Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughPompey: The Rise and Fall - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Pompey: The Rise and Fall - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Pompey: The Rise and Fall


Telling someone you support Portsmouth F.C is always guaranteed to grant you some kind of smile or comment, and this has been the case ever since I started. I got into football late, spending my younger years more interested in rugby, but as my school friends and I grew up and football became an ever-increasing topic of conversation, I felt ever more pressured to take an interest.  Now, however, this early submission to peer pressure has blossomed into an unhealthy addiction.

I came to support Portsmouth – conveniently – the season in which they were promoted to the Premier League and as they gradually progressed and improved, what started as a token appreciation for my local team, flourished into a genuine support. The correlation between success and interest may be interpreted as an element of glory supporting but the fact I am still writing about them now I hope dispels that notion! Even in those days there was a touch of the magical and the farcical surrounding the club. The man at the helm, Harry Redknapp, the loveable cockney with a penchant for getting the best out of the washed up stars of yesteryear, was our talisman and always meant there were few who had a bad word to say about the club.

Portsmouth, having established itself, then began to punch above its weight and, although it was never the prettiest football to be watched, the names it boasted on its team sheet surprise a lot of people in retrospect today. In the 2007-8 season the First XI team sheet read as such: D. James, G. Johnson, S. Campbell, S. Distin, Y, Kaboul, P. Mendes, L. Diarra, S. Muntari, N. Kranjcar, P. Crouch, J. Deofoe. It would be fair to say that the majority of the players saw Portsmouth only as a stepping stone (Diarra to Real Madrid and Muntari to Inter Milan) or simply an opportunity to reassert oneself in the footballing community (Defoe to Tottenham) but either way, there were few teams who saw a match against Portsmouth as an easy fixture. Harry even scraped us an FA cup and a place in Europe, even leading to a visit from Italian giants AC Milan. Little did we know, however, that this was simply the Boom before the Bust, and what a Bust it came to be.

Portsmouth FC was broke, the finances had been so mismanaged that Portsmouth, a small club, was in an uncontrollable amount of debt and unsurprisingly so – it emerged that this success had come at an incredible price, with the team I mentioned previously amounting wages that equaled 90% of the club’s income per week. No wonder Fratton Park has remained a rickety old shed unbefitting of its ‘Fortress Fratton’ nametag. It was a shambles. Sacha Gaydamak our Russian ‘billionaire’ owner, to use the term in the loosest possible way, had simply run out of money, so much so that even today he still holds Portsmouth’s finances to ransom with his ownership of the land surrounding the club ground. A club that mismanages its finances on such epic proportions, with only a meager Fratton Park income to support it, essentially deserves the fate it sealed but it was heartbreaking nevertheless. Having tried our hand at the Russian Billionaire, Portsmouth quickly jumped on the most recent bandwagon and found itself a Sheikh; and true to form the one found by Portsmouth was, in fact, a fake. The News of the World would have been proud. From here things went from bad to worse, stars either jumped ship or aged dis-gracefully and after a gaggle of new owners and managers Portsmouth were eventually dumped out of the Premiership following its embarrassing dalliance with administration.

Portsmouth were able to stabalise in the Championship last season and even find a new owner in Russian Consortium CSI a company behind several other sports franchises including the World Rally Championship. Its owners Antonov and Dubov set about with a quiet efficiency that outlined what many felt was a sensible and well-measured 5-year plan to return to the top flight. Some, although sadly not all, of the squads elderly deadwood was cut and some attempts were made at improvements to the clubs infrastructure with repairs to the ground and training facilities. Following Cotterill’s defection to Nottingham Forrest great time and deliberation was taken over the appointment of what I see to be a very exciting managerial signing, in the form of Roy Hodgson’s former Number 2, Michael Appleton. Although young and untested his grounding at a club like West Brom showed a realisation that Portsmouth FC was no longer viable for a quick fix, a realisation that gave me confidence. There was talk of improving the infrastructure and overall management of the club, the club had once again started to become exactly that – a club – and not just a first XI.

Portsmouth FC, however, seemed unsatisfied with the scale of its collapse and we now find ourselves in the midst of a double dip into administration. Who knew that the conscientious Antonov was instead a corrupt embezzler of Lithuanian finances, whose exploits would lead Portsmouth’s parent company CSI into administration? Consequently Portsmouth re-entered into administration and for a long time it looked as if liquidation, and not just relegation, was becoming a truly viable option. Now though, with the help of newly appointed administrator Trevor Birch, Portsmouth’s immediate future has been secured but the turmoil of emergency loans and a 10 point deduction has see relegation to League 1 become almost a certainty. 

And so there it is, in the space of a few hundred words, the sharp decline from FA cup winners to potential League 1 competitors, but in my mind all hope is not lost. Michael Appleton, under extreme circumstances, has shown a desire to play good football with an exciting bunch of youthful players that has not been seen at Portsmouth for a long time. Appleton is well respected in the world of football and has already spent his time calling in favours from many of his peers and it excites me to think of what he can achieve on a level playing field. The issue of ownership of the land surrounding Fratton Park is a massive thorn in the side of any new potential owner but there are many positives on display as well. The loyalty of the fan base, the quality and vision of the manager and the presence of exciting young talent are all cause for optimism. As yet Trevor Birch remains tight lipped about any potential buyers and whilst there is talk of a supporter led buyout I personally hope that once the league position of the club for next year is decided, that a true investor then feels they can step forward. 

Portsmouth is a fantastic club and, like a phoenix from the ashes, I sincerely hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. All that remains to be done now is to buy myself a Euromillions ticket, cross my fingers, and hope.

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