English football has been waiting for Harry Redknapp to return to management almost from the moment he cleared his desk at Tottenham Hotspur.
The England job was his only for the FA to pick up the phone to call Roy Hodgson instead, while his agent has only recently returned from Ukraine where the national team are in need of a successor to Oleg Blokhin. Yet Redknapp will step back into a dug out much closer to home.
Mark Hughes had only just been removed as the manager at Queens Park Rangers yesterday when the London club were punching in the number for Redknapp's representatives. Contact has been made and talks are expected to continue over the weekend. The former Portsmouth manager could be formally named as the new man in charge of QPR by the beginning of next week. Unlike the England job, that is not just wishful thinking among the media, either. "Contact has been made between QPR and us as Harry Redknapp's representatives," said a spokesperson for Paul Stretford's Triple S Sports and Entertainment company.
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The club's chief executive, Philip Beard, was coy when asked if Redknapp had been chosen to succeed Hughes. "It's too early to say," said Beard.
"But we're going to work hard to make the right decision for QPR and the fans. A difficult decision has been made, now we've got to focus on finding a successor."
Despite Beard's reticence, Redknapp later appeared on Sky Sports News to confirm the appointment was imminent.
"Hopefully we can get it done tonight, there shouldn't be any problems," said the 65-year-old former Spurs manager.
The "difficult decision" to remove Hughes had been expected, even as chairman Tony Fernandes tweeted his support of the manager that failed to record one league win this season. QPR's precarious position had led to speculation that Redknapp would be parachuted in.
QPR won only eight matches in all competitions under Hughes despite a summer of heavy spending and it was reported that the Welshman rejected the chance to resign from his position in a meeting at the club's training ground on Monday. That followed a 3-1 defeat by newly promoted Southampton and resulted in a club statement yesterday.
"Queens Park Rangers has terminated the contract of manager Mark Hughes with immediate effect," it read. "Ultimately, the circumstances we find ourselves in have left the board of directors with little choice but to make a change."
First-team coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki will take interim charge when QPR face Manchester United at Old Trafford yesterday. It is likely not the match you would pick after such a tumultuous day, not least as United will want to mark the unveiling of a statue of manager Sir Alex Ferguson with a league win.
A bronze figure of the Scot has been erected outside Old Trafford yesterday. Ferguson laughed that his wife had promised to travel down each morning to bow at its feet, while the United manager also joked that: "Normally people die before they have a statue. I am outliving death."
Yet he was still able to offer more sombre words to the news that he would not face Hughes, a former United player, as a manager today. "It's probably a lesson to everyone that changing a team and bringing 11 new players in is not easy," he said. "They've only four points andthat creates its own headlines."