The summer of upheaval has begun - and Portsmouth have lost themselves a fine man in Mark Catlin

Mark Catlin’s words were prophetic.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 1:05 pm
Mark Catlin is stepping down as Pompey chief executive to become Topps' general manager. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘Every club has to reinvent itself after so many years and, at the moment, we are in that period,’ he told The News on Monday.

‘That’s what you have to keep doing at clubs and businesses, there comes a time for change – and we are not afraid to do that as a football club.’

On face value, he was addressing the appointment of Danny Cowley, the prospective overhaul of a floundering playing squad, and the ongoing search for a head of football operations.

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By the week’s end, it was abundantly clear that talk of a ‘major refresh’ also consisted of Pompey’s chief executive.

Following four failed promotion attempts from League One and not a single play-off fixture victory, there’s a strong appetite for widespread change at Fratton Park this summer.

In truth, it was a surprise. Yet, upon reflection, the signs had long been prevalent.

The likelihood is, had Covid not struck, he would have quit at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

Instead he ploughed on to assist the club through subsequent immense financial challenges, largely centering no match-day revenue since March 2020.

His connection to Pompey pre-dates a April 2013 appointment as chief executive following the accession of fan ownership.

Before that he had worked behind the scenes for several months on a voluntary basis, sufficiently impressing.

Still, over the next eight years, he introduced a refreshing accessibility, transparency and openness long absent from Fratton Park’s hierarchy.

A naturally personable character, Catlin revelled in meeting supporters, coping in social environments with admirable ease. In return, he was respected by the vast majority of the Fratton faithful.

That connection was recognised by Tornante upon taking over in August 2017, asking he maintain such channels of communication in place of their own voices.

To think Catlin’s predecessors were Peter Storrie and David Lampitt – individuals who certainly possessed contrasting approaches to the role.

Of course, there will always be criticism of the appointment of Richie Barker, yet, in truth, it was a boardroom vote and not decided by the chief executive.

Paul Cook was obviously a fine appointment, while Kenny Jackett, for his inability to win promotion, did take the Blues to two League One play-off semi-finals, so was hardly a disaster.

There has also been recent criticism of Catlin over Pompey’s player recruitment record. Rather irrational considering, as chief executive, it is hardly his remit.

In that case, should Storrie be hailed for the arrivals of Paul Merson, Niko Kranjcar, Sylvain Distin, Lassana Diara, Glen Johnson and David James?

Nonetheless, Catlin will continue to serve as chief executive until the end of the month, although is to remain on the board, ensuring a little continuity.

Still, as one man so wisely put it: ‘There comes a time for change’. The summer of upheaval has begun.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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