Transiting through London Heathrow this morning, on a journey from Florida to India, all the talk among football supporters (who I sought out in the airports and on the plane because they stand out in their club kits or England shirts) was not about any title contender but about Portsmouth.
Pompey after all was a club that was permanently buried in the lower divisions until Milan Mandaric bought the club and worked hard to achieve promotion. Mandaric is a football man many of us from the United States have been very familiar with for a long period of time. He was a driving force behind Indoor Soccer for years and also owned the San Jose Earthquakes, one of the teams that George Best played for in the NASL. Mandaric was involved with the USSF and with youth soccer as well.
More importantly, he was probably the first American truly qualified to run a European football club. Regardless of what might be said about his somewhat controversial tenure at Leicester City, Mandaric did right by Pompey.
When Mandaric sold the team on, Pompey was not only a Premier League club, but they had some money behind them. This allowed the club to lure back Harry Redknapp to Fratton Park, and chase glory, winning the FA Cup and qualifying for Europe. Then came the crash, followed by the ill fated regime of Sulaiman Al Fahim, and now the massive takeover by Ali al Faraj.
The Portsmouth situation is a reminder of how fluid English football is in this day and age. While other clubs may compete for honors, no club is as interesting as the one top flight club on the south coast right now.
It’s ironic that a club that was irrelevant for so long outside the south coast has now not only been in the top flight for seven consecutive seasons (a remarkable achievement) but has run through so many owners and different financial issues. I for one want to applaud the Portsmouth fans for their dedication to their club and the fighting spirit which Paul Hart’s men have show this season.
Now, with yet another infusion of cash, perhaps Pompey could continue make us pay attention.