Portsmouth show lit­tle heart as they ditch a trusted man­ager

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPASTIMES -

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.

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