Portsmouth Manager: Poison Chalice Or Neil Warnock Opportunity?

Filed under League Two

Copyright - Images_of_Money Portsmouth FC sacked a Mr Nice Guy yesterday, but, with the right one at the helm, depending on whether one’s glass is half empty or half full, this is a massive opportunity at a club reborn who are  just seven points from the play-offs.  Mad Dog Martin Allen and South-West based Neil Warnock stand as early contenders with the latter the perfect man for the job. It could be his final and most telling contribution to the game.


On the face of it the fraught Fratton hot-seat comes with a crown of thorns for any would-be messiah. Many will cite the financial position at Portsmouth as an impossible albatross that makes the manager’s task at Fratton Park a perceived poisoned chalice, yet, in reality the now fan owned club is stable and ready for lift off. There are debts of course and the football creditors rule to contend with, but, the downside is easily put in the shade for any manager who fries his eggs sunny side up. Mad Dog Martin Allen and Neil Warnock certainly do that and come with a gravitas to accomplish the job, because Portsmouth Football Club is massive and even objective observers can see that their talented, but under performing squad, is just seven points from the play-offs ahead of the Southend game tonight. Such a task was clearly beyond Guy Whittingham, who was sacked yesterday, as the ambitious board look to inspire an 18th placed side that averages over 16,000 per home game.


Let us deal with the bad news first before moving on to the good. After going into administration in 2010 Pompey did it again last year when owner Vladimir Antonov was arrested leaving them £35m short plus another £17m to Hong Kong moneylender Balram Chainrai, who had taken ownership of Fratton Park.  He later dropped the kings ransom to £3m allowing the Supporters Trust, advised and assisted by the marvellous Supporters Direct movement, to move in backed by 11 local businessmen who have all been made life presidents. The Trust got the buckets out to scrape together £2.3million for 58.5% of the action, whilst new chairman Iain McInnes and the 10 other benefactors coughed £1.7 million for the remaining 41.5%  The two parties pitched in 3 representatives each to form a democratic 6-man board.


The new owners had to contend with a non-playing staff upon which they cannot call, an agonisingly unable and expensive array of talent that comprises 25 players owed £6.72 million, due for regular repayment until July 2016. Though the players must be paid in full under the football creditors rule, local business and non-football creditors owed £24m have agreed to receive just £1million in full satisfaction of their debt.  Small businesses and charities will however be paid in full in time. This commits the League’s largest fan owned club to a monthly cheque run of £108,449.70 for the next 33 months plus lump sum payments in August and January to big name former stars, aside from the new bills and wages of the team and staff. The Parachute payments have helped out, Pompey benefiting from the previous Premiership deal of £48 million over four years (2x £16 million 2 payments years 1 and 2, then £8m per season year 3 and 4). Portsmouth will include that final instalment in this season’s sums, so rapid has been their slide down the pyramid. The Council also pitched in £1.6million and property developer Stuart Robinson put up £1.2 million in exchange for plans to build a supermarket that allows for future expansion of two of the stands should it be required.


Wittingham, a nice guy by name and nature, was not expecting the chop when he gave his pre-match press conference, but in truth the decision had been taken by the board plus the CEO after the 1-2 defeat to Scunthorpe at the weekend.  Andy Awford was given the caretaker position yesterday ahead of the Southend game tonight, a tenure that is rumoured to last until the Hartlepool game on Saturday. This suggests a replacement is in the wings already, rather than a trip to a town that hung a monkey during the Napoleonic Wars having any ominous significance. It will take someone with broad shoulders suggesting Warnock, given his experience, is perfectly suited for the job. Since Leeds he was rumoured to be going into Plymouth as a director of football, as part of a coup that never was.


According to local sources and a single line in the local paper, Martin Allen and Neil Warnock are believed to be the front runners who will inherit a very talented squad that is performing well below its ability and pedigree.  This is one of the best opportunities of the season for the right man  who will turn the burden of expectation into a  tsunami of optimism. An average gate of over 16,000 will be behind whoever takes over, urging ‘Play up Pompey win, lose or draw. The unwavering support down there is fantastic, for what is effectively a Premier League club in division four clothing. Martin Allen has the turnaround credentials but he struggles at League 1 whereas Neil Warnock can take them all the way.


Neil Warnock has always had a dry Yorkshire humour to go with an infectious drive and hunger despite having both arms tied behind his back at Leeds. Many believe the Whites to be his last job, but then Neil said that upon taking up the Crystal Palace job only to go to QPR, save them from relegation (a 2-0 win over Palace helped) before tasting promotion with an awesome, attractive and attacking 4-2-3-1 formation. Who says one up top cannot be fun? These qualities and tactical brilliance will be needed to motivate or move contracted players on, something he has done time and time again to engineer promotions. Warnock at Sheffield United and QPR showed he had what it takes to spit in the face of finance and fates to get them back though those golden gates, or should that be platinum given the Premiership’s increasing land of bounty?


If Neil Warnock can be tempted to finish a managerial career spanning 1300 League games, with 7 promotions and 9 manager of the months at Portsmouth, it could be his final contribution to the game.  A better end than the training ground youth team negativity and end at Leeds, described in his recent book, The Gaffer: The Trials and Tribulations of a Football Manager. What a place to do it too, with some of the world’s most passionate fans to help him rediscover his love and hunger for the game.

Neil Warnock Profile
20111023214701!Warnock with a fan during Pre-Season 2011 cropped.jpg
Thanks for the pic Wiki
Football Rants Biopic
Full name Neil Warnock
Date of birth 1 December 1948 (age 64)
Place of birth Sheffield
Playing position Winger
Management CV
Team From To Record
P W D L Win %
Gainsborough Trinity Jul-80 Jan-81  –  –  –  –
Burton Albion Jan-81 Feb-86  –  –
Scarborough 01-Aug-86 01-Jan-89 78 30 25 23 38.5
Notts County 05-Jan-89 14-Jan-93 209 90 49 70 43.1
Torquay United 15-Feb-93 02-Jun-93 15 5 5 5 33.3
Huddersfield Town 15-Jul-93 05-Jun-95 108 44 34 30 40.7
Plymouth Argyle 22-Jun-95 03-Feb-97 88 35 24 29 39.8
Oldham Athletic 21-Feb-97 07-May-98 69 27 22 20 39.1
Bury 02-Jun-98 02-Dec-99 77 29 29 19 37.7
Sheffield United 02-Dec-99 15-May-07 388 165 100 123 42.5
Crystal Palace 11-Oct-07 02-Mar-10 129 47 39 43 36.4
Queens Park Rangers 02-Mar-10 08-Jan-12 84 33 27 24 39.3
Leeds United 18-Feb-12 01-Apr-13 63 23 15 25 36.5
Total 1,308 528 369 411 40.4


League Titles (2)
Queens Park Rangers: npower Championship Champions (2010-11)
Scarborough: GM Vauxhall Conference Winners (1986-87)
Domestic Trophies (1)
Burton Albion: Northern Premier League Challenge Cup Winner (1982-83)
Promotions (7)
Queens Park Rangers: Promotion to Barclays Premier League (2010-11)
Sheffield United: Promotion to Barclays Premiership (2005-06)
Plymouth Argyle: Promotion to Endsleigh Football League Division Two (1995-96)
Huddersfield Town: Promotion to Endsleigh Football League Division One (1994-95)
Notts County: Promotion to Barclays Football League Division One (1990-91)
Notts County: Promotion to Barclays Football League Division Two (1989-90)
Scarborough: Promotion to Football League Division Four (1986-87)
Personal Awards (9)
Queens Park Rangers: Manager of the Month, npower Championship, September 2010
Queens Park Rangers: Manager of the Month, npower Championship, August 2010
Crystal Palace: Manager of the Month, Coca-Cola Championship, December 2007
Sheffield United: Inducted into LMA Hall of Fame 1000 Club (2006-07)
Sheffield United: Manager of the Month, Coca-Cola Championship, September 2005
Sheffield United: Manager of the Month, Coca-Cola Championship, August 2005
Sheffield United: Manager of the Month, Coca-Cola Championship, December 2004
Sheffield United: Manager of the Month, Nationwide Football League Division One, November 2003
Sheffield United: Manager of the Month, Nationwide Football League Division One, January 2003



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About Gentleman

A Gentleman by name and nature and an Arsenal season ticket holder (soft spot for the Owls & East Midlands football) for 14 years prior to the move to the Emirates. Have never seen the Gunners win in Sheffield!. A published award winning author and keen blogger with solid contacts within the game, particularly at Football League and non-league level. If you tweet I am apparently @NJGHobbs

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