Pompey have lift off – by doing it right way
FORGET Harry Kane’s debut. Forget England’s surprisingly competent display against Italy. If you’re after the week’s truly uplifting story, the grimy depths of League Two is where it’s at. Portsmouth’s announcement of a £118,000 profit is hardly likely to hit the back page of The Sun. Nor will it blaze on the breaking news ticker at Sky Sports News.
But for a club that came so close to oblivion on so many occasions, a return to the black is hugely significant.
It won’t bring back the lost years of shame and misery. It won’t bring back Premier League football or FA Cup finals. It certainly won’t bring back the local businesses sent to the wall when former owners reneged on payments, or satisfy the creditors paid pence in a pound.
But it does show, for the first time in almost a decade, that the club is owned by people who genuinely care if it lives or dies.
Plenty sneered when a group of 2,368 fans offered to save the club from liquidation in April 2013, each pledging around £1,000 to raise the £2.75m needed to prise Fratton Park from the parasitic paws of former owner Balram Chainrai.
Chainrai – whose own bid was rejected by creditors – claimed that the supporters had “no substance” and that they would “ratchet up costs for years to come”.
But now, with the assistance of 13 other ‘presidents’ from business and industry, the Pompey Supporters’ Trust have turned a club synonymous with recklessness and mayhem into one that is debt free and profitable.
There are many who will never forgive Pompey for the successes wrought of debt and deception, nor for the pain and suffering caused by their collapse. None of us should forget. But no son should be blamed for the sins of his father. The people now manning the tills at Fratton Park – from CEO Mark Catlin and chairman Iain McInnes to the thousands of punters who make up the PST’s 52 per cent share – are doing things properly.
It isn’t glamorous. At first, the club was bereft of a training ground, commercial partners and even an official kit supplier. Things have improved this year, but the club remains one run on cashflow and charity. They spend only what they earn.
But that in itself is a positive sign. No longer are Pompey the plaything of chancers spending money they don’t have on baubles and trinkets.
Those gleaming golden roots barely scratched the topsoil. The PST are made of earthier stuff but the foundations they are building will, in time, reach deep.
It is just 13 years since Swansea found themselves in an identical position; a dilapidated club in a dilapidated ground, rescued from extinction by fans who refused to let them die.
Now they are heading for the highest Premier League finish in their history with a League Cup in the cabinet and a UEFA ranking that rates Garry Monk’s men the 89th best side on the continent.Yet Swansea still run within their means and are still 20 per cent owned by supporters.
That’s how far a bit of passion, pragmatism and love can get you. That’s how far Pompey can go. Only next time, it’ll taste so much sweeter for having done it the hard way.