‘A very emotional man, volatile too’: Fred Dinenage shines light on life under charasmatic Milan Mandaric during Portsmouth golden years


And the TV legend also explained his admiration for the charismatic Serb’s ‘excellent’ football brain and business acumen.

During that time, Pompey avoided relegation from the First Division on the last day against Barnsley, reached the Premier League and then established themselves in the top flight.

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Wonderful memories – overseen by the often unpredictable Mandaric.

‘That was Milan, a very emotional man, volatile too, but incredibly good at what he did. He’s the only owner I’ve known who sold three clubs, each at a profit. That takes some doing.

‘His football brain was excellent and he took the club to unprecedented heights in the modern era until he realised that, financially, the Premier League is a different world.

Fred Dinenage and Milan Mandaric share a joke at Portsmouth Guildhall after Pompey received the Freedom of the City of Portsmouth in September 2003. Picture: Malcolm Wells

‘We were thumped 5-0 at West Brom in February 2002. It was 4-0 at half-time and Milan wanted to walk out. Harry said “Fred, you’ve got to talk to him, stop him. Don’t let him walk out because the media will pick up on it”.

‘I convinced Milan to stay, but even then he was thinking about chasing the team coach down the motorway after the game and sacking Graham Rix. He never did.

‘I don’t think Harry knew what he was doing as director of football, although I suspect he expected to be eventually offered the manager’s job. He must have realised he was waiting in the wings because this (Rix) was going to fail.

‘Milan and Harry had a volatile relationship. Their worst bust-up was in May 2003, the night before we won 5-0 at Bradford having already taken the First Division title.

TV legend and ex-Pompey director Fred Dinenage turned 80 on Wednesday

‘It was always over players and Harry launched into these invectives, it was really quite unpleasant. Milan was talked into it in the end, he always was.

‘On the coach on the way back, Paul Merson and Tim Sherwood got on and Merse said to me “I’ve loved that Fred. Harry will re-sign me for next season won’t he?”.

‘My reply was: “I don’t know Paul, I hope so”. Yet I knew Harry hadn’t got that in mind at all. It’s a rough old game.’

Redknapp could not only explode at his chairman, as Dinenage witnessed in October 2002.

Fred Dinenage delivers the thumbs up and Milan Mandaric is emotional following Pompey’s survival from relegation in May 2001. Picture: Malcolm Wells

On that occasion it was following a 3-2 success at Rotherham during the Blues’ charge to the First Division title.

He added: ‘I went with my wife Bev and was the only director present, with Milan in the south of France and Terry Brady away,

‘We were 3-1 up at half-time against 10 men and cruising. Well, Rotherham came out in the second half and battered us. It finished 3-2 to Pompey, but they could well have beaten us.

‘I went down to the dressing rooms, which in those days were two Portakabins at the back of the stand, and walked into ours, where Harry was going potty, screaming, shouting and swearing at them, with a cup thrown.

‘I thought “I’ve got to get out of here, it’s not a good place to be”, but Merson’s eyes met mine and he started to laugh.

‘Harry turned around, saw me, and turned back to Merson: “All right, who would you rather listen to? Him or me?”.

‘Merson replied: “Frankly boss, we’d rather listen to him!”. To which Harry swore and walked out.

‘So I was left standing in front of the entire squad. All I could think of to say was “Well done lads”. What else could I say? Then I left.

‘As I walked out, my mobile rang and it was Milan from France: “Great result. Can I speak to Harry?”.

‘Unfortunately Harry was halfway across the pitch, storming away, so I had to run after him!’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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