Redknapp Hails Famous Five
Harry Redknapp believes the current crop of youngsters at West Ham are "not in the same class" as the group that would have made the club Champions League regulars if they had stayed at Upton Park. The Hammers make the short trip to White Hart Lane this weekend looking to stay ahead of Redknapp's Tottenham in the race for European qualification, and they will again rely on inexperienced players such as James Tomkins and Mark Noble. While managing West Ham between 1994 and 2001, Redknapp saw Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Glen Johnson develop. There are similar high hopes for Gianfranco Zola's homegrown talent who are impressing at the moment, but Redknapp said: "They are not in the same class. No one will have five British kids as good as that lot again." Much of the credit goes to youth coach Tony Carr, although Redknapp feels it was simply a freak West Ham produced the talent they did in the last decade. He also insists his former club would be rubbing shoulders with the European elite if they had kept hold of their players. He said: "Four players who grew up at West Ham - Ferdinand, Lampard, Joe Cole and Carrick - played in last year's Champions League final. "It makes you upset when you think they should all be playing for West Ham. "West Ham have great support and they should have held on to those players. They could have built a team around them which would have challenged regularly for a Champions League place. "From the fans' point of view, it was a big blow to see them all go. "None of them cost the club anything and, if they had stayed, who knows where West Ham would be now? "Until that crop came along, West Ham hadn't produced many good young players since Paul Ince came through the ranks in 1986. Those five all became great players." Redknapp, who admits managing against his former club will be an emotional occasion, has praised the work of Zola in his rookie season as a manager. "It's a club I went to at 15 so it's always a special club for me and will never be any different," Redknapp said. "I'm pleased to see them do well again this season and the football they have played has been excellent. "They have turned it around great. Their manager was a great player, a fantastic fella who everyone in the game loves. "No-one dislikes Zola because he is a special character. "It's great to see him do so well. It was difficult to go there with his background as a Chelsea man but he's a professional and the fans have appreciated what he has done. "The fans understand the game and will appreciate the type of football he is playing. "They demand a certain type of football having been brought up on passing and what people consider playing the right way. "They don't just kick it and hope, they play football and Zola has continued on that theme." Redknapp had to put the UEFA Cup to the bottom of his priority list this season as Spurs chased silverware and fought relegation - but he still feels it is worthwhile fighting with West Ham to qualify. "I'd love to (qualify)," he said. "It would be great to play in Europe and it was great with Portsmouth. It's just that we ended up in a relegation battle because of the situation I took over in and we were in the Carling Cup final. "Our last tie came between vital league games and a Wembley final so it was a big problem for us. When we get back in, which the club will in the future for sure, we won't have the same problems."
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