Could Portsmouth be one last hurrah for Neil Warnock?
After sacking Danny and Nicky Cowley as their management team, Portsmouth need a new manager.
EFL pundit Gab Sutton discusses why Neil Warnock could be the short-term fix Pompey require, before looking into a more long-term option in the summer…
The job spec of Portsmouth manager, for a long-term contract, encloses a complex set of requirements.
On the one hand, this person has to fit into the Head Coach/Director of Football model imposed by Michael and Eric Eisner, after Richard Hughes was headhunted from Forest Green for the DoF role back in Autumn.
It also has to be somebody capable of developing talent, which is a key part of what the ownership regime wants.
That, alone, would suggest a younger option, perhaps a lower league up-and-comer, or somebody highly rated in the coaching or Under-23s scene.
And yet, whoever takes the job has to be someone who buys into the spirit, ethos and identity of the club.
Of course, every club has a passionate fanbase, but perhaps Pompey supporters especially respond well to managers who visibly embody that emotive part of themselves.
For the club to appoint a coach who is so process-driven as to be at times detached from the highs and lows of individual matches, like Brian Barry-Murphy for example, would be a mistake.
The component to this appointment is that expectations are high at Portsmouth, who average 18k at home games, and have a proud history in English football.
Pompey might rank a reported 11th in League One budgets, but that doesn’t dictate the ambitions of supporters, and nor should it: they have a right to expect big things.
As such, the team has to balance structural progress, the development of potential assets and building for the long-term, with the ability to be competitive at the top of the league in the short-term.
With all those facets required from the next long-term Portsmouth manager in mind, it could be very difficult to find the right person for that remit in January.
After all, the best-performing managers in senior football available to Portsmouth right now are likely to be in promotion races, and be keen to get a promotion on their CV before taking a fresh opportunity.
As such, it could be argued that what the Portsea Island club need in January is a short-term stopgap until the summer, when a wider pool of candidates will be available.
Vastly experienced, having been managing since 1980 at Gainsborough Trinity, Neil Warnock brings an infectious enthusiasm to the jobs and that fresh energy might be just what Portsmouth need to arrest their current slide.
As much as Pompey are struggling for form right now with one win in 14 league games, they’re projected to need 77 points to finish in the Play-Offs, which would be 46 from 24 games.
And, if they can beat Bolton next time out, the projected requirement drops to 74 points with 40 required from 23 and if they can find some fresh impetus, as well as strengthening in January, then all of a sudden it can become more manageable.
Without questioning the Cowley brothers’ man management capabilities in the slightest, because they both have a huge future in the game and will go on to become far, far stronger for this experience, there is something unique about Warnock in that department.
The 74-year-old can smell a dressing room, he can sense instinctively when to give his players a rollicking and when to relax them, he knows how to adjust to the needs of each player and his passion for the game at his age can rub off on other people.
Warnock has thrived with two no-nonsense centre-backs before at Cardiff, in Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison, with whom he won promotion in 2017-18.
At Portsmouth, he would get the best out of Michael Morrison and Sean Raggett by limiting their game to organising those around them and heading balls out of the box, which both can do with their eyes closed.
A well-drilled back-four of Swanson, Morrison, Raggett and Ogilvie, with the protection of Marlon Pack in midfield, is capable of keeping a lot of clean sheets under Warnock.
From that platform, Pompey can play direct to springy Colby Bishop, whom Warnock would see as the focal point and the means to bring Owen Dale, Ronan Curtis and Dane Scarlett et al into the game.
If Portsmouth were to go for a progressive, developmental coach with hugely modern and innovative ideas, they would lose points they can ill-afford to lose in the short-term by playing out from the back with at least one of Morrison and Raggett, who aren’t ball-players.
Warnock might not be the answer for Pompey to move into a glorious new era, but this is a club that intends to get promoted this season, and this is a man who has achieved that objective an astonishing eight times.
Give it Warnock until the end of the season, then identify a candidate who can serve a longer-term purpose.