Since 2002, the names Harry Redknapp and Portsmouth Football Club have become synonymous in their nature. The two were known together, with each living and breathing the other. However in late 2008, the partnership was broken as Redknapp moved onto bigger and better things with Spurs and whilst the ex West Ham manager has prospered from his move, Portsmouth have been left in tatters.
The year following Redknapp’s departure is arguably the darkest in Portsmouth’s Premier League history. Tony Adams proved unable to fill the boots of the legendary Redknapp and lasted less than four months. During his time at the helm, Pompey experienced the loss of several instrumental players, including Lassana Diarra and Jermaine Defoe and looked to be heading for a nosedive down the table and maybe even the leagues. Paul Hart followed Adams and although he was able to keep the south-coast side in the Premier League, a torrid start to this campaign has seen him also handed his P45. Having now turned to ex-Chelsea man Avram Grant to guide the team to safety, many now believe that the position is somewhat of a poison chalice – with all those who take it destined to fail. But is it?
Yes may be both the obvious and short answer to this question, however I am not so sure. There is no doubt that Grant has undertaken one of the hardest jobs in football at the moment. His club lay bottom of the Premier League with a mere 7 points, and are another 7 points from safety. It is common belief that the side who are bottom at Christmas are destined for the drop and with upcoming fixtures against Liverpool and title favourites Chelsea; it looks like Portsmouth will be that side. The future of the south-coast club looks even more daunting when you combine their league form with off the field problems. There is a constant uncertainty surrounding the ownership of the club and it is likely that Grant will have little finances available come January, making his job even harder than it already is.
A near impossible task it is, but a poison chalice? I don’t think so. Grant finds himself in a situation where he can only be a hero. Everyone expects Portsmouth to be relegated and if they do bite the bullet, nobody is likely to think any less of Grant. He has at his disposal a squad whom, in my opinion, are much better than their current league position suggests. I have watched Portsmouth several times this season and they have often been deserving of better results. Take the first half against Manchester United last weekend for example; they dominated and Ivorian forward Aruna Dindane could have had a hat-trick had he brought his shooting boots with him, yet they subsequently lost 4-1; a mauling to the untrained eye. It may well be too late for Grant and Portsmouth but I wouldn’t completely write them off yet. They have a side capable of beating a significant amount of the teams in the Premiership and now, a manager who has coped with the highest pressures in the game. Grant needs to find his feet at Fratton Park and he needs to do so quickly if they are to stand any chance but there is a reason he remains optimistic about his role as manager. Grant finds himself in the position of a goalkeeper in a penalty shootout; he can only be a hero.