The chips are down, Cullen goes all in on Mousinho

Published: 20/01/2023

By Joe Wood 

A gambler, playing poker, going all in on a pair of two’s. A rugby team, 4 points down, kicking for the corner. A footballer, a goal down in a cup match, taking a shot from the halfway line in the dying minutes. A football club, dropping towards relegation, appointing a manager from out of the blue and off the board.

All these actions are, to coin another sporting phrase, a “Hail Mary”, a last gasp attempt at something magical to resurrect a performance from the depths of desperation. And today, to most people at least, Pompey’s board threw their “Hail Mary”.

John Mousinho is the man who has come from 10 furlongs back to win the race to become the new Portsmouth FC gaffer. Somebody that, if you’d have mentioned his name a few weeks ago to most fans of football as the next prospective Pompey manager, there would have been more than a few scowls of confusion around.

The reason for this being that, despite a very good career in the lower leagues of the professional pyramid, he has no head coach experience. Oh, and that’s a playing career which at the time of writing, is still ongoing.

That’s what makes this such a roll of the dice. The other options that were much vaunted by the fans and expected by the media, Liam Manning and Ian Foster both had large coaching backgrounds that strengthened their applications and made them attractive options.

In appointing Mousinho, Andy Cullen and the Eisner’s are taking a massive risk with the trust of the fan base. People that have backed them to deliver Pompey to the Championship and beyond would no doubt begin to question their ability to do so in a sporting context, if it turns out that Mousinho wasn’t up to the task.

The ire we saw when the Cowleys were struggling, and the venom that was previously thrown towards Kanny Jackett from the stands would no longer be coming towards the man stood in the dugout. This time, the complaints would be squarely directed towards the board.

Make no mistake, this will not have been a cheap appointment. Pompey would have to have bought him out of the final 6 months of his contract at Oxford United, and then given Mousinho a reasonable package to tempt him away from the Kassam. But that will not be the perception amongst a fan base who are all too ready to believe that the Eisner’s are penny pinching.

Whether they are or not is largely immaterial, it is the perception which is key. Rumours are already abound that Chris Wilder needed assurances from the owners that they had ambition and would have been willing to spend to support that. There is already a school of thought amongst many fans, that the playing and transfer budget is vastly inferior to that of Pompey’s promotion rivals.

This appointment then was about more than just pure footballing results. This appointment was the opportunity to make a firm statement to the doubters that the Eisner’s are equally as ambitious as the most ardent fan, and were willing to support that ambition with the correct appointments.

Repeatedly over the last 16 days we have heard assurances from the club that they are “taking their time” so that they could get “the right man”. With every statement released from the club, the board and owners painted themselves into a corner whereby they need to get this right, as they’ve left no room for failure.

This is them placing their chips into the middle of the table. This is them, in a rugby world cup quarter final, nudging a penalty into the stands. This is them hitting a Matty Taylor volley against Everton. They have appointed John Mousinho.

Let’s hope it works.