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Thursday December 19, 2013 MYT 6:47:02 AM
Thursday December 19, 2013 MYT 6:47:11 AM
by tim hepher
Queens Park Rangers' manager Harry Redknapp instructs his team during their English Premier League soccer match against Reading at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, April 28, 2013. REUTERS/Darren Staples
PARIS (Reuters) - Queens Park Rangers owner Tony Fernandes would like to see Harry Redknapp stay at the Championship leaders for years to come and is confident he can keep him despite interest from elsewhere.
If some Tottenham Hotspur fans still have a hankering for their former boss Redknapp, with the North Londoners seeking a replacement for sacked Andre Villas Boas, Fernandes is confident his manager is settled.
"You don't have to be a professor at the London School of Economics to realise that the most successful teams have been teams with the longest managers, whether it is (Arsene) Wenger at Arsenal or Alex Ferguson or David Moyes when he was at Everton," he told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
"I hope and pray that Harry will be with me for a long time. He is the best of the best in my opinion.
"He is a top quality manager. Many people come after him but I think he is very happy working with me. I think he has found me a very different chairman from others," added the Malaysian aviation entrepreneur.
Fernandes said he would be the last person to say 'he'll be with me until I die' but added he would like that to be the case.
QPR were relegated from the Premier League last season after Redknapp replaced the sacked Mark Hughes, now manager of Stoke City, but they are currently two points clear at the top of the Championship.
The club have big ambitions, unveiling this month plans for a new 40,000 seat stadium not far from their historic 18,000 seat Loftus Road home in West London.
The ground may change but Fernandes was adamant that traditions would be upheld.
The AirAsia boss said he was open to selling naming rights for the stadium if that allowed him to keep ticket prices down but he ruled out a change of home kit from blue to red, as Malaysian-owned Cardiff City did.
"My life is about making it cheaper. It is not cheap going to watch a football game," said Fernandes, speaking after announcing his latest Airbus plane order worth $6 billion for AirAsia group.
"Anything that can help me reduce the price for the average fan I will do."
Nor would he countenance a situation like Hull City, where Egyptian-born owner Assem Allam has applied to change the name to Hull Tigers despite a fierce backlash from fans.
"I take a different approach to life. I like to talk to my fans, I like to get their feedback. You see me on Twitter talking about whether the stadium should be 30,35,40,000," said Fernandes.
"I don't think we have had a single fan against our move because we have managed it differently. I am in the pub with the fans, I am in the stands with the fans. Although they may not physically own the club, the fans are part of the club, without them there is no club, so I think their views have to be taken into consideration.
"You buy a tradition," continued Fernandes, who also owns the Caterham Formula One team. "So you try and maintain it.
"That doesn't mean we won't alter the badge. I'd love to change (the strip) to red but we bought a club that's blue, so we'll stick with blue. I think QPR is unique name but it's like buying Harrods, why do you want to change it?"
(Writing by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)
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