Liveblog: Wilder to Portsmouth?

As this seems to be an evolving story, here’s an Oxblogger first: a ‘liveblog’, which I’ll keep adding to as things progress over the next few days. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Like the posh papers do ironically when covering Strictly, only much much slower with less pictures of Susannah Reid. 

Tuesday night: Righting some wrongs
My previous post on this is the third most read in the history of this blog. It has generated a rather lot of vitriol and misinterpretation. So, in no particular order, a few points of clarification.

  • I know football existed before 1980 – I use it as a convenient breakpoint to define a ‘modern era’ – a lifetime following football (mine, at least). For a 20 year period before 1980 neither Oxford nor Portsmouth did anything of any major note and you can’t say Portsmouth are a big team because they won the league 63 years ago.
  • In the early 80s there were two types of football club; those which were on TV – Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and those who came to the Manor from time to time. Portsmouth were more of the latter than the former, so were Lincoln and Exeter. When you’re eight, that’s how the world is.
  • Just because I don’t think Portsmouth are a HUGE club (certainly not anymore), doesn’t mean I think Oxford are. It’s not a zero-based game. I think Portsmouth risk slipping into the trap of mistaking their ‘brand’ (Premier League pedigree, FA Cup winners) with their team (hovering above the relegation zone in League 2). That’s not healthy.
  • This isn’t a Southampton thing. I feel like the landlord of a quiet country pub that has been invaded by two bikers gangs. Stop fighting each other, at least don’t do it on my blog or in my Twitter feed.
  • It’s not really a Portsmouth thing; it’s about the decisions our manager might make and whether it’s a good move for him or not.
  • It seems there are many very good and reasonable Portsmouth fans who have said some nice things about the post. Thank you, you’re a credit to your club.

Wednesday lunchtime: Dedication? What dedication?
Some people are treating Chris Wilder’s decision to talk to Portsmouth as an act of high treason. They’re beginning to sound like people who would might kill a lover just to ensure they never talk to another man.

With a slightly cooler head, perhaps it’s not quite as bad as it seems:

Scenario #1: “Hi Chris, thanks for the interview. To be honest you’re a bit more northern than we like, we like happy cockneys, y’know like Harry Redknapp who won us the FA Cup. Sorry, we thought you were from Bournemouth.”

Scenario #2: “Hi Chris, thanks for the interview. Do you want the job? We’ll offer you £25k a year and a two year contract, but if we fire you, you won’t be entitled to compensation. Oh, and we’ve got no money for players. But, hey, we’re Portsmouth, we’ve got that crazy bloke with the bell.”

Scenario #3: “Hi Chris, thanks for the interview. We’re going to quadruple your salary, give you a 10 year contract with no break clauses and we’ll pay you your entire salary in full even if we fire you. And that shady character in the corner sitting on a pile of cash is a Russian oil billionaire who will spend anything to get us into the Champions League. Honestly, he’s mad, just ask him for whatever you want; go on. Oi, can I have a speed boat? Yes!? Brilliant! See?”

Portsmouth want to employ a new manager and they might want Chris Wilder to be that man (they might not). If Chris Wilder doesn’t talk to Portsmouth, he doesn’t know which of these scenarios (or any variation thereof) will play out. However, if he talks to them, he will know. Like crossing the road; it’s always good to check if any cars are coming.

And when he knows, all parties can make a rational decision about what they want to happen next. It may be a wonderful offer that makes him for life, it may be a laughable offer. They may hate each other.

This isn’t about an emotional dedication to Oxford United; it’s about being a rational thinking adult.

Friday afternoon: There are three of us in this relationship
Perhaps more.

It seems, for once, Chris Wilder hasn’t got himself a result when playing away. Richie Barker is set to become Pompey’s manager, Chris Wilder is set to be rejected, or perhaps he turned them down. Frankly we’ll probably never really know.

This was presented as a ‘Pompey for Wilder/Wilder for Pompey’ story. The role of the Oxford, beyond doing the admin of allowing permission, was largely ignored. I think they were more important than they’ve been portrayed.

When Chris Wilder appeared on the touchline against Gateshead it became pretty obvious a move is unlikely. In order for Portsmouth to put an offer to Wilder, they would need to do a deal with Oxford first, who hold his contract. The club wouldn’t have stood in Wilder’s way; he only has a few months on his deal and why try to hold on to a manager who clearly doesn’t want to be there?

However, if Pompey really wanted to offer a deal to Wilder, who they talked to on Wednesday, why would they wait? They would have had to gone to Ian Lenagan to arrange compensation – which would have been somewhere between minimal to none, given Wilder’s contract. It would still have had to be done. The club, then, couldn’t risk taking on Gateshead with a manager they knew was leaving. He’d have been put on gardening leave and presumably Mickey Lewis would have taken on the team.

The club are in a strong position to control the speed of the deal; so the longer it goes on, the less likely it is that Wilder is going to leave.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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