Guy facing up to toughest test

Guy Whittingham. Picture: Joe Pepler
Guy Whittingham. Picture: Joe Pepler

Guy Whittingham’s pained expression said it all.

A shell-shocked mixture of hurt and frustration was etched across his face as he searched for the reasons for the most abject Pompey performance of recent times.

It was just a few minutes after the final whistle had sounded at Bootham Crescent and the Pompey boss was fronting up to the press.

The answers to why a team he has put his faith in had let him down in such a startling manner were not immediately apparent.

What was clear, however, was the raw emotion being felt as Whittingham refused to dodge a question and did his soul searching in front of the media.

Make no bones about it, the Pompey hero is now facing up to the biggest challenge since he became manager of the club he has loyally served.

Expectations were virtually non-existent during the carnage he guided his team through last season.

But what was witnessed in the autumn sunshine at York was right up there with the very worst Pompey performances. This was Leyton Orient in 2002 bad.

In the vast majority of disappointing displays this season, there have been mitigating factors.

Debatable dismissals, players letting the side down with lapses in discipline, individual errors or just plain bad luck.

There were no such excuses this time and no ill-judged efforts at suggesting so – as some managers attempt.

The club’s management team had a long and bleak journey back down the M1 to digest what they witnessed on Saturday. Likewise the supporters.

Whittingham somehow kept his calm in the immediate aftermath of the defeat.

Somewhere along the line, however, the relative calm exterior he portrayed would surely have made way for an anger at what had unfolded.

And, faced with events of the past few days, the Pompey manager has been quick to react.

The three new faces who greeted the squad as they returned to work on Monday was Whittingham’s no-nonsense retort.

The presence of Gavin Mahon, Therry Racon and Arran Lee-Barrett at Langstone Campus was an incendiary response to a gutless display.

Those 1,357 supporters who travelled to the other end of the country to be terribly let down can at least rest assured there has been a clear and definite reaction.

Their restrained manner at York was commendable.

Despite being served up a performance devoid of endeavour and quality in all departments, there was no rabid anger. No bile being spat.

Instead, there was no more than murmurings of discontent and an appreciation that the players at least had the decency to apologise before leaving the pitch.

But the goodwill of the Fratton faithful is being tested – and will only stretch so far. Rochdale is a huge game on Saturday.

Whittingham should not need to give a team talk come showtime at Fratton Park this weekend.

Professional pride should be all that is needed to fuel the team.

And a fact this side have worked up a debt with the people who pay their wages.

Jed Wallace, the only man who could walk away from York with his head held high, admitted as much as he gave a typically no-nonsense assessment of the current state of affairs.

The players did more than let the supporters down. They let down those who showed faith in them and brought them to PO4.

Playing for Pompey represents a huge opportunity for the people chosen to guide this club back to prominence. That shouldn’t be taken for granted.