Portsmouth part company with Tony Adams after a poor start

Tony Adams’s three month spell in charge at Portsmouth was brought to a merciful end on the same day that Phil Scolari was sacked by Chelsea. The sacking didn’t seem to shake Adams’ confidence in his ability. As he told the Sun, “I can’t wait to get back in. I’ve seen there are six jobs in Holland at the moment.” A few days later, however, David James used his Observer column to blast his former boss, and his “bizarre” approach. It seems that Portsmouth players would have perked up if he yelled at them, like his predecessor.” When we’ve lost some games in the past,” James wrote, “Harry Redknapp has come in and torn strips off everybody. He would maybe sometimes apologise the next day but you needed that."

You could play word bingo with any newspaper profile of Adams, in which he would nearly always be described as “interesting” and “unorthodox”. But Adams is not in fact especially thoughtful – he just talks a lot. Like many people who have been through therapy he has been encouraged to unburden himself. Which in practice means that no thought goes unexpressed, even, or especially, when it’s often only half-developed. He had been a thoroughly unsettling presence over the preceding couple of months, his bafflement at each new defeat being expressed in ever more bizarre ways. In mitigation Adams could point to the fact his team has been dismantled around him as the clubs’ owners sought to make Portsmouth attractive to new buyers. But, while he deserves credit for recovering from addiction, there’s no more cause to feel sorry for Adams than there would be for anyone who has been receiving a five-figure sum as his weekly wage and will now get a large payoff.

The broader issue is that, yet again, someone has been given an opportunity in top-level club management on the back of his playing career rather than on having shown previous aptitude in the job. Adams’s one previous role as a manager – a year with Wycombe in 2003-04, during which they won only 12 out of 53 games – simply did not equip him to take over a club three levels higher. Although he should have been given more time at Blackburn, Paul Ince found the same gap difficult to bridge, and his League Two spell had at least been a success.

Favouritism towards the famous is not restricted to Britain, of course. Former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus has spent the last 15 years demonstrating that he has no discernible ability as a coach yet he keeps getting offered work. As does Bryan Robson, who seems to have conclusively proved himself to be unemployable as a manager but is now a “football ambassador” for Man Utd – in which capacity he recently declared himself to be unimpressed with Jose Mourinho. Newcastle fans who still clamour for the return of Alan Shearer should be careful what wish they for.

From WSC 266 April 2009

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