Paul Hart must envy our end-of-season tranquility

Former Pompey boss Paul Hart
Former Pompey boss Paul Hart

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Settle back, put your feet up, relax and enjoy the ride.

Pompey’s season is now officially drifting to what is an inevitable conclusion.

No hassle, no drama, no roller-coaster ride of emotion, just a gentle jaunt towards May 7.

How former Pompey boss Paul Hart must be casting an envious glance at such peaceful waters.

Of course, it would be marvellous to be engrossed in a play-off push right until the bitter end.

Sadly, a deeply disappointing Fratton defeat to Coventry wrecked those aspirations during the week.

On the flip side of the coin, no relegation concerns either – that dreaded factor was removed from the equation many, many weeks ago.

So here we are, little to get excited over in the five remaining matches, including today’s trip to Cardiff.

Not that anybody should be complaining, after all, for the previous two campaigns the threat of relegation has been a constant headache.

Nobody needs reminding there was no successful battle against the elements last season – demotion officially confirmed on April 10, 2010.

Pompey didn’t even play that day – they were busy preparing for an FA Cup semi-final with Spurs 24 hours later.

Instead, results elsewhere sealed their fate without a ball being even kicked.

Still, there was triumph in the 2008-09 campaign when Hart led them to safety to secure what would prove to be a seventh and final season in the Premier League.

In the end it proved to be relatively comfortable, seven points above the drop zone and a 14th place in the table.

Admittedly, though, the Blues did have their moments when relegation was an all-too-real worry, hence the appointment of chief fire fighter Hart.

The same man repeated the trick 12 months later, keeping Crystal Palace in the Championship on the last day of the season.

And while Pompey may have a calm end to the campaign this time around, Hart is attempting to pull off what would be a hat-trick of relegation successes.

No chance of him winding down like the club he managed until November 2009.

These days Swindon have employed Hart’s services – an appointment designed to kick-start their own survival bid into action.

Before today’s home clash with MK Dons, it is a battle which looks doomed to failure, with that drop to League One inching ever, ever closer. Yet the former Nottingham Forest manager is a fighter every step of the way.

What is certain, there will be no white flag until there is nothing left to give blood for.

He stoked up hope last weekend when he steered Swindon to their first win in a staggering 19 matches.

That came courtesy of a 1-0 triumph at Brentford and suddenly the survival charge was back on ahead.

How Hart would relish a gentle end to the season with a club, any club. How he would embrace a piece of mid-season mediocrity with future plans to plot.

The likelihood is, if the Robins do go down, he will be out of a job – until the next time a fire needs putting out.

Still, it was just two years ago when he was youth development officer at Fratton Park and challenged to keep the club in the Premier League.

Tony Adams’ regime came to a close within 24 hours of a home defeat to Liverpool. In typical Adams’ fashion, Pompey had been 2-1 up with five minutes remaining.

That match epitomised his Blues tenure – full of goals and entertaining football but lacking defensive resilience and, of course, good fortune.

Adams lasted 22 matches and on February 8, 2009, he was shown the door in a desperate attempt to ensure the club remained in the Premier League.

Sitting in 16th place with 14 matches to go, the call went to Hart 24 hours later – a temporary appointment with promises of something more secure if he should fulfil his duties.

Within two days he brought old pal Brian Kidd down from Manchester to act as his assistant – a decision which would ultimately prove to be inspired.

Hart got off to a flier, too, defeating Manchester City 2-0 on Valentine’s Day at Fratton Park, through goals from Glen Johnson and Hermann Hreidarsson.

Yet it proved to be one of just four wins during those final 14 games as Hart dragged his side past the post.

While the outcome should be applauded, the manner in which it was achieved did not win favour among the Fratton faithful, who were treated to some pretty mind-numbing stuff at times.

Hart’s approach was about points, not entertainment, as his side ground their way to safety.

The finest example of this was a 2-2 result at home to West Brom, during which the manager set his side up for a draw against the Premier League’s bottom club.

It won him few plaudits on that occasion – and neither was it a one off.

In addition, Hart was blessed with a top-quality Pompey squad to achieve survival with. Something Avram Grant dearly lacked 12 months later and he failed to emulate his predecessor.

Take a look – David James, Glen Johnson, Sylvain Distin, Younes Kaboul, Hreidarsson, Jermaine Pennant, Sean Davis, Peter Crouch, Kanu, Sol Campbell, Niko Kranjcar and Nadir Belhadj.

Still, Hart kept the Blues up and was rewarded with a permanent deal – only to be sacked 16 games into the following season with his side bottom of the table.

Inevitably, director of football Grant then stepped in.

On March 2, 2010, the call went out to Hart again, this time from Palace.

The Eagles had been slapped with a 10-point deduction after entering administration, yet were still three points clear of the relegation zone.

Hart steered them to three wins in their last 12 matches to succeed in his short-term mission.

Crucially, it was a 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday on the final say which secured survival, relegating their opposition instead.

Now it is at Swindon where the former Pompey and Palace manager is attempting to work his magic and once again fight off the threat of the dreaded drop.

So much for taking it easy at the tail-end of the season.

Appointed as Swindon boss on March 3, he has been given 13 matches to save the club.

Arguably it is his toughest ask of all in recent years.

But, as everyone knows, Paul Hart is a survivor.