Eclectic mix of Blues bosses – now it’s Barker’s turn

Avram Grant has a pop at referee Kevin Friend at half-time during Pompey's game with Sunderland in 2010
Avram Grant has a pop at referee Kevin Friend at half-time during Pompey's game with Sunderland in 2010
All he wanted was his baked potato filled with beans and cheese...

STEVE CANAVAN: Pronged attack could have left me a goner  

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With faultless words, reasoned ambition and reassuring self-confidence, Richie Barker cut an impressive figure.

Admittedly, just like the press conference unveilings of all the previous 12 permanent managers I have dealt with during my 13 years at The News.

The truth is, the 38-year-old can only begin to be accurately judged from today as Pompey take to the field against Newport.

Surveying purely my six-and-a-half years so far as this paper’s chief sports writer, there have been wildly fluctuating performances from those in charge.

The vast majority have been handcuffed to the wretched off-the-field problems, resulting in some unconquerable situations.

Not Harry Redknapp, of course, who was a genuine joy to deal with.

Although, I have subsequently found his Pompey entries in his autobiography to be sketchy, shallow, a little inaccurate and too reliant on tired anecdotes rolled out many times before.

Tony Adams was a lovely man, undermined by the club beginning to collapse around him and some vocal senior players not accepting his elevation from coach.

Meanwhile, Paul Hart was Godzilla in New York and completely out of his depth, in my opinion.

Avram Grant was an incredibly PR-savvy manager and, through grand speeches, launched himself as a big Fratton favourite.

To think it all started at half-time during a home clash with Sunderland in February 2010 when he confronted referee Kevin Friend on the pitch, complete with jabbing finger.

Grant was a curious, yet likeable, manager.

Far from hands on, he heavily relied on Paul Groves to take training sessions and oversee the day-to-day running while he was away from the club on various business.

For much of his time, Pompey endured a horrendous injury list.

But the manager was always at a loss to explain players’ ailments during a press conference, often having to be helped out by the press officer.

Unsurprisingly, Groves could reel them off the top of his head when asked and it was no shock when Grant also took him to West Ham in the summer of 2010.

Nonetheless, the likes of David James and other players thought the world of him, even if his league record was worse than Hart’s.

Although, he did have the FA Cup final run.

To this day, some members of the local media circle occasionally receive a text from the Israeli whenever there is yet another drama unfolding at Fratton Park.

It only ever says one thing – ‘?’.

Steve Cotterill was misunderstood by many Pompey fans and, to a point, plenty of journalists.

Granted, he could be explosive, aggressive and controlling, yet was somebody who valued loyalty.

And if you won his trust, he was a faithful ally.

He was also a genuine leader of men and the staff respected him greatly.

He did, though, share a truly toxic relationship with David Lampitt and it wasn’t one-sided.

This was largely due to Cotterill’s lack of trust in a chief executive who he believed was not up to the job at Pompey.

Others also felt his ire – mainly Balram Chainrai, Dave Kitson, to an extent Tal Ben Haim, and certainly some local press representatives.

Martin ‘Scoop’ Hopkins was his regular bone to savage, coming to a head live on air after an impressive 2-1 win at Swansea when the Express FM reporter was perceived to have negatively centred on the first half when Pompey were “like a boxer flailing on the ropes”.

It was four matches later at Watford – a 3-0 defeat – when the manager refused to answer Hopkins’ questions and then shouted at the club press officer: ‘Keep him away from me’.

The News didn’t escape, either – in particular, when fan Brendon Bone was our Gaffer of the Day for an August 2011 1-1 draw with Cardiff.

Ever frank, Bone launched into Cotterill’s style of play, brandishing it ‘long-ball’ and other such unflattering adjectives.

To this day – and to my knowledge – Cotterill is the only Pompey manager to complain about the Gaffer for the Day’s views, slaughtering me over the phone for allowing Bone’s comments to appear in the paper.

Still, beneath it all, Cotterill had a good heart and it said much about him as a man that, when announcing to his staff at Eastleigh he was departing for Nottingham Forest, he shed tears in front of them.

Moving on to Appleton, he was a relaxed character, a calming influence and a little more reserved than his predecessor.

Unquestionably, in my eyes, he played a massive part in turning around the public perception of Chainrai, launching into fierce criticism of the would-be owner in the build-up to the opening game of the 2012-13 season.

Appleton confirmed The News’ story about the playing budget agreed with Chainrai suddenly being slashed by around £3m.

Such was the reaction among fans to this development, the following day’s match at Plymouth attracted the first truly vocal anti-Chainrai songs at a Blues match.

Within 24 hours, Chainrai had pulled out of the running to seize control, blaming everybody, only to later return – but he had already lost all credibility.

Like Cotterill, he also had very little time for Lampitt – an opinion which was hardened after the incident when told by the chief executive there was no registration embargo.

It would eventually take a call to the Football League by an increasingly-irritated Appleton over what he perceived as their continued unhelpfulness towards the club to discover that there actually was. Oh!

Where he let himself down was the manner of his exit for Blackpool – a grubby departure which saw his players and vast majority of backroom staff learn about it upon his Bloomfield Road unveiling.

As for Whittingham, somebody discussed at length in my column a fortnight ago, he was a gentleman and an absolute pleasure to deal with. A great man.

So here we are, manager number 33 for Pompey in Barker, residing in a more stable environment than most have experienced. Here’s to some good times. Hopefully.