Why reputation of Guy should never be tainted by manager failings

Former Pompey boss Guy Whittingham Picture: Joe Pepler
Former Pompey boss Guy Whittingham Picture: Joe Pepler
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Guy Whittingham possesses the record for the most goals in a club season for Pompey.

In 1992-93 he netted 44 in total, of which 42 came in the league, with four hat-tricks – and just one was a penalty.

Overall, he netted 112 times in 219 Pompey appearances over three spells and was among the first inductees into the club’s Hall of Fame.

It’s a reputation which should never be allowed to become sullied by 22 matches as permanent Pompey boss.

For that is all he had on a level playing field – the other 29 coming as caretaker manager during the darkest of days.

Still, Whittingham had lost the confidence of the board, he had lost the belief of some of the fans and, ultimately, lost his job.

Regardless, he remains an eternal Blues legend whose star should continue to shimmer.

He was a manager let down by a talented group of players, both in terms of results and application, especially of late.

Suddenly, the aim of reaching the final play-off spot in seventh place was looking ever further away, even if the points difference did not quite reflect that.

Anyhow, patience in football doesn’t exist any more, particularly at fallen clubs as large as Pompey.

Yet unquestionably, Whittingham, as a developing manager, did make mistakes and as a result most of us had nagging little doubts.

One of the biggest contributing factors was the goalkeeping situation and his handling of it.

Simon Eastwood had been earmarked as number one but dramatically changed his mind to join Blackburn.

Whittingham recruited John Sullivan to add to the retained Phil Smith but was unsure over his first choice.

Then a dangerous precedent was set when dropping Sullivan over his Oxford performance on the opening day.

Soon Smith was axed following his awful error at Mansfield, and so the cycle of one mistake and you’re out began – an approach which hammered the confidence of both rivals.

The board had been suggesting Whittingham bring in a third keeper for several weeks before Sullivan’s York shocker, the boss resisting out of loyalty and belief.

In the aftermath of that Bootham Crescent debacle, he was hauled in to face furious chairman Iain McInnes and instructed to get brutal, prompting the removal of Alan Knight and signing of Trevor Carson.

Not that it particularly resolved the Blues’ long-standing defensive fragility.

Still, it represented the first time Whittingham initiated doubts among the Pompey hierarchy over his long-term credentials.

The response was superb, however, with six matches undefeated and the smiles were back.

That was until four successive defeats – two of them spineless and gutless showings.

On the Monday after the third of those – AFC Wimbledon – Whittingham and assistant Steve Allen were called in to speak to McInnes and chief executive Mark Catlin.

By all accounts, that meeting was more relaxed than the one after York, certainly no suggestion he was on one more chance to save his job.

It was agreed he could bring in Dave Coles as goalkeeping coach, while West Ham defender Dan Potts arrived on loan.

Afterwards, Catlin spoke to The News, calling for solidarity and emphasising the manager’s job was not under threat.

Privately, however, there remained concerns that every defeat was accompanied by a request to make another signing.

Even around the Scunthorpe defeat, Whittingham was eyeing an experienced central defender and a striker to add to the playing squad of 26.

After that 2-1 defeat there were boos, chants of ‘That was embarrassing’, while McInnes and Catlin were deep in conversation in the directors’ box.

By Monday afternoon, Whittingham – who had earlier taken training and then attended to his press duties – was summoned to McInnes’ home.

Catlin would later have tears in his eyes when talking to the press over the difficulty of the decision to sack him.

Recently, Whittingham was asked his favourite moment of his first year at the helm, replying unwaveringly when the Trust seized control.

Certainly that April 10 evening he had joined fans in the Shepherds Crook to celebrate.

If you think that is clever lip service to keep his employers sweet then you have clearly never met the man.

Managers are prone to glib words designed to win fan affection.

Avram Grant, on occasions, was prepped by a PR professional on the way to do his post-match press conference.

‘Praise the fans, talk them up’ he was told.

Whittingham didn’t require such guidance. A man who genuinely cares for Pompey, he gladly embraced spearheading this new self-styled community club.

It was often joked in The News’ office he was the new Linvoy Primus, a prolific presence at events, representing the club in all aspects of city life.

Whittingham didn’t prove himself to be a great manager, but he was a great player – and remains a truly great man.