QPR Boss Redknapp Backs Smoking Arsenal Star

The manager doesn’t condone it but says he understands why.

Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has not played for the Gunners since being caught smoking in the showers following the New Year’s Day 2-0 Premier League defeat to Southampton.

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Szczesny also put in a poor performance on the pitch that day, but as a firm advocate of healthy living many believe manager Arsene Wenger is more disappointed about the crafty cigarette than the on-field gaffes.

However, QPR boss Harry Redknapp has spoken out in support of the Poland international – not because he condones smoking, but because he believes that it is not the club’s role to say players can’t do it.

“Keeper Wojciech Szczesny was caught having a crafty puff in the showers and then dropped from the team,” Redknapp wrote in his Sun column.

“Smoking cannot be condoned in any way – kids out there, don’t do it.

“But while it does seem to be a thing of the past for most English players, it is still fairly common among foreigners.

“And the difficult issue for a manager faced with this situation in his dressing room is that you simply cannot stop your players having a sly fag or two if that is their habit.

“Szczesny was a bit daft to be collared smoking in the showers. But can you discipline a player for it? It’s a tough one.

“When I was manager at Portsmouth some years back, we managed a real coup by signing masterful Croatian midfielder Robert Prosinecki.

“He was and still is one of the few footballers to have played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid. And he loved a cigarette.

“Pompey knew about it when they signed him at the tail end of his career.

“He didn’t have to hide it from me because I was fully aware, but what can you do? The problem you have as his boss is that if he is smoking 20 a day but turning in brilliant performances on the pitch, you are powerless.

“Lots of foreign players grow up with smoking in their culture. Slaven Bilic played for me at West Ham. He liked a ciggy, yet he was terrific every game.

“I believe Johan Cruyff enjoyed a smoke? Who is going to knock him?”

Wenger clearly doesn’t share Redknapp’s sentiments however, with Szczesny having sat out the last two matches for the North London outfit – victories over Hull City and Stoke City in the FA Cup and Premier League respectively.

David Ospina has done well since replacing the 24-year-old and if the Colombia international keeps up those performances it could be some time until the Pole plays again.

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