The right man for the job?

Last updated : 11 December 2004 By Keith Allman
Public opinion.

When you've got the favour of the common people behind you, life is very much peachy. And there's no doubting that when Velimir Zajec first arrived here, he was not the most popular man to come down the Eastern Road. With Harry Redknapp the reigning manager of the month, who wanted the sudden interference of some unknown Croatian? This was Harry, the cheeky cockney, our saviour of modern times, ever popular with the fans. Why would we want some random foreigner anywhere near our club?

Three weeks later.

Harry Redknapp has successfully destroyed his own myth. Velimir Zajec is now not only in temporary charge, but the favourite of a lot of fans to take over full time - and I'm going to add myself to the campaign. I'll be honest, I don't know a lot about him. In fact, the summary of my "Zajec Fact File" is:

1) Wore a funny baseball cap at Bolton
2) Used to work for Panathinaikos
3) Dejan Stefanovic loves him

And that's why it's just so weird that he has become so popular here. The fact that he's gained seven points out of nine is, of course, a huge bonus in assuring his popularity - it's a results business. But is it? After all, Terry Fenwick took us to an FA Cup Quarter Final and 7th in the league, and he could never really be classed as "a fan's favourite".

The difference between the outspoken Redknapp and the mysterious Zajec is obvious to see. Whilst the former has been on every media outlet known to man since his appointment at the scummers on Wednesday, the majority of Pompey fans don't even know what Zajec's voice sounds like. He hasn't spoken to the media, he's taken up the drawbridge up around the training ground, and after the sight of Judas and Milan washing out their dirty laundry in public last May, the prospect of a man prepared to keep everything "in house" is a welcome one.

As well as this, he seems to be a bit of a tactical genius; this is a man who was nicknamed "God" by Panathinaikos fans, after all. He "out-Boltoned" Bolton, his two substitutes changed the game against West Brom, and his zonal defensive formation completely stopped Newcastle from playing - not even changing his gameplan despite going a goal down early doors. This is a man who clearly has knowledge about what he's doing and, if Milan is right, has a hell of a lot of contacts and scouts about too. Very much an Eastern European Harry Redknapp, in that respect.

When you look at the other options, it's obvious why he should be a favourite. First of all, as mentioned, there's the fact he's already done well (ignoring the Watford debacle). Then, the fact that most other managers we might be interested in would no doubt require compensation to free them up. There is the mention of Strachan, who would certainly be another interesting and perky character, but is that what we really want? Towards the end of his time at Southampton his tactics and methods were questioned, and he'd probably not work too well under the Mandaric/Zajec Iron Curtain - he's very much his own man. Certainly, out of the other candidates, he'd be one of my top choices, but he still brings an air of uncertainity and potential to cause some unrest.

What better way than avoiding possible fall out between the manager and Zajec, than appointing Zajec himself? He's kept his head down, he gets on with the players, he gets on with Milan, he's winning the fans over - and he's getting the results. Give him a try.