The Greatest Collapse In Football?

17 May 2012 06:40
Four years ago today.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but four years ago today something I always dreamed of as a child and something I never thought would happen to my football club became a reality.

When Sol went up to lift the FA Cup, I was there amongst many other Pompey fans sharing what was probably the greatest feeling many of us had experienced following the club through its rollercoaster years.

If the Ghost of Football Future had approached me as I jubiliantly left Wembley Stadium and said to me "four years from now Portsmouth will be a League One club at best, but you might not even have a club at all." I would have simply laughed in its face and carried on singing and looking forward to the forthcoming European tour.

Yet, 1461 days later I find myself wondering just how much longer I can call myself a Portsmouth fan. Balram Chainrai may well be waiting to "save" our club, this "second party" might well be genuine or the community buyout scheme might well work but nothing is for certain.

That day I travelled back from London with a beaming smile on my face. Never did I expect Pompey to be relegated twice and go into administration twice in the space of four years.

You can ask the question "how did this all happen?" and be here next week trying to explain it all, but I will simply say that our football club is the victim of the biggest collapse in football history.

Fans of Leeds United may claim differently. After all, they went from Champions League semi-finalists to League One in a matter of years but I would argue that our decline has hit harder simply because we had something tangible in a trophy win and our tumble down the leagues has been much faster and covered in much more shame.

The irony now is that Leeds now happen to be the vultures circling over the rotting corpse of Portsmouth Football Club. Jason Pearce has already joined the Elland Road outfit and it seems like a couple more may follow.

And of course, this collapse might just have the worst possible ending with the club being liquidated despite having taken part in two FA Cup finals and a UEFA Cup campaign in just four years prior.

The saddening thing is that we're probably just the start of what might be known as "football's great collapse" in the future.

Sure, Manchester City fans might well have experienced the ultimate high last week but at what cost? It'll be interesting to see just how they cope when the financial fair play rule takes full effect and if Sheikh Mansour ever gets bored and decides to drop his most expensive toy.

That may not ever happen, but there are some clubs that seem to be a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

Take Birmingham City for instance; having failed to win promotion to the Premier League and the money it brings, their financial future looks bleak with their alleged crook owner awaiting trial and no capital to keep the club running. Oh, how we can relate to that!

Bolton Wanderers may well be another shining example of what happens if you don't look after the books. Reportedly over £90 million in debt that was supposed to be repaid using Premier League income you wonder just how hard relegation is going to hit them.

A few people have already predicted them to be "the next Portsmouth" and it's no wonder Bolton chairman Phil Gartside wanted to scrap top flight relegation. Not so keen now are you, Phil?

Whatever happens in the future to these clubs and others that haven't balanced their books or built a football club on foundations of sand, it seems like the biggest lesson can be learned from Portsmouth Football Club - the pioneers of rank bad management at every level.

So, we should always remember what fantastic memories that May 17th, 2008 brought to us because there has been little to cheer about since and it has come at an almighty cost.