Barker’s thankless task to change a club used to losing

Richie Barker. Picture: Joe Pepler
Richie Barker. Picture: Joe Pepler

The Pompey malaise stretches back beyond one manager and comfortably surpasses a single season.

Richie Barker has inherited a club ingrained in losing, where defeats have for too long been emphatically the dominant playing statistic.

It was a 2-0 loss for his first Blues match in charge when Newport County visited this weekend.

Then again, the club has sadly become accustomed to such results – it marked a 121st defeat in the last five years in all competitions for Pompey.

And that is the real size of the challenge presented to the new man at the helm as he attempts to find a cure for what is a long-standing ailment.

Back on December 14, 2008, Tony Adams’ team lost 3-0 to Newcastle, Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Danny Guthrie the scorers.

On Saturday it was five years to the day at the same venue when the latest demoralising scoreline was witnessed by the Fratton faithful.

More boos at the final whistle reflected the snapping of what has so long been remarkable patience from the home support.

During that period there have been 248 league and cup matches played, among them an FA Cup final in 2010 and one Uefa Cup fixture.

Pompey have won 69 of those games and drawn 58.

Most alarming of all, 121 of those 248 matches have ended in defeat – or to put it another way, 48.79 per cent of them.

There have been plenty of managers employed during that time, of course, men often clutching impressive credentials as they enter the building.

Ultimately every single one has been involved in a Blues relegation campaign, during the club’s tumble through the leagues.

Only Steve Cotterill achieved a season of stability, when they finished 16th in the Championship following the Premier League exit.

He was also one of the very few who didn’t have to contend with a points deduction linked with administration and financial problems. Nonetheless, the following season he exited the club in October – Michael Appleton his replacement – and Pompey slipped out of the Championship.

Barker is the seventh boss over that period and, with the threat of slipping into another relegation battle, will be well aware of the necessity to reverse the continuing declining fortunes.

The constant evolving of playing staff has often been enforced through financial necessity, nonetheless 154 different players have been named in match-day squads over the past five years.

That has hardly stopped the flood of defeats nor particularly raised the quality of football being served up.

The fact is, however, even more comings and goings will need to be instigated by Barker next month in a bid to avert the downward spiral.

And through it all, the Blues are averaging 1,059 fans on their travels, while Fratton Park attendances are averaging 15,413.

For a seemingly inexhaustible amount of time their patience has remained, a backing which shames often hysterical Premier League followers.

Yet there comes to a point when 121 defeats in five years is enough – even for Pompey fans.