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Guy Whittingham sacked and the innocence of Pompey goes with him out the door

So earlier this week Guy Whittingham was dismissed from his job as manager of Portsmouth Football Club. The former hero of the Fratton Park pitch has preceded over a disappointing start to the 2013/2014 campaign and finally was given the boot on Monday. This is because he had seemingly lost the support of the vocal proportion of fans.

Speaking to BBC Radio Solent, Mark Catlin said, ‘The team had completely lost confidence. It seemed to drain out of the team. As it drained out of the team, it drained out of the supporters as well and we just can’t have that.’

He went on to say that the club started off with a budget for mid-table but now has a borderline playoff budget, hinting strongly that this was the target and remit of the manager. When Guy Whittingham was sacked the club were seven points adrift of the playoffs with a game in hand. Oh my word. Seven points adrift in November with a game in hand. There was no way any manager could ever come back from that position. Sure was a good move by the board to panic and sack the manager.

I jest.

The thing is whether Guy was or was not the right man for the job, he wasn’t sacked because of his league position. He was dismissed because the board and the fans believe that Portsmouth are a big club and should be doing better. At the start of the season the team had a mid table budget and were only able to sign players on free transfers. Portsmouth cannot sign any player for a fee. So even to start with Whittingham was managing with one arm tied behind his back.

Am I impressed by all the players he brought in? No I’m not. As some of you know I now live in Southend and broadcast games here so get to see the club play a lot. Like Portsmouth they have financial issues and are unable to spend any money. Some of the players that Phil Brown has brought in on a free have worked, for example both full-backs, John White and Ben Coker were signed on frees this summer and are both better than anyone Guy brought in. Does this mean that Guy is a bad manager? No it doesn’t but it does go to show that you can bring in good free transfers. On the other side of the ledger, Phil Brown signed Craig Reid and I’m not sure he’s got the quality to be a good player in the conference let alone League 2.

When you are limited by who you can sign then the loan system is your life support system. A month ago Portsmouth and Southend were neck and neck in the division but now Southend sit in the promotion places whilst Pompey languish near the bottom of the football league pyramid. Southend have done two things that completed changed their fortunes, firstly they signed a guy called Rob Kiernan on loan from Wigan Athletic. He has completely changed the way the team defends and has made the team so much more solid at the back. Also they changed to a 4-3-3 formation and it is working.

Guy clearly wasn’t been able to either find the right personnel nor find the right way to train the defenders. Going forward Pompey have looked pretty good all season long but at the back they looked like they were at sixes and sevens. This was a problem that the manager needed to address, either by finding a good defensive coach or by finding the right players to play at the back. This was his biggest error in his tenure at PFC.

Still the football club itself is reeling a bit from this sacking and it doesn’t seem like they had anyone lined up. They got rid of him because they felt the fans were now not fully behind him and so they fired him. It shows a distinct lack of leadership at the very top of Portsmouth Football Club that they could fire a manager seemingly on a whim without having the proper procedures in place to ensure a smooth transition to a new man. It was sheer panic and pretty much what I’d expect from other football clubs, not the new fans owned Pompey.

Some of the names Pompey fans are talking about depress me a lot, Neil Warnock has cropped up on numerous occasions because he once said that he’d crawl over broken glass to be Portsmouth manager. Bit of a shame then that when the job was their for the taking he decided he didn’t want it. Warnock has had one good spell in charge of any team and that was Sheffield United. I don’t include QPR because with the resources available anyone should have gotten them promoted. Is Neil Warnock the guy that can take the club forward? No, no he isn’t. His track record isn’t half as great as people are making it out to be.

Another name out there is Martin Allen, who actually has history with Portsmouth having been a player and a coach at the Fratton Park club. He left under cloudy circumstances I think around 1999 if my memory serves me right although he did win an unfair dismissal suit against the club. Still do Pompey fans really want to bring him back in from the cold or does his impressive performance in getting Gillingham promoted with a team of free transfers negate any previous misconduct at the club?

I don’t know but all I do know is Guy Whittingham stepped into the breech and did a pretty good job last season with Andy Awford. I do wonder if the latter’s decision to step back down to the academy had a significant impact on the first team, my gut feeling is it did. I also wonder just how good the Pompey team would be as Awford stayed as Guy’s #2 this season.

Still what has happened as happened. The Pompey board have shown that they are like every other board in that the moment the fans want a manager out, they’ll shove him out of the door. Some Pompey fans believe that the club should be romping away with the division just because of the size of the crowds and the history of the club. The sad truth is the club has a lot of money to pay still and it will be a while until the club can stand on its own feet financially with no debts to pay. If the team could get promoted whilst having this weight tied around its neck then brilliant, personally just having a season of stability and joy in having a football team to watch was more than enough.

It seems though I’m once more into in the minority or at the very least the vocal minority. I didn’t expect to romp away with the league this season and I seriously question the fans that believed that we would. I saw people calling for Guy’s head after the first game of the season. It seems as though the fans can take over the club but the fans will always demand more from their team and the scapegoat will always be the manager.

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  1. Stuart Stuart

    As a Pompey fan I’m just happy the club exists. However, I can understand the issues that many fans have had with the form of the team. The percentage of goals conceded from unforced errors is ridiculously high. When you look at the Pompey squad there are around eight players who looked comfortable playing in league 1 last season and some of them may well have remained at that level had there not been the prospect of playing for Pompey. Even without strong financial strength a club with Pompey’s history and attendances will be very enticing to any league 1 & 2 players. Personally I think GW was unlucky as he probably would have delivered a mid table finish.

  2. I wonder whether Southampton’s flying start to the season and finding itself near the top of the Premier League and Bournemouth’s creditable performance in the Championship might not have altered the perceptions of what was acceptable for Pompey fans and the Board? They might have started out the season with a bit of realism about what could be achieved with a limited budget and an inability to pay transfer fees, but then seeing their local rivals so far ahead, a blue mist may have descended?

    If the real problem is a lack of fan morale, Martin Allen wouldn’t be a bad choice. If nothing else he’s great at making supporting your club seem fun, even if (as at my club, Brentford) it isn’t actually that much fun watching the team perform.

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