I wonder how Portsmouth fans feel about the forthcoming FA Cup Final. It’s now widely accepted that their victory in the same match two years ago is what got them in their current fine mess. Beating Cardiff meant the club had to pay out bonuses it never expected to have to stump up. Who would have thought signing European quality players would mean qualifying for Europe, eh?
In a nutshell, Pompey overachieved. They peaked too early. Reaching Europe in 2008 wasn’t part of the grand plan and, in football, when a plan goes wrong it normally goes wrong spectacularly.
Look at Leeds, whose plan failed for opposite reasons – in their case it was not reaching Europe that sent them plummeting down the leagues, but clearly the tightrope is a tricky one.
Football clubs exist, when run well, in order to be successful at football. When they haven’t been run well, you get perverse situations like not being able to play your best players in the grandest of annual football events.
Richard Hughes says the players may waive their bonuses so they can play in the FA Cup Final, or at least defer them to a later date. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/p/portsmouth/8616728.stm) Because, of course, if you were a footballer you wouldn’t want to miss a game at Wembley, but perish the thought you shouldn’t get a bonus for it!
The simple truth is that winning the FA Cup is not going to help Portsmouth in the long run. In fact, it could cost them several million pounds they don’t have. Their shock win against Spurs in the semi-final has already increased the risk to their future, so the best thing to hope for now would be a Chelsea win, wouldn’t it?
Well you don’t need me to tell you, no football fan is ever going to hope for his team to lose, whatever the circumstances. And when they’re playing at Wembley, probably for the last time in the foreseeable future, nothing is going to quench the Pompey faithful’s desire to stick one on the Stamford Bridge toy boys.
If Portsmouth do field a weaker side for financial reasons, it will be yet another sad indictment of the modern game where quality often kowtows to cash.
Another club with doubts about what the future might hold regarding a potential game at Wembley is Nottingham Forest. Now confirmed for the Championship play-offs, the City Ground Reds have surpassed all expectations with their third place position.
Yet all season manager Billy Davies has been telling the fans that his young Forest team aren’t ready for the Premiership. He reckons Newcastle will need to spend £60m to stay up (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1262383/Billy-Davies-Newcastle-spend-60m-survive-top.html), so God knows what kind of transfer kitty he’d want to bring his own team up to standard.
Davies has good reason to be wary after seeing his Derby side, promoted in the play-offs in 2007 and relegated by about October the following season, branded the worst team in Premiership history.
Derby were no more ready for the Premiership than Portsmouth were ready for Europe and likewise they peaked too early. The infrastructure at Pride Park wasn’t set up to handle the big league and it showed on the pitch. Davies can’t help be worried that he might find the same thing out about Nottingham Forest in a few month’s time.
Yet does the prospect of potentially taking over the local rivals’ undesirable accolade put Forest fans off the idea of capping their wonderful season with a victory at Wembley? Does it hell!
On one Forest forum (http://www.forestforum.co.uk/showthread.php?t=17679), when the question of being promoted “too early” was posed this week, the fans, with the smell of the “Premiership pie” in their nostrils, responded with almost unanimous positivity in favour of taking a big bite.
“Saying we’re not ready for the Prem and it being better for us to stay in the Championship for another season is just so much hogwash,” one Forest fan wrote. “We’ve got to make the most of the opportunities presented to us when we get them.”
I don’t suspect for a minute the Forest players themselves will have any second thoughts about making the most of the opportunity presented to them in the play-offs, nor the Portsmouth players in the FA Cup Final, bonuses or nay.
Would Pompey fans go back in time and forgo their FA Cup victory of two years ago if it meant avoiding the perilous financial quagmire they now find themselves in? I sincerely doubt it, and as long as that never changes, there’s hope for football yet.
Written By Dean Wilkes