Recently relegated Portsmouth’s troubles are not over. Far from it. They may have just begun. As someone who has followed the whole sordid affair since the first signs of trouble in the summer of 2008, I can tell you it’s difficult to type that sentence. The fire sale that began with Sulley Muntari in July of 2008 has not stopped.
The starting eleven from the 2009-10 season opener versus Fulham consisted of the following: James, Distin, Kaboul, Belhadj, Kranjcar, Mullins, Wilson, Diop, Mokoena, Utaka, and Piquionne. Kanu and Nugent came on as subs. Of those players the following are gone: James, Distin, Kaboul, Belhadj, Kranjcar, Diop, and Piquionne. Mullins and Wilson say they would be happy to stay, but with other clubs rumored to want them, and Pompey in need of cash, they probably won’t be around much longer. Mokoena has said he wants out, but is not exactly in high demand. Utaka could stay, but is expensive. Kanu and Nugent both traveled with the club for their North American tour. Nugent would like to stay, and probably will. Kanu, however, is out of contract, is asking for too much money, and the best guess of his age is late 30s. The starting eleven for the FA Cup final was very different than the start of the season. The only men to feature in both starting lineups were James, Mokoena, Diop, Piquionne, and Mullins. Of those five players, only two could possibly play on August 7th for the opening of the Championship season. It’s possible that none of them will play.
Now the depressing part: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has appealed the Company Voluntary Agreement which keeps Portsmouth FC in administration until the hearing. The hearing has been expedited, but until that hearing is resolved, new ownership cannot take charge and do anything to strengthen the squad. While there are rumors of ownership interest, Pompey supporters have heard too many rumors over the two years to listen to any of them. The club has been allowed to sign a few players because every club has to have 20 players under contract to start the season. No one has delusions that this club will get off to anything resembling a good start. If the hearing does not occur before August 7th, and it is not currently scheduled but they have promised to expedite it, then the club will most likely start the season with a points deduction as much as 17 points.
While the team has not embarrassed themselves on their North American tour, it is obvious that they will struggle. They lost to Club America 2-1 after taking 42 hours to get from Portsmouth to San Diego. They then beat the Ventura County Fusion 2-1 and Edmonton FC on penalty kicks to claim a trophy. Both of those clubs would be the equivalent of Havant & Waterlooville, another club they beat 2-1 before leaving for San Diego. They play MLS bottom side DC United on Saturday evening at RFK stadium in the nation’s capital.
The club needs some positive news. Bringing in a few players will help new manager Steve Cotterill add some fresh blood and convince everyone they have a chance of avoiding relegation. I don’t envy him that task.