Bell tolled for Whittingham as Pompey get ruthless

Guy Whittingham, centre, is named new Pompey manager during the summer and is welcomed to the role by club chairman Iain McInnes, left, and chief executive Mark Catlin
Guy Whittingham, centre, is named new Pompey manager during the summer and is welcomed to the role by club chairman Iain McInnes, left, and chief executive Mark Catlin
Pompey's Brandon Haunstrup

Pompey will fight until play-offs are mathematically impossible

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At 1.09pm, Guy Whittingham received a call from chief executive Mark Catlin but was unable to answer.

Rudely intruding in the middle of a press conference ahead of tonight’s visit of Southend, he cut it off after two rings.

Yet there was no dodging the bullet for long – within two hours, the 49-year-old had been sacked.

There were four of us present in the Fratton Park media room for what would become Whittingham’s final act as Pompey manager.

Having hot-footed it from their Furze Lane training ground upon the culmination of that day’s session, Whittingham was 25 minutes late.

He proceeded to spend the next 26 minutes chatting with those gathered over fans’ expectations, Sonny Bradley and Bondz N’Gala’s worrying evaporation of form, and the anniversary of the AC Milan game.

Most telling of all, he spoke at length about the board’s continued ‘fantastic’ backing and how he hadn’t sensed a change in their attitude towards him.

Whittingham clearly didn’t have the remotest inkling at what was to unfold.

Press duties completed, he returned the chief executive’s call and was summoned to a meeting away from Fratton Park, with Catlin, chairman Iain McInnes and finance director Tony Brown in attendance.

It is understood the decision over the manager’s future was taken unanimously by the board on Sunday in the aftermath of Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Scunthorpe.

The only disagreements centred on when they would dismiss their manager, considering the imminent fixture against Southend.

The seven-man board had become concerned with four successive defeats, the manner in which they occurred and – most crucially – with no discernible sign of improvement.

In addition, the reaction of the fans to Saturday’s defeat at the final whistle sent out a clear message to those residing in the directors’ box.

It was a contributory factor rather than an over-riding reason. Nonetheless, the decision was made to act.

With the board having lost confidence in their manager, it is understood they felt the necessity for a swift break rather than allowing the situation to fester.

Hence a departure little more than 24 hours before a match.

Next up, Andy Awford, Alan McLoughlin, Dave Coles, Steve Allen and David Connolly were called into Fratton Park for a meeting with McInnes and Catlin.

Whittingham had already informed each over the phone, while the word was beginning to filter out on social networking.

At that point, Awford was appointed as caretaker boss for a duration it is believed, will last beyond Hartlepool, while job applications are invited, with the likes of Martin Allen and Neil Warnock heading the interest.

Meanwhile, rather curiously, the Pompey board who made the bold decision to deliver the axe elected to go to ground now their deed had been done.

Apparently, they felt such action was appropriate in order to focus the build-up on the match itself, issuing a statement before promising faithfully to address the fans post-Shrimpers.

So Whittingham goes, after 384 days during which he initially established himself as the longest-serving caretaker boss in Pompey history.

Suggestions of him losing the dressing room are considerably wide of the mark.

One of football’s genuine nice guys blessed with a cheery, warm nature, he had disillusioned no-one.

Instead, this talented squad – and there is unquestionably plenty of ability within – let down their manager who has paid the ultimate footballing price.

A current position of 18th spot was a concern, as were a spate of poor performances, awful results and the vocal response from some fans.

The last Blues boss to be sacked was Paul Hart, four years and two days ago.

Yesterday, Whittingham joined him – a cold business decision no doubt made with a tear in the eye.