Portsmouth’s 2-0 at Bristol City in the FA Cup papered over a couple more cracks in what is rapidly becoming a disastrous season for the Hampshire club. The Premier League table remains kind to them – they have won just once in the last two months in the Premier League, and some of those matches have been against eminently beatable opposition – and they seem to be perilously close to being in a position of financial meltdown, losing players left, right and centre. They lost Harry Redknapp earlier in the season (a subject we’ll return to later), though the jury is still out on whether this is necessarily a bad thing for them or not. Most troubling of all for them, however, is that they have an individual running the show who manages to combine, within his personality, none of the attributes that would expect a prospective employer would look for when looking to hire the manager of a football club, whilst displaying (and having displayed) several character traits that make one wonder aloud as to his suitability for the role. Be truthful now: how many of you expect Tony Adams to be successful as Portsmouth’s manager?
A quick review of their season so far doesn’t offer much by the way of consolation. One mught have expected them to challenge for a European place this season off the back of last year’s FA Cup win but, with a wage bill rumoured to be as much as 90% of their turn-over, this season has seen them having to make drastic cuts. Already in the January transfer window, they have lost Jermaine Defoe and Lassana Diarra. The club issued a press release at the end of the week, but the fact that there is a need for such a release to be issued in the first place could hardly be said to fill one with confidence. The issue of whether the departure sof Harry Redknapp is a bad thing for them remains unanswered. After a brief period during which the media lauded him as an utter, utter genius, Spurs’ form has collapsed again. They haven’t won in the Premier League since November and remain, with seventeen matches left to play, in the bottom three. Comparatively, Portsmouth are in a rosy position, in fourteenth place and with three points between them and the drop zone. If relegation from the Premier League is to be a lottery this season, Portsmouth have, in some respects, bought more tickets than some.
Is, however, Tony Adams the man to lead them through this potentially turbulent spell? Well, let’s look at the good things first. He was an outstanding servant for Arsenal, and although his occasional diversions into the world of intellectualism can occasionally appear clunking, the criticism of these that has been pretty overt on the television and in the newspapers has been, by and large, undeserved. Football, you’ll remember fears intellectualism in any guise, and will laugh at it wherever it can. However, these positives pale in comparison with the massive negative against him – complete lack of anything like a successful track record as a manager. His spell at Wycombe Wanderers between 2003 and 2004 was a complete disaster. They were relegated from League One under his tutelage and, by the time that he quit Adams Park in November 2004, they were in the lower reaches of League Two. He managed two weeks in Utrecht as a trainee coach before going to Portsmouth as Harry Redknapp’s assistant two years ago.
Ultimately, one suspects that the struggle is far from over this season for Portsmouth. Their win at Ashton Gate tonight notwithstanding, there has been little indication that their league position is going to improve, and with many of the teams in the bottom of the half all beating each other, the one thing that they all seem to have in common is that they are taking points from Portsmouth at the moment. Also, they couldn’t be struggling in a worse season than this one. Sponsorship and season ticket money is likely to be considerably lower this summer than in previous seasons, and getting straight back into the Premier League is nowhere near as easy as many people might think that it is. Take a look at poor, wretched Charlton Athletic at the foot of the Championship for confirmation of that. Getting relegated this season with the wage budget could leave them prone to an implosion so spectacularly carried out by Leeds United several years ago, but without the massive residual fan base to be able to support the sudden drop in revenue that falling out of the Premier League would bring. Not, it seems almost unnecessary to say, that Leeds could cope once they went down. Portsmouth seem to be in neither a psychologically nor financially healthy enough state to survive.