London (AFP) – Veteran English manager Harry Redknapp said he had returned to football as the new boss of Championship strugglers Birmingham City on Tuesday because he was “fed up” with his time away from the sport.
The 70-year-old former Tottenham Hotspur boss has replaced Gianfranco Zola, whose dismal four months in charge of second-tier Birmingham ended on Monday with the Italian declaring “I sacked myself”.
Birmingham are now just three points above the relegation zone with three games remaining.
Redknapp’s most recent managerial post was with Jordan. He last worked in English football with Derby County as an advisor.
Redknapp said his initial appointment would be until the end of the season, although his time at St Andrews could be extended if he preserves Birmingham’s Championship status.
“I got fed up sitting around doing nothing,” Redknapp told Talksport Radio on Tuesday.
“I will come and live up here until the end of the season,” added Redknapp, whose home is in Poole on England’s south coast.
“If I can keep them up then we can sit down and talk about going forward.
– ‘Are you mad?’ –
Explaining how he got the Blues’ job, Redknapp — who will be assisted at St Andrews by Steve Cotterill — said: “I got a phone call last (Monday) night from the people at Birmingham.
“I drove to London, had a meeting for 10 to 15 minutes, sat down and said ‘Yeah, I will do it, no problem’. I got home and my wife said: ‘Are you mad?'”
“Birmingham is a proper club. It is a good club. They are in a precarious position and we have got the worst goal difference as well.
“I’ve gone in there, said I will come and do it. The money I am not interested in.”
The 50-year-old Zola was a controversial appointment by the Midlands club’s Chinese owners after they sacked Gary Rowett, who had Birmingham well placed to challenge for a place in the play-offs, in December.
However under former Italy international Zola, the Birmingham suffered a dramatic slump in form that saw them manage just two wins in 22 matches.
Redknapp’s first game as Blues’ boss is Saturday’s Birmingham derby at Aston Villa.
His last spell in the Championship saw Redknapp guide QPR to promotion. Redknapp has also managed two other London clubs in West Ham, for whom he played, and Tottenham.
He has also been in charge of three south coast teams, starting his managerial career at Bournemouth and later twice taking charge of Portsmouth either side of an ill-fated stint at their bitter rivals Southampton.
It was with Portsmouth that Redknapp enjoyed arguably his greatest success when they won the 2008 FA Cup. He also guided Pompey to the Championship title in 2003.
Zola, speaking following Birmingham’s home loss to Burton at St Andrews, said it had been his decision alone to cut short his two-and-a-half year contract.
“I sacked myself,” he explained. “I decided to give in my resignation. I am sorry because I came to Birmingham with huge expectations. Unfortunately the results have not been good and I take full responsibility.
Zola, in his third management spell in England after stints at West Ham and Watford, added: “If I feel I cannot help the players, why stay? If I cannot help the team, it is better I leave and let someone else do that.”