By Tony Leighton
As a player, Guy Whittingham was handed the nickname 'Corporal Punishment' for the goals he dished out against opponents after buying himself out of the army to become a professional footballer with Portsmouth.
But now, as Pompey's manager, the 48-year-old former striker is taking the blows as his beleaguered club's well documented off-the-pitch problems are reflected in the team's continuing torment in npower League 1.
Three years after being in the Premier League, the South Coast club are in danger of sliding into The Football League's basement division after a run of 13 games with no wins - and just three points - has got them firmly entrenched in the relegation zone.
With a 10-point deduction due when they come out of administration, Whittingham admits that to avoid the drop his team will have to produce almost promotion form for the rest of the season. "Of course we will," he conceded after Friday night's 2-0 defeat at Walsall, adding defiantly, "but you've got to believe you can do it.
"There's always hope. We've got 20 games left and it's a big task, but you never know. Look at Walsall - they were on the same kind of run as us [the Saddlers also went 13 league games without a win] but now they've won four games out of their last five. Hopefully we can do similar - in football you can never say never."
Pompey's last four games have ended in defeat to add to their mounting troubles. "It's been a tough period over Christmas," said Whittingham, "and it obviously hasn't gone the way we wanted it to. Now we've got to prepare for the battle ahead."
Whittingham's troops will need to display battling, soldierly qualities if they are to save the club from a third promotion in four seasons. But with Pompey a reported £61million in debt and ownership issues still unresolved, bringing new players to Fratton Park is no easy task for the manager.
He was unable to field a full roster of substitutes at Walsall due to injuries amongst his already paper-thin squad but reported: "We're hoping to bring in one or two, that's all I can say - we're working on all eventualities.
"There's a lot of people behind the scenes doing a lot of work to get that right and doing as much as they can to make things work. We always knew it was going to be a battle because of the 10 points [deduction], but we'll keep striving for the cause."