On this day: Velimir Zajec set to quit Portsmouth over 'personal problems'
On this day in 2005, Velimir Zajec was poised to quit Pompey because of personal problems.
The club’s director of football was not expected to return from a break in Greece, where he had been considering his future.
An official announcement was expected to be made by Pompey in the coming days.
It would end the Croat’s turbulent 11-month spell at the club which began in such controversial circumstances by sparking the resignation of manager Harry Redknapp.
Pompey chairman Milan Mandaric spoke to The News of his sadness at Zajec’s expected departure.
But he insisted it had still been the right move to appoint Zajec while Redknapp was boss.
All he regretted was the timing – Pompey’s chairman said it would have been better to have made the appointment at the end of the season rather than in the middle of one.
Zajec was thrust into the managerial job after Redknapp quit in November 2004.
At the time Mandaric said: ‘Unfortunately, it looks like Velimir wants to go back to Greece because of his personal circumstances, and you have to respect that.
‘We gave him time to think about his situation and he said he would tell us by Monday or Tuesday.
‘But if I was guessing I would say that early next week we will announce that he’s no longer with the club.
‘He’s a good man, an honest man, and it’s a shame this is happening.
‘We tried to persuade him to stay, but when it’s a personal situation, there’s not a lot you can do about it.
‘You need to meet his desire, and his desire appears to be going back to Greece.’
Zajec took over as boss following Redknapp’s resignation, but despite winning his first two games in charge he could not stop a slide towards relegation.
He reverted to his role as director football after a defeat by Fulham in April 2005 heralded the appointment of Alain Perrin as manager.
Zajec had retained a strong influence over Pompey’s signings following Perrin’s arrival.
He had a say in all 12 of the Blues’ then summer signings, and was instrumental in several, including the capture of Zvonimir Vukic.
But Zajec had not been seen at recent matches after being allowed to return to Greece to deal with his personal problems.
Mandaric added: ‘It’s sad that he looks like he’s leaving us, but that’s how it goes in life.
'He came here with great desire and the right credentials.
‘I thought it was the ideal situation where he would come in to help Harry Redknapp. It was the right idea, bringing Velimir in to give support.
‘Harry Redknapp did the job to a certain level, but we wanted to take it a step further than just bringing in and shipping out players.
‘I didn’t want it to be a one-man show. That’s why Velimir was hired.
‘But Harry Redknapp did not see it that way. I didn’t realise he would be so against it. It’s disappointing what happened, with the pressure Velimir ended up under as a result of that.
‘Looking back, I would probably have still brought Velimir in, but I might have done it a different time than I did – at the end of the season rather than November.’
Chief executive Peter Storrie confirmed Zajec had been given time off to deal with some ‘very personal’ problems.
Storrie said: ‘He’ll be very upset this has come out. The guy doesn’t deserve it – it’s not fair on him.'