Sports / October 7, 2009

The Portsmouth mess

In the 2007-2008 season, Portsmouth was doing well. In six FA cup matches, they conceded only one goal and were deemed the champions, which was enough to qualify them for the UEFA cup the following year. At one point in the season, they were even first in the Premier League table, but eventually ended up finishing eighth.

That summer they lost their coach, Harry Redknapp, to Tottenham and signed Liverpool and England star Peter Crouch. He score 18 goals for the club, but despite that, they floundered. They ended up 14th in the Premier League and not making past the group rounds of the UEFA Cup. Basically, they were a disappointment.

Midway through the season they fired new coach Tony Adams and hired Paul Hart in a somewhat controversial decision. In 2001, Hart had some success with Nottingham Forest and almost got them qualified for the championship in England’s second division overall. But he failed at that, and from then on, his career has been a mess.

That next year, Nottingham won two games out of 22 and Hart was fired. He was then hired by Burnley and sacked a year later due to poor performance. Then there was a six-month spell at Rushden & Diamonds where he managed to lose eight games in a row. After all this, Hart still seemed like a suitable coach to the administration at Portsmouth. After a trial period in which the team fared pretty well, he was hired as a full time manager. He then went on to coach the first team to lose their first seven matches of the Premier League. At least he’s consistent!

Hiring Hart to coach your team after a trial period is like the soccer equivalent of hiring a serial killer to babysit your kids because you saw him be nice to someone once. Hart has never really succeeded at anything besides failure.

If that isn’t bad enough, the club has faced financial failure as well. After a takeover of the club by UAE businessman Sulaiman Al Fahim, news came out that, because of the financial crisis, the club was unable to pay some of its players and some of the transfer fees it owed from last year. It was essentially bankrupt. Just 42 days after Al Fahim’s takeover, Saudi oilman Ali Al-Faraj staged yet another takeover and bought 90 percent of the club.

Now the financial problems seem to have lessened but one big shining problem still remains — Portsmouth is still in last place in the Premier League, and if they want to keep playing with the big boys, they’re going to have to start playing like them.

Gordon Barratt

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