FA Or PC?

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 30 April 2008

Neville Dalton is a journalist with the BBC News website and a Portsmouth fan of 40 years. His expressed views are his and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Thursday, March 20, 2008 Premier League spokesman: "The rules are clear. A player taken on loan, even if that deal is made permanent, may not play against the team that loaned him."

And with that dismissive wave of the hand, Jermain Defoe was ruled out of Pompey's Premier League game with his old club, Spurs - a game Pompey went on to lose, and which might prove the difference between the club qualifying for European competition next season and missing out.

No matter that the loan was a last-minute short-term measure to compensate for the fact that Manchester City had not tied up their end of the deal to sign Benjani Mwaruwari in time to enable both permanent transfers to be registered before the January 31 midnight deadline.

Or that - far from being a long-standing rule - it had been introduced only at the start of this season to avoid the sort of confusion that surrounded Tim Howard's move from Manchester United to Everton, initially on loan.

It had never before been used. Pompey were effectively the first "victims" of it, even though Spurs appeared not to be aware, and had fully expected Defoe to be facing them.

Rules are rules. You know the score when you enter the competition. Your fault if you didn't realise - or forgot. This is a big boys' game nowadays.

Thursday, April 24, 2008 FA statement: "The (FA) board has given full approval for Cardiff City to participate in next season's Uefa Cup as one of England's representatives, should they win this season's FA Cup."

No matter that Cardiff knew the score before entering this season's tournament - no non-English club could represent England in European competition.

In fact, the rule has been in place for best part of a couple of decades - and judging by the fuss their chairman, Peter Ridsdale, began to kick up when it dawned on him that his club could just reach this year's cup final, Cardiff were all too aware of the rules - they'd been entering the competition every year totally au fait with the regulations.

It boiled down to a choice: Welsh Cup or FA Cup? Former gets you into Europe if you beat the likes of Wrexham and Colwyn Bay; latter brings you glamour, a possible Wembley appearance (or two) and potentially loads more money… but no European competition.

OK, not quite as attractive as when Wales' premier league club used to hedge their bets by entering both - and more often than not winning the Subbuteo version, thereby clinching a pretty cheap passport to Europe (in the guise of the old European Cup Winners' Cup).

But there's the rules. Make your choice.

Or don't, as the case now seems to be.

So much for the "you knew the rules when you entered" mantra. This is Cardiff. This is Wales - you know, the nation you're not allowed to upset.

And just for good measure, to show that we really don't want to upset our Welsh friends and to show that hey, we're really an inclusive kind of organisation, we'll break with over a century of tradition and play the Welsh national anthem before the Cup Final.

No matter that it's a club competition - run by the (English) FA. No matter that even most Cardiff fans (judging by their most reasonable contributions to various internet message boards) not only don't want it played but feel embarrassed by the prospect.

No matter that if anything is likely to ignite the latent tensions existing between the two sides' fans, flaunting Cardiff's Welshness at a time when they're so keen to be treated as English may well be that trigger.

Welcome to the new caring, sharing FA - and don't let anyone say we'd ever upset any of our friends in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Stay tuned for extra relegations from the Premier League to make room for Rangers and Celtic to join.

Oh… and just in case anyone wants to accuse me of sour grapes that the ruling could deprive Pompey of a place in the Uefa Cup if they fail to beat the Welsh (I mean, Cardiff) - I would have felt embarrassed if Pompey had entered the competition as runners-up, as indeed would Harry Redknapp and Peter Storrie, as they have generously indicated.

I would have felt that Pompey had qualified for Europe by default rather than by the natural justice of winning the competition that grants qualification.

You know - sort of playing by the rules.

Bye-bye Pedro?

If reports are to be believed, two of the cornerstones of Pompey's remarkable escape from relegation two years ago could be off in the summer.

Pedro Mendes and Sean Davis are understandably unhappy at not being regulars in the Pompey side, and Harry is reported to have acknowledged that they may well leave when the season is over.

It's another sad day for Pompey fans, who would surely rate Pedro among the most skilful players ever to don the blue shirt and Sean among the most dedicated and enthusiastic.

Both have played major parts in Pompey's resurrection from a team heading for the Championship and possibly financial oblivion to one that is rightly regarded as among the best in the country (that's England, by the way).

I would be particularly sad to see Mendes go - in fits and starts, possibly as good a player as I've ever seen play for Pompey.

And I believe both he and Davis are important to our future progression.

But the sale of the likes of Gary O'Neil, Matthew Taylor and Benjani Mwaruwari has proved that life goes on - though not necessarily at the pace that it might have done had they stayed.

All three of the above would have strengthened Pompey's efforts in the final third of this remarkable season - even if only as squad players - and possibly helped clinch a European place regardless of the outcome of the Cup Final.

Unfortunately, the message from the club is that you have to sell to buy.

And if that's the case, let's hope that not only do we replace Mendes and Davis, but that their successors are even better players.

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