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Who’s to blame for Pompey’s plight? No one, apparently

I wouldn’t want to have Andrew Andronikou‘s job. Andronikou is the newly-appointed administrator of Portsmouth FC, the 54th league club to go into administration since the formation of the Premier League in 1992, but the first top-division one to do so.

Going into administration does not mean Pompey’s problems – and the long line of creditors beginning with HM Revenue & Customs, who are still owed unpaid tax of over £12m – have suddenly disappeared in a puff of magical smoke. It is more a stay of execution. The death sentence has not been overturned just yet.

As administrator, Andronikou’s primary objective is to maintain the club as a going concern, which generally means slashing costs and seeking a mutually advantageous agreement over unpaid debts. But a football club is not a normal business. A player wage bill still exceeding £3m a month – despite offloading high-earning stars such as Jermain DefoePeter Crouch, Sylvain DistinGlen JohnsonNiko Kranjcar and Lassana Diarra over the last 18 months – means the club continues to haemorrhage cash. In the meantime, the likes of David JamesJohn Utaka and Kanu – all of whom are paid in excess of £200k per month – will remain a significant (and effectively protected) drain on resources until June at least.

So who is to blame for the unholy mess that Portsmouth find themselves in?

No one, it would seem.

Certainly not the Premier League, who last week denied Pompey’s desperate petition to be allowed to sell players outside of the transfer window, quoting the importance of preserving ‘the integrity of the [Premier League] competition’. With Portsmouth effectively already consigned to the Championship next season, it now becomes the Football League’s problem to deal with a club which will be at best decimated and at worst no longer in existence by the time the new season kicks off in August. Convenient, that.

Obviously, it’s not Peter Storrie’s fault either, as he has been reminding us on a seemingly daily basis. After all, he is only Portsmouth’s chief executive, the man ultimately responsible for the day-to-day running of the club, including such mundane and trivial things as, say, managing the budget. According to Storrie, he has been on the brink of securing a new owner and saviour all season – still waiting, Peter – and has repeatedly pointed out that everything was going swimmingly until former owner Alexandre Gaydamak decided to stop pouring his money into the bottomless pit. Which is somewhat disingenuous, given that Storrie was fully cognisant throughout of the pit’s existence and the rate at which cash was being sucked into it.

Even former manager Harry Redknapp – the man so quick to claim credit for (expensively) rebuilding the squad and leading the club to its 2008 FA Cup triumph – cannot be considered entirely blameless. For while Harry correctly points out that it is not the manager’s job to mind the pennies, he is nonetheless a canny operator – it is inconceivable he would not have been aware of the club’s rapidly-spiralling problems, and the contribution his wild recruitment of largely overrated and overpaid players will have had to those. The timing of his hasty exit to take over the manager’s job at Spurs may have been coincidental, but there is no doubt in my mind that Redknapp is, if not exactly culpable, then certainly a knowing accessory to the fact.

As it stands today, the fate of Portsmouth FC is uncertain. The club will probably be allowed to finish the season – albeit on its hands and knees – but beyond that who knows? It is hard to see how it can possibly be an attractive proposition to buyers – even at a nominal price – with the shadow of definite relegation, crippling £60m debts and a squad which needs to be stripped bare looming large. The threat of extinction is not scaremongering; it is very real.

The only thing that is certain is that the Premier League, Peter Storrie and Harry Redknapp bear no responsibility for the sorry state Portsmouth finds itself in. It must be true, because they said so.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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