Mandaric may prefer Zajec to finding new head coach

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Milan Mandaric said yesterday that he may not appoint a new head coach at Portsmouth and is now considering leaving Velimir Zajec in charge.

Milan Mandaric said yesterday that he may not appoint a new head coach at Portsmouth and is now considering leaving Velimir Zajec in charge.

The Portsmouth chairman said that he had initially been "eager" to find a replacement for Harry Redknapp but added: "what has happened in the last three games has made me re-analyse the situation".

Portsmouth have collected seven points in that time under the Croatian - before last night's away trip to Liverpool - and Mandaric said that "senior players" at the club had been impressed by Zajec and the coach, Joe Jordan. Ironically, it was Zajec's arrival as de facto director of football which triggered Redknapp's decision to resign.

"I know no one could do a better job than Velimir," Mandaric added although he insisted that Zajec had not been brought in to succeed Redknapp. "He is a low-key guy who knows what he is talking about. He has changed a few things and created a different environment." If Mandaric stays loyal to the 58-year-old former coach of Panathinaikos and Dynamo Zagreb he will "freeze" other projects such as revamping the club's youth policy, creating an academy and a new scouting system.

Mandaric will, however, still try to hold talks over the next few days with the former Southampton manager Gordon Strachan, and said it would be an "injustice" not to consider him for the job. However, Mandaric warned that Strachan would have to accept Zajec and "fit in as part of the team".

"With Gordon a lot is how he handles it and we handle it," Mandaric said. "He is good and solid with a good reputation."

There are at least four other candidates under consideration, all of whom are in work which may make it more difficult to appoint them. Mandaric is a known admirer of Crystal Palace's Iain Dowie who, at the weekend, said he was "flattered" to be linked to the job. Reports in the Netherlands suggested yesterday that Portsmouth had approached the former Dutch international Johan Neeskens, who is out of work after being sacked by NEC Nijmegen.

Mandaric said he would be "more aggressive" in his efforts to find a new coach after Sunday's match against Arsenal. "We are looking but only if we can find the right man," he said. "But I don't want the players to be unsettled by reading that this guy is coming or that guy, so if he [Zajec] does not feel he can make a decision quickly then we won't."

Mandaric said that "stability was the key" adding that, whoever is in charge: "We cannot have just a man who does what he wants with the football and the rest of us service him."

Comments