WIN, lose or draw, tomorrow will be a day of celebration for Portsmouth, writes James Shield.
Guy Whittingham’s side, who entertain Sheffield United at Fratton Park, might be 22nd in the table having seen their relegation from League One officially rubber-stamped.
But the fixture, their first at home since the Pompey Supporters Trust completed its protracted purchase of the financially stricken club, marks the start of a brand new era for this proud footballing institution. And, quite possibly, the rest of the English game as well.
“I think this is the first time a team of this size and with a trophy cabinet to match have been taken over by its fans,” PST spokesman Colin Farmery told The Star last night. “It’s been a fiendishly difficult and complicated process so to actually complete it is real ten out of ten stuff.
“When the wheels were first set in motion, whenever you turned to a different page of the balance sheet, another problem was there.
“But if we can make a success of this, and we are positive we can, then it might be a model others look to follow. We’ve already had dialogue with people at Coventry City, where they are experiencing problems, about how all this has come about.”
Seven seasons ago, these two teams were meeting in top-flight competition. Sporting reasons, The Carlos Tevez Affair apart, have been responsible for United’s fall from grace. Financial mismanagement, chicanery and politicking feature prominently in the dark story of Portsmouth’s demise.
So what are the changes PST will implement? What exactly does community ownership entail?
“Different people have a different idea of what a community club is,” Farmery continued. “So that will be one of our first jobs; agreeing on a principle.
“The sceptics say we will fail because of in-fighting but we don’t think that’s going to be the case. That’s not the feeling we are getting and people are positive about what is ahead.”
“We’ll have to persuade individual fans, which everyone involved with takeover is, that it’s not a case of being able to influence every single decision,” he continued. “It doesn’t mean everyone who follows Portsmouth is guaranteed a seat at the boardroom table.
“However, while people might not agree with every decision that’s taken or change them once they’ve been made, they will be able to question people on the board and hold them to task.
“This model will bring transparency and accountability. Two things which whose absence has arguably contributed to us finding ourselves in this position to begin with.”
Another challenge facing the PST is shattering the long-held belief that success and millionaire Sugar Daddies go hand in hand.
Portsmouth, who hope to exit administration later this afternoon, were said have debts of around £58m when the full extent of their difficulties were laid bare by former United chief executive Trevor Birch. But Farmery, who said Birch, an accountant and insolvency specialist, “quickly demonstrated he was on the side of the angels,” said: “We’ve got some major backers and also people who have bought shares for, relatively speaking, considerable sums as well. That represents the first capital investment which has come into this club in donkey’s years rather than loans.
“When you combine that with the fact we should still draw in five figure crowds next season, then we should be able to compete very well.”