You Get What You (Don't) Pay For

Last updated : 26 January 2010 By Jim Bonner

Neville Dalton is a journalist and a Portsmouth fan of more than 40 years.

How ironic if the man whose signing symbolised the dawning of a brave new era of big-money captures and top-quality players at Pompey should be the one who finally brings them down.

News that Big Sol Campbell, who just over 18 months ago was lifting that FA Cup trophy to the heavens at Wembley on that magical day for all Pompey fans, is now preparing to sue the ailing club for best part of £2m, will frustrate and enrage the good people of Portsmouth and beyond in equal quantities.

With the club already facing spiralling bills; sanctions that actually make it more difficult for the club to get out of the trouble it's already in - and the very real threat of a winding-up order from one of those organisations that really do seem to have clout - Campbell could prove to be the creditor who tips Pompey over the edge and beyond the point of no return.

It is a prospect that I still find unimaginable; impossible to come to terms with. My mind veers from anger to helpless frustration to that mood that so many fellow fans now seem to be accustomed to - powerless resignation.

Yet to those preparing for knee-jerk reactions towards Campbell, the Premier League, the taxman and everybody else who - it appears - just seem to be trying to claw back what is rightfully theirs, here is a thought…

Whichever individuals did what; whoever didn't do what they should have done to protect our once-fine, once-proud club, the fact is it's Pompey's own doing.

The over-spending; the supersonic wages; the bizarre payment arrangements were down to the club, or at least certain officials at the club. They didn't have to do it.

Not that many of us were complaining when Harry Redknapp was assembling a multi-talented team of truly top-class players at little old Fratton Park

I suppose the prospect of glamour and success blinds us to a certain extent, but then none of us was privy to the true situation at Pompey. Sasha Gaydamak was such a secretive man that we didn't know whether he had £2 or £2 billion to his name - or whether he just knew the right people…

It transpires that… we still don't know. Nor do we know any more about those who succeeded him.

And that's half the problem for us Pompey fans. We have little or no way of gauging the wisdom of the decision-making at Fratton; nor of assessing who really is to blame.

But you only have to look at a few facts to get a good idea where the corporate blame lies.

Pompey owe tens of millions of pounds - to other clubs, to agents and now, it transpires, to its own players (or those it employed at the time), not to mention the taxman and all those other lesser-known creditors, ranging from - who knows? - the milkman to the players' hairdresser.

If you don't pay your debts on time - or just borrow still more at ever-soaring interest rates - you have to pay the price somewhere along the line.

None of us would expect special treatment in similar circumstances if we defaulted on the mortgage and failed to settle our other bills.

Yet we see the club spending cash it doesn't really have on High Court challenges; on toughing it out with the Premier League over transfer embargoes and the withholding of television-rights money - and even complaining of unfair treatment in the rescheduling of postponed fixtures.

The club complains that it is being treated as the black sheep of the family and says it should be given more respect.

It may have a point. But is it any wonder? Sometimes you've got to earn it.

Unfortunately, the evidence unravelling from Fratton Park (and these days even the courts) reveals a lack of respect from Pompey over the past few years for the people it has been doing business with.

There are obviously more than two sides to all this, with other clubs no doubt stalling over payments due to Pompey, maybe pressure from certain organisations - plus the continuing impact of the global recession on all the money providers and borrowers.

But if you don't get your own house in order, in my view you cease to have the right to demand special treatment, or even to expect your creditors to give you any more "last chances".

If Pompey go to the wall, it would leave a Fratton Park-shaped hole in my life and those of hundreds of thousands of fans (probably not just Pompey fans) around the world.

Portsmouth Football Club is the entity around which so many people's lives revolve - more so in this comparative traditional hotbed of football support than in many other areas of the country - and to think of it no longer there would undoubtedly be akin to a bereavement for many fans.

But nobody - no business - has a divine right to continue to exist untouched by day-to-day events and responsibilities.

Pompey have clearly failed to honour some of its own - and I fear we are all about to pay the price.