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A Five Year Fall
From FA Cup winners to League Two.
If the Ghost of Portsmouth Future were to have visited me as I walked out of Wembley on May 17th, 2008 jubilantly and told me that Pompey would be a League Two club within five years then I would have admitted the ghost to a mental institution rather than myself for seeing such ghastly apparitions.
Not even the most negative or sceptical supporter would have predicted the disastrous rollercoaster ride that followed which was operated by seven different managers and ultimately ended with three relegations in four years amongst many legal battles and unspeakable amounts of debt.
The recovery has only just begun but Pompey's fall from grace may well be the biggest in English football, although it has some competition.
Leeds United's tumble down the football ladder has been the most publicised. In 2000 they played Valencia in a Champions League semi-final but the disgraceful financial mismanagement of Peter Ridsdale and some terrible football management saw them eventually fall to the third tier.
For a more recent tale of woe you can look at the sorry story developing at Stockport County. In the 2000/2001 season, they were playing Pompey in what was then Division One but now find themselves playing in the Conference North next season.
How did it happen? This article explains a lot but in short the club lost its two money-making assets in its training ground and Edgeley Park itself to a bloke who sold the club back to their Supporters' Trust for a £1 in exchange for taking the £4.5 million debt.
Only things went sour and relegations followed regularly due to some baffling managerial appointments. The spectre of administration due to failed buyouts from consortiums and individuals with a wretched financial background also reared its ugly head. Sound familiar?
The worst things about County's problems is that they don't seem to be over yet and don't seem to be recovering any time soon.
Grimsby and Darlington are another two sorry cases in lower league football that fans can sympathise or empathise with depending on how their own club has been run in recent years.
The former was in Division One when Pompey won it in 2003 but now find themselves in the Conference because of financial mismanagement whilst Darlington went under altogether.
Sharp slides down the league pyramid aren't just restricted to the smaller clubs in the country, either. Sheffield United fell from the first to the fourth division from 1975-1981 whilst Wolves suffered consecutive relegations from 1984-1986.
However, the two things that set Pompey's fall apart from all of these other scenarios. The fact that a major honour was won but more importantly the collossal amount of money that was squandered and then turned into debt that could not be repaid.
It is unthinkable five years ago that a team that were arguably two or three top players away from challenging for the Champions League positions having just won silverware could be disbanded so quickly because of a sudden need for cash when it seemed plentiful at one point.
A club that had sustained itself in the Premier League and bathed in its riches should never have gone into administration. Even after the first relegation, lessons were never learned and shady and incompetent individuals all played their part in ruining Portsmouth Football Club.
It's not a particular "award" that any club would want to have - having the greatest demise in English football - but plenty of clubs could have an unwanted claim to it with Portsmouth having one of the strongest cases if not on-the-pitch then certainly on the financial side of things.
It makes you wonder who will be next. After another two successive relegations fans of Wolverhampton Wanderers will be worried whilst fans of Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City must be dreading the future, with the former's owners stubborn and clueless whilst the latter's is an alleged crook.
Football is broken and lessons will continue to be learned as more and more clubs face similar fates to Pompey. But whilst the achievement of five years ago may be a distant memory now, there is hope that similar highs will be felt as our club begins to restore its pride and win on the grand occasion once more.
Source: Fratton Faithful
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