New manager Tony Adams does not expect to have to preside over a January sale at Portsmouth – but insists he will not force any unhappy players to stay.
The former England captain recognises that if any players want to follow former boss Harry Redknapp out of Fratton Park it would be wrong for the club to keep them against their will.
Portsmouth have valuable players such as Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjcar, Glen Johnson and Sylvain Distin, plus veteran England stars in David James and Sol Campbell.
But Adams, who was handed a two-and-a-half-year contract to step up from his role as Redknapp’s assistant, is totally committed to keeping Portsmouth on track for another top-ten finish and a cup run as he prepares for his first match in total charge at Premier League leaders Liverpool tomorrow night.
He said: “I’ve never been the players’ mate since I started work here two and a half years ago with Harry. I’m Billy No-Mates actually but I speak to the players and it is not a question of them wanting to go anywhere.
“None of them have come to me but if they want to go I will let them go.
“I want people who want to play for Portsmouth. Absolutely. It would be the case wherever. The manager at Arsenal would be no different. If you said to him you didn’t want to play for Arsenal he would let you go.
“You’ve got to have players who are happy and want to play for the football club 100%. That’s got to be crystal clear. It’s no good having players who don’t want to play for you. It does you no good in the end. That’s my experience.”
Adams does not expect the Portsmouth hierarchy to order the sale of key players to fend off the effects of the credit crunch.
He said: “If they were going to get rid of all my players I would have to go and get another job. They would cut my throat if they do that, if they sold the best players. I haven’t got a chance then, have I.”
Adams believes it is high time he had his big managerial chance and said: “Being manager of a football club and going to Anfield for your first game - yes, that’s what I want to do. And, yes, I am very honoured to take Portsmouth there and try to do our best.
“I have fantastic memories of the night in 1989 (when he led Arsenal to his first league title as a player at Anfield) and Liverpool are a fantastic football club.
“I’ve always wanted to be Arsenal manager. I would love to but it’s not for now. Portsmouth is for now and this is what I want to do. It just feels right. First things first and I will get on with this job for a little while.
“I haven’t turned any other (managerial) jobs down. I’ve just been looking around and I told Harry because I didn’t want to do anything behind his back.
“But I’m ready now to take this on and to be honest I would have been gutted if they didn’t give it to me.
“I’ve taken advice from top managers like Arsene Wenger who said ’Welcome to hell’ when I told him I’d got the job but who is delighted for me.
“I’ll try to put a lot of what I’ve learned from him in the job and I’ll take more as well from Harry who was more environmental with his methods.
“He created a happy atmosphere in a serious business and the main thing I learned from him was fun.”
Adams won only 12 of 53 matches in a previous spell in charge at Wycombe but insists his main job there was to stabilise the club, reducing the wage bill from an annual £1.5million to £800,000.
He said: “Ask anybody there. I think they all thought I was a success.”
It was through coaching in Holland – where he helped Rotterdam giants Feyenoord with their youth squad – that Adams regained his appetite for management.
After joining Portsmouth he signed a succession of one-year contracts and is now in his third season. So far Portsmouth have had ninth-placed and eighth-placed finishes and won the FA Cup.
He made it clear after Redknapp quit Portsmouth for the second time that he should have the top job.
Peter Storrie, Portsmouth’s executive chairman, admitted: “We initially said we were not going to rush the appointment but on reflection we thought that if we wanted Tony to stay we had better act quickly.”