When Harry Redknapp walked out on Portsmouth for the second time at the end of October, the general consensus was that the immediate future looked bleak at Fratton Park.
Redknapp, with the help of Milan Mandaric and whichever Gaydamak is actually pulling the strings, dragged Portsmouth kicking and screaming into Premier League regular status. Having saved the club from relegation in some style in 2006, Redknapp steered them to UEFA Cup qualification last season by way of an FA Cup victory.
Assistant manager tony Adams was promoted as Harry Redknapp was jeered by fans who watched him receive the Freedom of Portsmouth. Given Adams’ unimpressive stint in charge of Wycombe Wanderers in 2003 and 2004, Pompey fans and pundits were understandably cautious in lauding the decision. For my part, I think Adams was a brave appointment by Portsmouth, and I can see the thought process behind it. Adams was an integral member of Redknapp’s staff, the success of which was unquestionable. On paper, the value of changing room continuity is immeasurable. Obviously football doesn’t necessarily work like that.
Does crisis breed opportunity? The Redknapp model – wheeling and dealing, hands-off management and rent-a-quotism – is far from perfect. In truth, an FA Cup win and a top six or eight finish in the Premier League is probably as far as it could take a club. There comes a point where a club on the up needs to change to take the next step.
Whether Adams is the man to push Pompey up to a UEFA Cup spot in the league remains to be seen, but he could well go some way to installing a new strategy at Fratton Park. Perhaps the club can really push on with a little more on-pitch stability, a steady team with a few good quality youngsters, and a more hands-on approach at the training ground.
It’s possible, of course, that it all goes wrong for Portsmouth. Despite being a top class player and clearly an excellent coach, Adams has nothing worthwhile on his managerial CV. He’s obviously a clever guy with superb knowledge of the game, but he’s unproven at best. Still, a gamble wouldn’t be a gamble if there were no chance of hitting the jackpot.
Much depends on the new manager’s ability to hold on to the diamonds in the rough of Redknapp’s transfer policy. With their previous boss still active in the Premier League and openly sniffing around – at a club as fast and loose with cash as Tottenham Hotspur – several Portsmouth stars are surely soon to be subject to transfer bids. Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Glen Johnson and Lassana Diarra are vital to Portsmouth’s short- to medium-term success.
The problem, as always these days in football, is the filthy lucre. Ownership controversy aside, it is becoming clearer by the day that Portsmouth Football Club is not exactly rolling around on a pile of notes. That possibly played a part in the relative smoothness of Redknapp’s move, and it will make it tough for Adams to retain his key players.
So what’s next for Portsmouth? Results are paramount, of course, but the first major obstacle is the January transfer window. Redknapp and others will be circling like vultures and Portsmouth need to be strong enough to fight them off.
If they manage that, Adams will get his chance to shine with some great players in his charge. If not, Portsmouth may well be looking nervously over their shoulders.