Fallen heroes

Last updated : 07 December 2004 By Keith Allman
People in professional football just don't realise how damn good they've got it. Adulation from thousands of screaming fans, training for a couple of hours a day, bucketloads of cash - it's a dream life. But why is it that it just seems to go oh so wrong, oh so frequently? The cult following a player has can be destroyed by his later actions; look at Keegan, now hated by Liverpool fans after joking that Robbie Fowler moved to Leeds because he was frightened of getting his hubcaps stolen. Clearly not frightened of living in one of the biggest cesspits in Britain, but I digress.

Guy Whittingham
: An up and coming young striker, fresh out of the army and a fantastic talent. Scoring 88 goals in 160 league outings for Pompey, including a truly staggering 49 goals in all competitions in 1992/93, Guy was clearly one for the future. When Villa came knocking with a £1m+ bid, his departure was inevitable.
After: Returned to the club in 1999 after never hitting it off in the Premiership. Loan spells at exciting destinations such as Peterborough and Oxford awaited, before being made Steve Claridge's assistant. Eventually he was sacked and tragically finished on 99 league goals, but those who saw the portly Whittingham trundle about at Selhurst Park one Boxing Day could truly vouch for the saying, "never go back".

Peter Crouch
: Stolen from relegated QPR, the height advantaged striker started life at Fratton with two goals in a pre-season friendly against Spurs. Time to sit up and take notice. Indeed, in a season famed for little more other than Prosinecki's outrageous showboating, Crouch went on to save us from another relegation scrap with 18 goals, winning Player of the Year for his troubles. Surprisingly good on the deck for such a lanky bastard, he then followed Whittingham's route to Aston Villa. Once again we got the good side of the deal, fleecing them out of over £5m mere days before the transfer market imploded. Everyone else in the league had no money, we had loads, Crouch's sale funded an entire new team, we went up as champions.
After: Signed for Southampton.

Paul Merson
: Where to begin? Inspirational captain whose determination, ability and borderline obsessive desire lead us to the Premiership. Even when he played badly, his mere presence lifted those around him to greater heights. 48 appearances and 12 goals barely tells the tale of his massive impact on our history, although after only one season he moved on to Walsall, amidst doubts over his ability to cut it in the top flight and the reappearance of his gambling addiction.
After: On his first game for Walsall his new team beat promotion favourites West Brom 4-1, Merse himself scoring two wonder goals. Everyone was pleased for him, until he said that Walsall played champagne football better than Portsmouth ever had the season before (well worth pointing out that they were eventually relegated). Continual digs, not to mention the fact we were still paying half his wages and he'd get a £500,000 bonus if we stayed up (no idea why), led to a complete destruction of the myth of Merse.

Harry Redknapp
: 2002; 17th in Division One. Vincent, Mills and Tiler regulars in the team. 2004; 13th in the Premiership. Sheringham, Berger and LuaLua regulars in the team. Awoke the sleeping giant well and truly. Whilst he was "upstairs" as a Director of Football, the Rix era gave us some of the most embarrasing results of recent years; there can be no doubt Harry gave us some of the finest. Beating Manchester United twice, Liverpool twice, Southampton, thrashing Leeds and Boro - the heights, surely?
After: "I'm the best manager this club has ever had"; "I don't owe the supporters anything"; "Before me this club was nothing" - you know how it goes. After telling us all he needed a break from football, two weeks later he might be taking over at Southampton. Poor Harry; he could've walked away from this club the most respected man in our history, but he threw it all away. The silly bugger.

"Err... changed my mind"