Monday, 10 October 2011

Pompey - a new approach?

So after the dismissal of Keith Mullen and McClaren leaving the city ground, Cotterill is the next favourite for the boot. But then what? Dave Jones? Billy Davis? I remember when Cotterill was appointed he was a popular choice - he had done a good job at Notts C, his record at Cheltenham was remarkable and he built the foundations for Burnley's promotion - when it became apparent he was going to be appointed I dont remember there being an outcry of complaints.

But now his demise is being called for increasing numbers of fans. The average Championship manager is in post for less than a year and according to the albeit vested interest of the LMA a sacking will cost the club around 99m but the ramifications go further than financial, not least in terms of the squad. The new manager might have a different focus than on attacking wide midfielders and all of a sudden the squad containing Varney, Lawrence, the Viking, Risse and Williams looks increasingly unbalanced. For the gambles Cotterill has made, like Fuctas, the future is even more uncertain. So there is more turnover, more churn and we write off the rest of the season as reconstruction. If the new manager has a poor start to next season we are in the same place yet again.

So whats the answer? More patience with managers? well no, not unblinkered trust. The patience needed to weather the storms of dodgy spells has to be earned. I favour a more radical approach and i think Pompey are in a good position to try it.

Successful football teams have continuity. But continuity only comes with success. Man Utd, and until this season Arsenal have built their success on having the best manager, but these are hard to find and harder still to attract to the South Coast and harder still to retain once their success becomes evident. But there are other models of success in Barca, and probably more relevantly, Swansea.

These clubs build a culture, a footballing philosophy independent of their manager, led by a consistent back room staf and an overseeing general manager (or director of football) Choose a formation, every team from the youngest youth teams to the first team play the formation. The squads are based on Mourinho's rule of a 24 man squad 2 players for every position, an extra keeper and a youth squad member gaining experience. Any new signings lead to the departure of another player.

The manager or head coach comes in accepting these parameters. Surely we wouldn't be able to attract an established manager? But do we really need an ex-pro? The examples of head coaches without footballing experience are mounting, scour the world for a young smart individual to be head coach. I recently was in the US and heard an interview of a college football coach, their first meeting during the week is at 630am, they work all day before a 10pm wrap-up meeting. We might not need this but we can certainly set the standard. There is a fantastic book, Moneyball (about to be made into a film starring Brad Pitt about Billy Beane the manager of the Oakland A's baseball team, one of the poorest sides in the US, but by re-examining perceived wisdom of what makes a good baseball player he had incredible results - I want Pompey to be the blueprint.

The results would not be instant, or even quick and not guaranteed. So Pompey would need the fans onboard, but with good communication this can happen. I completely agree with Mike Hall's excellent blog article he discusses the fact we have no leader on the pitch, a lack of character for the fans to get behind. I broadly agree (although I hope Halford and Pearce can be that bedrock) but i think the current apathy goes further. If we are honest football wise Pompey are going to struggle to beat the last decade, I think consciously or subconsciously Pompey fans know this, for many fans this doesnt matter but the crowds this year suggest for some it does.

Lets make Pompey a team to be proud of again. The example of how to run a club. Perhaps invite all season ticket holders to a Q&A session where the club could explain the new approach. The general manager / DoF has a weekly hour long phone in session to keep fans up to date and answer their questions. The club, via e-mail asks Season Ticket holders to vote on how the club does certain things, such as pre-game entertainment. Get everyone involved and lets go on another football adventure, like the one started that night vs Stockport, or 'Arry's promotion season, or Mendez's volley.

Well thats what i'd do if i was in charge!

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