LONDON // Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, has long coveted Scott Parker and he believes that the West Ham United midfielder has the inspirational qualities to pull his side clear of the relegation battle this season.
Redknapp returns today to coach against the club he played for and managed, with the Hammers still anchored at the foot of the table with just one point from five games. Spurs, meanwhile, are in fifth on eight points as the season enters the phase when the competition really starts to take shape. Tottenham, involved in the Champions League for the first time, seem prepared to make another top-four challenge. West Ham, on the other hand, seem set to be involved in another long battle to avoid the drop.
Redknapp hopes to extend an unbeaten run against the club he left in 2001 to 10 games (with Portsmouth and Spurs). The last five encounters have been victories for Redknapp. However, he hopes his former club avoid relegation. "They have had a good week by playing well and taking a point up at Stoke then winning at Sunderland in the Carling Cup," Redknapp said. "Their season could start to turn around now. Long term, I certainly hope so. I spent a lot of my life at the club and have special memories.
"Key to their chances is Scott Parker. He did so well for them in those games and he will be vital if West Ham are to pull clear from the bottom. Scotty is a top player and top bloke. That is why I have tried to sign him on a couple of the occasions in the past, most recently in the summer. "The feedback we were getting was that West Ham were prepared to sell him and use the money to bring in two or three new players.
"That might actually have been good business for them and our chairman did make an approach and we knew that they would have taken our midfielder Jamie O'Hara as part of the deal. "But in the end the problem was that their chairman David Sullivan had pledged to the West Ham fans at the end of last season that the last player they would sell was Scott. So in the end, while it might have been good business he felt he couldn't go back on his word."
Parker signed a new contract with West Ham, and Redknapp, conceded that the midfielder "might have had a tougher battle to be a regular in our team" and recalled how the player was unhappy in a part-time role with Chelsea. "For us, the positive knock on effect has seen Jermaine Jenas force his way back into our team and been fantastic," Redknapp said. "Do I think West Ham can get out of it? Yes. And I find it crazy that I already hear stories that their manager Avram Grant could be out in a few weeks if there isn't a big improvement. He has only just got there, for goodness sake.
"It's going to be a rare old battle down there and the one thing you can't afford is to find yourself well adrift after 10 games. Then it's really difficult to haul yourselves out of it. The next five games will be crucial for West Ham." email@example.com 6pm, ADMC Sports 4
Arsenal v West Bromvich Albion
In a break from the norm in the Premier League, Arsenal have announced record pre-tax profits of £56 million (Dh319m) and they have paid off all the debt on Highbury Square – an apartment-block development at the site of their old stadium. Profits are slightly down on the football side. Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal chief executive, said: "A part of that is because we've invested fairly aggressively in our young player pool, and have secured their long-term future with the club."
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Blackpool v Blackburn Rovers
Ian Holloway's success with Blackpool deserves to be ranked alongside any of the achievements of Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho, according to Blackburn's manager Sam Allardyce. Holloway, working on a shoestring budget, won promotion to the Premier League in his first year in charge. "When you look at what resources they have we don't give them the plaudits they deserve because they are a small, unfashionable club," Allardyce said.
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Liverpool v Sunderland
Roy Hodgson, the Liverpool manager, sees today's visit of Sunderland as the chance to start rebuilding his team's confidence. Liverpool are currently 16th in the table with just five points and they were knocked out of the Carling Cup in midweek, by Northampton Town, a team who play three divisions below them. "I shall sleep a bit better if we get a win," said Hodgson. "Nothing I can say changes the result on Wednesday or repairs any damage done."
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Birmingham City v Wigan Athletic
Birmingham City can equal their top-flight record of 18 games unbeaten at home if they avoid defeat today against Wigan. "I'm aware of the headlines telling everyone that is the case," said Birmingham's manager Alex McLeish. "I'm sure people reading that will be thinking, 'This will be the one where they finally lose that record after talking about it so much'. We know some day we will lose at St Andrew's but they won't go down without fighting."
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Fulham v Everton
Fulham's attacking options for today's clash with Everton are minimal, with Moussa Dembele confirmed out for two to three weeks. The setback comes a week after Bobby Zamora had been ruled out for five months with a broken leg; Andy Johnson and Diomansy Kamara are also injured. "Available to us are Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson and Zoltan Gera," Mark Hughes said. "We have options, though ideally we'd like our full complement to pick from."
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