Monday 27 October ~
Following a three-goal defeat at home to Watford last weekend, hopes were raised in Southampton on Tuesday by a hard-fought goalless away draw at Bramall Lane. However, Jan Poortvliet's team lost, again by three goals to nil, to Swansea on Saturday and the fragile optimism at St Mary's has all but disappeared. With Portsmouth's manager leaving for Spurs, it's a period of uncertainty for the south coast clubs. Poortvliet has a respectable managerial record in Holland (including six titles at various levels) and also seems to have nearly mastered the art of English football cliche. After the Swansea defeat he stated: "We need to turn the boys into men and that is all about confidence.”
Seen as doing his best in difficult circumstances, Poortvliet also has general goodwill of the Southampton fans – the understandable target of growing fan unrest instead being the man who returned to the club in May, chairman Rupert Lowe. This anger is unlikely to be calmed by further economy drives on the playing staff – striker Stern John last week joined Bristol City on loan, according to Poortvliet, against both his and the player's wishes. The head coach answered candidly enough when asked directly why this had been allowed to happen: “The actual reason you all know. We talked at the beginning of the season of the wage bill and that’s still a problem."
Important squad departures will, of course, not help on the field – the weekend's descent into the Championship's bottom three was seen by fans as “into the mire we go”. Southampton's players, publicly at least, are remaining positive, especially Alan Cork's son Jack, who is on loan from Chelsea. Having already had experience of relegation in his short career – the 19-year-old was on loan at Scunthorpe last year – he feels that the situation is completely different: “It was depressing, everyone’s heads were down but this changing room doesn’t feel like a team in for a relegation dogfight.” This may well be the case but tomorrow night's game against 17th-placed Coventry is vital.
Meanwhile, at Portsmouth the rumours about who may replace Harry Redknapp gather pace. One suggestion is Avram Grant, who worked as Portsmouth technical director under his friend and club owner Alexandre Gaydamak from June 2006 until moving to Chelsea in July 2007. Sam Allardyce is another currently unemployed manager in the frame. For the time being, however, Tony Adams and Joe Jordan, both of whom have been bosses in their own right, are in joint charge – although both will surely be monitoring managerial vacancies elsewhere.