New boss showing right spirit three years on from Grant

Different approach: Avram Grant delivers his speech to the Fratton faithful after Pompey's win over Wolves in May, 2010
Different approach: Avram Grant delivers his speech to the Fratton faithful after Pompey's win over Wolves in May, 2010
Mo Farrah after missing out on a gold medal
				 Picture: Adam Davy

VERITY LUSH: Leave me to browse the make-up counter in peace

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It was three years ago today when Avram Grant roused the masses with his ‘they’ll never break our spirit’ address.

Three years ago that positively Churchillian speech from the then-Pompey boss rallied supporters in the wake of relegation from the Premier League.

‘They can take points from us, they can relegate us, but they can never destroy our spirit. Never!,’ said Grant in the wake of an end-of-season victory over Wolves.

It was a memorable response to Pompey being the first outfit from football’s land of milk and honey to go into administration.

Thirty six months on, Guy Whittingham is preparing for life in the basement division of the English game.

Sandwiched inbetween the pair has been Steve Cotterill ranting against perceived injustices from the game’s bosses.

Cotterill did that while shelling out £19,000-a-week a piece on Dave Kitson and Liam Lawrence’s wages after Marc Wilson moved to Stoke.

An all-together calmer soul then arrived as Blues boss in the shape of Michael Appleton.

Yet, Appleton still quietly promised he would have his day with the Football League as he fought a points deduction, squad restrictions and transfer embargo as his side tumbled out of the Championship.

Appleton had those moments with League bosses from Preston, too. And hit them with both barrels.

The attitudes and words of Whittingham’s predecessors make for an interesting comparison with the stance of the new man at the Fratton helm as he settles into the permanent manager’s role.

Whittingham has been asked the same questions about the constraints he will face moving forward as those who went before him.

His response? ‘We’ll deal with it.’

And that’s the way it should be.

Cotterill, in the wake of his first press conference as Pompey manager, stood on the centre circle at Fratton Park and wondered aloud about what he could do with Papa Bouba Diop’s £30,000-a-week-plus wages after the midfielder’s exit.

Whittingham took the opportunity to issue a reality check on Pompey’s ambitions and spending after his maiden press conference as Blues boss.

His words juxtaposed markedly with former managers. It was refreshing to see.

‘When you come out of administration you have to get your house in order,’ he said. ‘We will not be respected until we do that.

‘How can we go to the many people who have suffered from our administrations and then pay stupid wages and transfer fees?

‘We don’t. It’s simple.

‘We owe people so we pay that. That’s how it has to be now.’

No indignation, no hardships, no ranting and no sense of injustice. Just a realistic and grounded assessment of what his and Pompey’s priorities are.

This from a man who would have had the vast majority of his player budget for next season swallowed up by what Kitson alone was paid.

Pompey are today seen as footballing pariahs in the game off the back of two administrations in two years and spending beyond their means.

Perhaps more crucially, though, are the bridges they have to build with local businesses who went unpaid in that time.

Whittingham is not expected to pay a penny in fees to assemble a squad of 18-20 players next season.

Instead, he will look to out-of-contract players and the club’s Academy to fill his squad.

‘Success will be finishing next season without losing any money,’ Whittingham added.

It’s the clearest of departures from those who went before him – one that will earn him respect from his peers. One day his club will hopefully follow suit.