Portsmouth look to entice Warnock as Perrin pays price

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The Independent Online

Portsmouth are to make an official approach to Sheffield United for Neil Warnock to become their next manager following the sacking yesterday of Alain Perrin.

The 49-year-old Frenchman was dismissed after just seven months in charge, becoming the first Premiership manager of the season to lose his job, having registered only four wins in 21 matches.

Perrin was expected to hang on until after tomorrow's game against Chelsea but the Portsmouth chairman, Milan Mandaric, acted after concerns were voiced by players. The captain, Dejan Stefanovic, revealed that he had spoken to Mandaric "about the managerial situation". The defender added: "Most of the lads had the same opinion. We tried to speak to the manager a couple of times, to be honest, but he was the manager and decided what system to play. We had to respect that while he was the manager."

Stefanovic said the players had become frustrated at the changes in formation and tactics and that, above all, the club needed "stability". He said that the squad would prefer a "British manager". "Not only me, but most of the lads would prefer it," he added.

It appears likely they will get their wish with Warnock remaining the number one target, although other candidates are being sounded out. Ideally, Mandaric would prefer a younger coach than Warnock, to work in tandem with a new director of football, but he realises he needs a "street-fighter".

The coach, Joe Jordan, has been put in temporary charge, but Portsmouth hope to appoint a permanent successor in the next few days. Mandaric will explain his actions at a press conference today.

Although it would surprise many if Warnock was prised away from Bramall Lane - especially as he is close to realising his dream of leading his club into the Premiership - it is understood that he has felt undervalued for some time.

He is yet to be offered a new contract by the Blades even though his present agreement runs out in June. It appears that the board want to see if promotion is gained first, although the chairman, Kevin McCabe, said yesterday that there was no need for talks at present as there is already a one-year option which can be exercised.

However, Portsmouth's intervention may force his hand. Yesterday, Warnock said: "I am just going to get on with the job in hand."

If Warnock does not take the post, Portsmouth will not be able to turn to George Burley either. The Scot has apparently made plain he is not interested and is understood to be holding out for a bigger, more stable Premiership club.

But Mandaric appears determined to employ a British manager, saying yesterday: "I really believe a knowledge of British football is an underestimated asset in a manager and the demands of Premier League football are intense."

Portsmouth are thought to have sounded out David Pleat, who helped Perrin settle in, about a possible role, although his return is regarded as unlikely. Mandaric may also approach Sir Bobby Robson whom he deeply admires or attempt to coax Iain Dowie from Crystal Palace. Contact has been made with Roy Keane's advisers and, although it would be a risk, Portsmouth would be prepared to offer him the player-manager's job if he wanted it. However, the 34-year-old is convinced that he needs to spend a couple of years learning the ropes and feels he will best do that at a foreign club.

Whoever is appointed will have to be able to deal with the theatre of life at Fratton Park under Mandaric. He has now parted company with six managers since taking over in 1999 - Alan Ball, Tony Pulis, Steve Claridge, Graham Rix, Harry Redknapp and Perrin - as well as a director of football, Velimir Zajec. The latest sacking also came on the anniversary of Redknapp's bitter departure.

Now Perrin has had to go, and his tenure will not be looked on fondly, even if he had to work within severe limitations.

Managing your loss

* Number of managers to lose their jobs by 24 November since start of Premiership

1992/93 - 0

1993/94 - 2

1994/95 - 7

1995/96 - 0

1996/97 - 3

1997/98 - 2

1998/99 - 4

1999/00 - 1

2000/01 - 2

2001/02 - 3

2002/03 - 1

2003/04 - 2

2004/05 - 6

2005/06 - 1

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