Portsmouth show little heart as they ditch a trusted manager
SO Portsmouth does the predictable thing and pulls the trapdoor from beneath their manager’s feet.
Given the way these things generally go in contemporary times, we should perhaps not be surprised at Paul Hart’s demise as a Premiership manager. But that doesn’t mean we cannot rage at the way these things continue to be handled.
As Portsmouth player, Danny Webber, said this week, “The first I heard of it was when I saw it on TV. Paul was at training today and everything was as normal as usual. I don’t think any of the players saw this coming at all.”
Well, you’d have to say they must have been deaf, dumb and blind not to allow the possibility of such an act to penetrate what passes for their brains. But Portsmouth’s manner of execution reveals so much about what has gone wrong at the South coast club.
Bereft of money, leadership and clearly values, Paul Hart was a shining exception to that truism. Hart might not have offered swanky jewellery on his every finger or a cluster of fast women beside a fast car. But what he did offer was old fashioned qualities; loyalty, hard work and determination to see a job through.
Last May, he was the toast of Pompey after somehow steering them to Premiership survival. Since then, the club has imploded at the top with sell-outs, cash crashes and players getting their wages late. Of course, the dire financial situation imperilled Portsmouth’s Premiership survival. Which club could afford to sell all its leading players and continue being successful?
But Hart just got on with the job. He was professional down to his cotton socks and he tried to instil in his players similar virtues, however dark and distasteful the situation confronting them. His reward was a rope around his neck this week.
You wonder whether that act had anything to do with an interview Hart gave last weekend and which was broadcast on national radio. The moment I heard it, I thought to myself ‘That sounds dangerous to Hart’.
He didn’t criticise overtly his Fratton Park masters. But what he let slip was that he’d never once sat down with his new chairman to discuss the club, the man’s plans and ambitions. When Hart said that, there was a gasp of disbelief by the interviewer. It damned Portsmouth’s new owner at a stroke.
But then, all Paul Hart was doing was telling the truth, answering a question honestly.
However, you have to believe it must have made very uncomfortable listening if the owner or his minions heard it, as some may well have done. Was it the act that sealed Hart’s fate?
Portsmouth is a club beset by problems. No money, few points, bottom of the pile and heading in one direction. They are, like entire countries in this recession-buffeted world, a club that are victims of their own excess. They lived the fantasy life, far beyond their own means. And when the day of reckoning came, all the big talk and boasts were proven as empty.
Paul Hart is simply the latest victim of that process. But he will not be the last.