A rough guide to... Portsmouth

Cod Almighty | Article

by Tony Butcher

1 August 2016

Jason Crowe? He used to play for Arsenal (and Portsmouth), you know

How are you?

"A mildewed lump of elephant droppings." We're not talking about Jason Crowe again, are we?

No, silly, and not our old chums Pompey either, but the words of that prince among idling amateur architecturalists, Mr Charles Windsor, about the shopping mall, nightclub and popular suicide spot known as the Tricorn Centre, deep in the bowels of old Portsmouth. They've razed this paradise and put up a parking lot. And they call this progress?

Mind you, it does sum up the average Pompeyite's feelings on 15 May 2016, the day Town returned to the real world of football. We came up, they stayed down when Plymouth beat them in the play-offs.

What have you been up to?

What haven't you been up to in Havant?

Poor old Pompey fans: blessed by riches from unknowable sources, cursed by the hand of history revealing there was no money, just a series of playboys playing pass the parcel with their club. The details of the crashing, crushing demise are a morality tale for modern football and modern life. A fetid fable of the fallacy of unfettered financial capitalism and cringing capitulation to the amoral mammon of money.

What's their popular chant? "Pay up Pompey, Pompey pay up". The club has half a century's history of not paying debts. It almost went into liquidation in 1976, and again in 1987-88 (hey, who didn't in 1988), but the rot really started in the golden years of El Tel's hooky reign from 1996 to 1998. Temporarily saved by Milan Mandaric, along came Harry. Fee-fie-fo-fum, Redknapp smelled the cash of a Serbian. All was fine for a while, with promotion to the Elysian fields of the Premier League. Happy Harry left, Happy Harry came back after dalliances with dreadful continental coaches. In the meantime, the sly Serb had cashed out his chips, selling to the son of a gun runner, and money tumbled from the sky.

Well, wouldn't you like to have fun, fun, fun. How's about a few laughs, laughs, laughs. Harry will show you a good time. And he did, as stars of the silver screen came in from everywhere. Portsmouth finished eighth and won the FA Cup in 2007-08. Be careful what you wish for: the brightest hour is just before the end.

Harry looked inside his heart and saw the future was more money at Spurs. The great unpleasantness began with a rumble, then a tumble into purgatory with a whirl of ownership and desertions.

May 2010. Relegation. Administration. Nine-point penalty.

2011. Another mysterious owner promising the Earth and no-one believed him. He ended up being pursued across Europe for fraud at a Lithuanian bank. More new owners, more woe and points deductions and relegations and administrations and, eventually, finally, salvation on 19 April 2013 when the supporters' trust bought the club from the administrator.

Pompey were finally free of fraudsters and on 29 December 2014 were free of all debts. It just shows what a dedicated, professional and independent supporters' trust can do. Hail to the fans: we salute them one and all!

Pompey were finally free of fraudsters and on 29 December 2014 were free of all debts. There is virtue in football after all, with the fans making this Portsmouth a historical anomaly. "Paid up Pompey, Pompey's paid up."

It just shows what a dedicated, professional and independent supporters' trust can do. Hail to the fans: we salute them one and all!

How are you feeling?

2015-16. A new dawn, a new beginning, there was hope where previously there was despair. And we all know what hope does, for last season was a tale of nearlyness, their fingers clutching at the ledge of success as the bell of gravity took its heavy toll. Late-season losses to Newport and York scuppered what was looking from afar like a serene sprint to promotion.

And then came the play-offs and big, burly Argyle brushed them aside with beefy head tennis and double 1-0 wins.

They are feeling a little raw, still.

What kind of season are you having?

2016-17 started like a train, but they are starting to have problems with the drains. At the time of writing Paul Cook is still the manager, but the fallout from the half-time dust-up between Popeye Doyle and Bruiser Burgess hasn't been tested on the pitch.

They score more goals than Town, and concede fewer goals than Town, with a penchant for occasional implosions against the most curious of opposition. Beware them getting on a roll. Carl Baker and Gary Roberts are the usual suspects for the watch-out he's-quite-good we're-told section of any preview. That's for a good reason. Meanwhile Adam Buxton seems to be lost without Joe.

They're fourth, but should be doing better, shouldn't they?

Where are you from?

A Portsmouth was mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in AD 501, don't you know, which was the year of the Consulship of Avienus and Pompeius. So that's why there are called Pompey. Or is it? Like Meggies, it's lost in the swirl of time. Pompey. It just is. That's all you need to know.

You want to know what Portsmouth is? Old naval port, boaty things, shippy stuff, military matters. Pomp and circumstance and a load of famous people. The blah of much blahness, as no reader of this site can be ignorant of history. It's Portsmouth, durr. We get a rubbish Elton John album track, they get an annoyingly jolly Mike Oldfield 1976 number three pop smash. Let's wash over piffling historical figures such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Dickens and Peter Sellers. Who among us doesn't hear the name Portsmouth and see the face of Fred Dineage? How? Well, old Fred was a former director.

And there's a link to Grimsby, almost. Earlier this year the Fredster was supposed to narrate the Driver's Eye View series locomotive training video Manchester Piccadilly to Cleethorpes on the Hope Valley Line via Sheffield and Doncaster Filmed in a Class 185 Desiro. But the role went to Alan Hardwick. Git.

Pompey have been at Fratton Park all their various lives from 1898 and, some time since February 2003, they finally got around to putting a roof on the away end. It's an old-fashioned ground with a fantastic old-fashioned fanbase, making fantastic old-fashioned noise. Fortunately they don't have any old-fashioned billionaires bleeding them to death anymore. It's a historic heritage ground and long may it reign over car park concrete bowls of howling blandness.

And at least it won't rain on us any more.

You must be solvent?

They are, finally.

Congratulate Pompey on fiscal virtue. Just don't remind any passing Pompeyite of Tony Daws' one and only ever goal for Town in the last game of the 1992-93 season. West Ham pipped them for automatic promotion by one goal.

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