, the Blues have an­nounced that Lee Cars­ley, the club’s head pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment coach, will step in as care­taker-man­ager.

Mean­while, League Two strug­glers Ch­ester­field have sacked man­ager Gary Cald­well af­ter eight months in charge. The for­mer Wi­gan boss was un­able to keep the Spire­ites in League One last term and they have won just once in the bot­tom tier this sea­son to lie se­cond from bot­tom.

Bot­tom of the league Port Vale added to the man­age­rial mis­ery when they axed Michael Brown af­ter a 1-1 draw against For­est Green Rovers.

FOR­MER As­ton Villa young­ster Daniel John­son helped put the fi­nal nail in the coffin of Harry Red­knapp’s Birm­ing­ham City ten­ure as Pre­ston came from be­hind to win at St Andrew’s.

The de­feat was Birm­ing­ham’s sixth in a row, and spelled the end of Red­knapp’s time as man­ager, with the club an­nounc­ing Lee Cars­ley will take tem­po­rary charge.

They had led at half-time thanks to Maxime Colin’s goal but John­son equalised be­fore Jor­dan Hugill’s de­flected strike and Tom Barkhuizen’s tap-in com­pleted the turn­around.

De­spon­dent Red­knapp had ap­peared to sense his time was up, with­out of­fi­cially con­firm­ing it at the time, when he ad­mit­ted the de­feat left him scratch­ing his head.

“It’s sad,” he said. “It dis­ap­points me be­cause I still think there’s a good team there some­where.

“And I’m dis­ap­pointed for the fans too. They de­serve bet­ter. That was my mo­ti­va­tion to carry on this year, be­cause I felt I could put a team to­gether that would give them suc­cess.

“Se­cond half, we gave away bad goals. We didn’t de­fend well, we lost the ball in dan­ger­ous ar­eas and didn’t cause them prob­lems. Dis­ap­point­ing.

“It was just rank poor play from us that cost us goals. And what can you do about that? I stand there as a man­ager and think, ‘What can I do about that?’ I can’t do any­thing.

“You don’t let peo­ple run through the mid­dle of you like we did. I didn’t tell them to do that, that’s for sure, but I take the blame for it – that’s the way foot­ball is.”

Birm­ing­ham’s af­ter­noon got off to the worst pos­si­ble start when Ja­son Lowe be­came the lat­est player to suf­fer a ham­string in­jury and hob­bled off af­ter three min­utes. But the Blues re­grouped, and Colin broke the dead­lock on 35 min­utes af­ter rac­ing to the by­line and turn­ing his marker in­side out be­fore slot­ting past Chris Maxwell from a tight an­gle.

John­son equalised on 56 min­utes, re­ceiv­ing the ball in space and run­ning unchecked at the Blues de­fence be­fore curling a low left-footed strike into the bot­tom cor­ner.

And Pre­ston were in front on the hour when Barkhuizen pressed Colin into giv­ing the ball away in de­fence, al­low­ing Josh Har­rop to square for Hugill, whose shot spun in via a big de­flec­tion.

John­son, now be­ing booed re­lent­lessly by the home fans, was in­volved again on 67 min­utes, thread­ing a per­fect through-ball for Sean Maguire, who squared un­selfishly for Barkhuizen to tap in and seal vic­tory.

And Pre­ston boss Alex Neil ad­mit­ted stern words had been ex­changed at half-time, in­spir­ing the visi­tors’ come­back.

“I didn’t think we did any of the good things we have been do­ing, and I made the play­ers aware of that at half-time,” he said. “I gave them a tough time, and I said to them, ‘You can ei­ther shrink or stick your chest out and show ev­ery­body what you can do’.

“Win­ning away from home takes a lot of bot­tle, and we had that in spades in the se­cond half.

“I didn’t think DJ did well enough first half, but se­cond half he was great and you could see how much his goal meant to him. I’m re­ally pleased for him.”

PIC­TURE: MI News & Sports

FEEL­ING BLUE: Harry Red­knapp took charge of Birm­ing­ham for the last time yes­ter­day PUTTING THE BOOT IN: Jor­dan Hugill is con­grat­u­lated af­ter putting Pre­ston 2-1 up against Birm­ing­ham and ending the Red­knapp reign

PIC­TURES: Me­dia Im­age

TURN­ING POINT: Daniel John­son equalises for Pre­ston North End to burst Birm­ing­ham’s bub­ble

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