Date:Monday February 9 2009
So the inevitable happened and Pompey have made the decision to sack their manager Tony Adams and his assistant Johnny Metgod after just twenty two games. Were they given a chance and where did Tony go wrong?
The club had started the season reasonably well and despite a couple of heavy league defeats and a disappointing performance in Braga in the UEFA cup all seemed to be going well. Until, that is, the 26th October when the then manager decided to jump ship and move to Tottenham Hotspur after previously indicating constantly that the Pompey job would be his last in football. Pompey had a game that afternoon with Fulham at Fratton Park and Tony Adams was put is temporary charge. The players arrived at the ground some of them knowing nothing of the events that had unfolded overnight.
That move had completely destabilised the club and with other backroom staff also following and constant press speculation about all the players going in January the background was impossible for any new manager.
The Fulham game ended in a 1-1 draw which was rather disappointing as those games had to be won to keep Pompey`s hope of a UEFA cup place alive. It seemed almost irrelevant at the time as fans shock turned to the inevitable anger.
On the following Tuesday Adams was appointed manager. It was an appointment that received a mixed reaction among fans who felt that his only experience was at Wycombe Wanderers where he had not been a great success and would have opted for Big Sam (Allardyce) or Alan Curbishley who were both at the time out of work.
The major concerns were would the big name players that signed for the previous manager perform for Adams and did Tony have the expertise to lead a team in the toughest division in world football? The start seemed promising with an inevitable defeat at Anfield but a performance that should have produced a result. Tony had played 4-5-1 that night and I have no doubt the previous manager would have done the same but already the knives were out!
Well players form was erratic and as November passed only a win at Sunderland, with a last minute penalty and a stuttering victory over a failing Blackburn Rovers relieved the tension. In between these two came the highlight of the too short lived Adams` era when AC Milan came to Fratton Park.
The passion that night will live with us all forever, the only down side was the tendency to let in late goals which cost a famous victory not only for Pompey but for English football in general. The previous season every time Pompey scored first in a game they won it, that good habit had been lost. Why had top quality defenders forgotten how to defend as a unit?
December saw disastrous results at Fortress Fratton with heavy defeats to Newcastle and West Ham due mostly to brittle confidence but also to bad luck. The year ended however with better performance at the Emirates despite the defeat by a single goal. January was to prove no better, the FA Cup was lost after the luck of drawing two more Championship clubs at home; the mighty Swansea proving too good for the blues although again luck was not on our side. A battling draw at Tottenham again raised hopes that the corner had been turned before Aston Villa came to Fratton and stole three points.
Finally it was probably at Fulham where Tony`s fate was decided when more atrocious defending led to a 3-1 defeat and the inevitable guillotine fell after Saturday`s injury winner from Fernando Torres.
Where did it all go wrong?
I would put it down to a number of things -
Experience at the top level on management. Tony had only managed Wycombe and done some coaching in Holland. English football needs good young English managers but how do they get the experience? Paul Ince has already paid the price this season and been replaced by an older head in Allardyce. If Tony was to do the job he needed an experienced man alongside him (Avram Grant possibly).
That inexperience led to what was perceived as tactical naivety. Often strange substitutions or lack of them when to the average fan something else was needed. Of course the manager is paid to manage but you need that experience especially when up against the wily old foxes who are Premier League managers if you are to beat them at their own game.
Saturday was a good example. The team battled well and the change of Kranjcar for Mullins was correct but by placing Niko wide left it left Belhadj like a lost sheep on the right hand side. As Liverpool began to press Johnson at times felt he needed to help in the centre but Nadir was slow to drop back. Surely Lauren a very experienced right back should have been on to produce more stability. David Nugent ran himself into the ground for the cause but was out on his feet with fifteen minutes left, fresh legs were needed to prevent us being over-run.
Money. Was Tony told when he was offered the job that he had to make a £25-30 million profit in the transfer window? I bet he would not have taken the job if he had. He tried his hardest in the window but to be honest even without Defoe and Diarra the squad SHOULD have been good enough to easily retain the Premier league status. In tribute to Tony`s work the Guardian has just published "The league table may suggest otherwise, but Pompey's next manager will inherit a club in better shape than the one Adams was given". Here, here!
The players that let him down. Well we all have our opinions on this one, we know Defoe behaved like a child and had to go - his missed penalty against West Ham proved that beyond any doubt. What of the others Sylvain Distin has been keen to slag the team off in the press but his performance of late suggest he is far from happy with lift at Fratton. Others have certainly failed to perform in recent weeks - Peter Crouch?
Luck!! Well we all know that one thing Tony had none of was luck. Woodwork struck, injuries, decisions from officials, the bounce of the ball, the lot………. In any career you need luck to balance itself out and sadly that never happened.
Tony Adams I believe has been treated badly by the club. He has battled against all the odds to the best of his ability and with a smile on his face. He has kicked every ball and showed passion beyond that deserved by his employers.
I know I speak for all at Vital Pompey when I say thanks Tony and good luck mate!! You have got over worse in the past and no doubt you will rise again.
All I do now is await the appointment of the twentieth manager I have seen Pompey play under.
I doubt you will all agree with me but this is my own hastily put together thoughts on the recent past. Let`s hear your views below…
Date:Monday February 9 2009
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