Bye Bye Harry, But Can We Buy, Buy?

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 26 October 2008

Neville Dalton is a journalist with the BBC News website and a Portsmouth fan of 40 years. His expressed views are his and not necessarily those of the BBC.

It had to happen.

Just not now. Not while we were on the verge of something even bigger.

There are lots of potential ramifications of Harry Redknapp's departure for the second time, not least the loss of the man whose down-to-earth man-management skills brought the best times for half a century to Fratton Park.

While we were unlikely to break the stranglehold of the big four, we were also arguably on the verge of the greatest era the club has enjoyed, with a squad containing some of the best players we have ever had, managed by the most successful manager since that halcyon post-war decade, plying its trade in the top half of the Premier League and in Europe.

My concerns are manifold:

q that that momentum we have built up so astutely will once again be destroyed, as it was when Harry left for the first time

q that some of our best players will now follow Harry to where the money is at the glamour house that is White Hart Lane (at least, according to Spurs fans)

q that Pompey fans will be faced with yet another break-up, both of management structure and team, requiring another rebuilding job, and risking at the very least a short-term regression, just when we're on a roll

q most importantly of all, that this move - effectively the transfer of one of our key assets - is an indication of just how deep our financial crisis is.

I mentioned in a recent column my fears that our sudden withdrawal from the summer transfer market hid a bigger financial crisis, and that we had suddenly woken up to the reality that we were living unfeasibly beyond our means.

The "transfer" of Redknapp to Spurs for a reported £5m would appear to add substance to this.

One could argue that a couple more years of the Redknapp magic would be worth more to Pompey than £5m.

Can't lose

He appeared to be content down here on the south coast, so close to his beloved home and family.

And his relationship with Alexandre Gaydamak appeared to be one of steady acceptance of each other's value to the club, quite a contrast from the fiery ups and downs of Harry and Milan.

You can't blame Harry for accepting what was not only an attractive job for the Londoner who must be nearing the end of his managerial career.

He can't lose - keeping Spurs up will not only be seen as a great achievement (despite inheriting a squad that was already so highly regarded that it was tipped at the season's start as one likely to break into the big-four stranglehold).

And if things are looking tough come January, there's always a few more tens of millions he can use to bring in reinforcements.

But you do wonder why Pompey let him go so readily - unless they were absolutely desperate for the money.

And if that's the case, what hope is there for the future?

If money is really so tight that we have to offload arguably our biggest asset, we're hardly going to be bringing in a big name to replace him.

And with what do we lure a new manager to the Park? The promise of sackloads of money to spend in the January transfer window?

Or the prospect of having to sell our best players - the ones who will jump at the chance of going - and replace them with unknown or inadequate alternatives?

Sound familiar?

Defoe return?

It's probably not even worth placing a bet on the chances of Lassana Diarra, long coveted by Spurs and hailed by Harry as one of the greatest players in Europe, moving to White Hart Lane in the New Year.

Can't see Nadir Belhadj or Armand Traore staying beyond the end of the season.

The futures of Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch will suddenly become a major concern to all Pompey fans.

Jermain, another of Harrys' protégés, is still worshipped at the Lane, and who would bet against his returning to his old stamping ground?

And Crouch? I think he's a great asset. Not all Pompey fans agree.

And professional managers are equally split, so even if he wanted to stay at the Park, who's to say the new manager would want him here?

Mind you, if money is as tight as I fear it is, he may not have a choice. He may be grateful for tall mercies.

So many unknowns, and so much speculation, I know.

I hope my pessimism about Pompey's plight is way off the mark. Nothing emanating from the club officially suggests one extreme or the other.

Certainly until this summer, Sasha had lived up to his promises and had begun to deliver in all sorts of key areas.

But we all knew he wasn't a man of phenomenal wealth, and the global financial crisis has the ability to hit everything in its path.

It may be no one's fault that Pompey find themselves in the eye of the financial storm - one that if it can claim some of the world's largest banks as victims will surely bring down more than one club in a profession that relies so heavily on risky investment and borrowing.

Let's hope that Pompey aren't one of them.

And so to Harry's successor.

I'm sure lots of names will be bandied about. But as I said, I'm not expecting a big name - at least, not an established manager - to fill the breach.

My main concern is that Pompey need a period of stability - something that was so obviously absent the last time Harry went, and which has been conspicuous by its absence in recent years at Spurs and Newcastle… and where are they in the table?

It's always hard to tell who has played what role behind the scenes in the Pompey coaching set-up, but surely it is no coincidence that Pompey's emergence as a largely disciplined, skilful, tactically aware side has occurred since Tony Adams joined the backroom team.

While Joe Jordan has remained loyal, his several periods as caretaker manager have hardly been auspicious. And he remained a common thread through Pompey's ups and downs of the past half a dozen years, under Harry, then Alain Perrin, and Harry again (plus the bits in-between)… and they weren't all sweetness and light.

Give Adams the job, I say, but give him the resources to bring in some decent names to replace those who go.

Harry could no doubt see his fears about our failure to strengthen the squad in the summer coming true before his very eyes as our lightweight squad fell apart one by one under the strain of so many matches in such short, intense periods.

If Tony - or whoever comes in - doesn't have similar backing when Diarra and Defoe (for example) leave in January, it may not be just a Uefa Cup exit that we're bemoaning.

Portsmouth Match Reports

Sky Bet League One Sat 21st October 15:00

Blackburn Rovers 3 - 0 Portsmouth

Last game - Match Centre


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