Points not preaching will decide Barker’s fate

Avram Grant is mobbed by Pompey fans after the team won at Burnley. Picture: Steve Reid (100644-09)
Avram Grant is mobbed by Pompey fans after the team won at Burnley. Picture: Steve Reid (100644-09)

It was four years ago to the day the Turf Moor air was full of defiance.

Pompey had just become the first Premier League club to go into administration and any lingering hopes of top-flight survival had been extinguished by the nine-point deduction which was to arrive with that news.

But the Blues were in fighting mood and a 2-1 victory at Burnley was the pre-cursor for one of the iconic moments in the club’s recent history.

Avram Grant, the people’s champion, saluted the travelling army before disappearing into the away end beneath a sea of Pompey fans.

It cemented a hero status which had started to gather pace when the Israeli took to the pitch at half-time against Sunderland 18 days earlier.

Grant was cheered by the Fratton Park crowd as he confronted referee Kevin Friend over his display and ended up on a FA improper conduct charge.

By the time he’d delivered his Churchillian speech in the final home game of the season against Wolves, his place in royal blue folklore had been assured.

That win at Burnley was, in fact, Pompey’s first league maximum in 11 games, though.

It was to be one of just five successes on that front in his tenure at the club.

Of course, there was that glory run to the FA Cup final.

But his overall league managerial record actually placed Grant as just about the worst in Pompey’s recent history.

Only Tony Adams has a lower points per league game ratio than his 0.84, a record stretching back to Bobby Campbell.

The assessment of many close to the Fratton camp in his time at the club was Grant was a false prophet.

He rarely got involved in the day-to-day coaching of the team.

At the weekly press conferences before a game, he wouldn’t be able to update the local media on who was fit and who wasn’t available.

Grant’s ability to tap into the psyche of Pompey fans at a time when emotions were running high saw him feted as a great, though.

But then there was the spin doctor who would advise him on how to deal with the press.

It was the former national newspaper editor who briefed Grant moments before the ‘never break our spirit’ line first surfaced – after the FA Cup quarter-final win over Birmingham in 2010.

The next day virtually every report of the game led with the 59-year-old’s quotes.

The Pompey manager these days isn’t afforded such estimable and influential support. Nor, do you feel, would Richie Barker want it.

The Fratton faithful are waiting to form their judgment of their new leader as he continues in his third month in the job.

Barker, it seems, isn’t worried about entering into a popularity contest to win them over.

That has stretched to the brand of football being produced of late, as the 38-year-old opts for a belt and braces philosophy to keep Pompey in League Two.

He stresses such an approach is not his style but makes no apology for going about his business in that manner – for the time being.

Not having the profile of many of his predecessors hardly helps Barker’s cause.

Being a no-nonsense Yorkshireman apparently doesn’t either, according to some of late.

‘He’s not one of us,’ was the cry in some quarters this week in the wake of the Scunthorpe debacle. ‘He doesn’t get Pompey.’

Given the flak his predecessor, Pompey legend Guy Whittingham, was given in his final days it seems a little ironic.

Barker’s current points return puts him ninth in a table of the last 21 managers.

A look at the League Two form table now places Pompey seventh, after taking another small step in the right direction against Accrington.

And, of course, it’s results which are the ultimate factor in how a manager is judged. Unless you’re uncle Avram.