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Redknapp wants Pompey to do it all again as Portsmouth win FA Cup (SN)

SoccerNews in English Premier League, FA Cup 18 May 2008

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Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp challenged his side to make a swift return to Wembley after seeing them beat Cardiff City 1-0 in the FA Cup final.

Saturday's victory, secured by Nwankwo Kanu's goal, was the first time the south club had been in a major Wembley final since beating Wolves to win the 1939 FA Cup – the last before the Second World War.

But Redknapp, who had already guided Portsmouth to an impressive eighth place in the Premier League this season, is eager for more silverware after the first significant trophy of his career as either a player or a manager.

Expectations are now bound to rise at Fratton Park, with Portsmouth set for their first taste of European football after their Wembley heroics qualified them for the UEFA Cup.

However, the 61-year-old Redknapp was already thinking of strengthening his squad having ended the 'Big Four' of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool's 13-year FA Cup monopoly.

“It depends on who you can get how well you can do but we're hopeful. It is going to be even tougher to get into the top four next season,” Redknapp said.

“But I'll be looking for the top half of the table again and maybe another Wembley trip. That will do nicely.”

Not since being crowned champions of England in 1950 have Portsmouth captured one of English football's major prizes.

That they did so against Cardiff, of the second-tier Championship, owed much to a solid defence that conceded just one goal in the Cup run.

France international Lassana Diarra launched repeated, stylish, attacks from just in front of a back four marshalled by Portsmouth captain Sol Campbell.

And on the rare occasions Cardiff did break through, England goalkeeper David James kept them at bay.

The decisive moment came in the 37th minute when Kanu, who scored Pompey's winner in their semi-final win over West Brom, was on hand to score from close range after Cardiff keeper Peter Enckelman failed to hold a cross from the striker's fellow Nigeria forward John Utaka.

Having prevented the club from dropping down into the third tier of English football and taken them into the Premier League, Redknapp stunnned the Pompey faithful when, after a brief falling out with then chairman Milan Mandaric, he spent a year managing arch-rivals Southampton.

Redknapp, who had said he would “never go down the road” was branded a “Judas” when, having made-up with Mandaric, he returned to Fratton Park in December 2005 and helped save the club from seemingly certain relegation.

“It wasn't easy and I have no doubt if we had gone down I wouldn't be here now talking about an FA Cup final win,” Redknapp, the first English manager to lift the trophy since Everton's Joe Royle in 1995, recalled.

However, not many pundits gave much for Pompey's FA Cup chances when they were drawn away to United in the last eight.

“When I looked at the quarter-final draw and saw we'd got Manchester United away I thought that was that again,” Redknapp admitted. “But we got a 1-0 win up there, kept a clean sheet and got none of the credit we should have done.”

Pompey fans were left wondering if they'd blown a rare chance of glory when, before he scored, Kanu hit the post of an open goal after beating Enckelman.

“Kanu has been fantastic for us. That's a semi-final and a final he has won with his goals and yet when I signed him at the start of last season on a free transfer from West Brom people said I was mad,” Redknapp said.

Cardiff, bidding to win the FA Cup for the first time since 1927, were left to think of what might have been.

City manager Dave Jones, whose side finished 12th in the Championship, said it was vital they used their Cup campaign as a springboard for promotion to the Premier League.

Otherwise they would lose the likes of teenage midfielder Aaron Ramsey, reportedly a United target, who came on as substitute for the last 30 minutes of the final.

“If we are going to keep him, we've got to get into the Premier League and we've got players who are good enough to do that,” said Jones.

“It was a credit to our team, the way Harry set his team-up 4-5-1. They've shown us a lot of respect.”

He added: “I think it will be be a long time before another Championship side is in the Cup final. We've shown the big boys it's possible.

“There are a lot of Premier League chairmen who will be asking why Cardiff are in the final and they are not. We've brought a little bit of pride back to the FA Cup.”

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