Monday 16 February ~
"I'm a Taurean, I'm a builder," said Paul Hart in an interview with WSC in 2002 while he was manager of Nottingham Forest. This rather surprising revelation of an interest in astrology came in the context of Hart describing how he was aiming to bring through players from the Forest youth set-up, of which he had previously in charge, at a time when the club was strapped for cash. Hart's approach worked for a while – Forest reached the Division One play-offs in his second full season – but an abrupt slump in form led to his being sacked (and replaced by Joe Kinnear) less than a year later. After brief spells at Barnsley and Rushden, Hart has now been given an unexpected opportunity to show what he can do in the Premier League, where he has a 100 per cent record after one game in charge at Portsmouth.
Manchester City's 2-0 defeat at Fratton Park on Saturday doesn't quite top their previous away loss, to a Stoke side reduced to ten men for more than half the game, but it was nonetheless an abject performance against opponents whose morale had plummeted during Tony Adams's four months in charge which had brought just two wins in 16 matches. Until a couple of days ago it had seemed that Hart was minding the shop until Sven-Göran Eriksson took over. Sven, not previously known for rushing to the aid of clubs in crisis, had been linked to Portsmouth because his friend, the "super-agent" Pini Zahavi, is also an adviser to the club's current board.
On Saturday, representatives of the club's owner Alexandre Gaydamak said that an announcement would be made on Monday about the club's forthcoming sale to a "European buyer" which was believed to be a consortium fronted by former Swiss international defender Ramon Vega who works for a company that builds "plush hotels". This morning, however, it was reported that the club have to find £25 million quickly to avoid bankruptcy. Unsurprisingly, it also seems that Sven is staying put in Mexico while another Zahavi chum, Avram Grant, is lined up for a return to the club where he worked in some vague capacity while Harry Redknapp was manager.
Whoever take charge at Portsmouth, it seems that the players will perk up if he yells at them, with David James having rather ungallantly blamed Adams at the weekend for not having been tough enough. Avram Grant doesn't look like a shouter but you sense that Paul Hart will be quite prepared to put aside his charts of the night sky to berate that dozy defence.
Paul Hart interview