In a week where the up and coming forces of Southern football are looking forward to ‘glamorous’ FA Cup ties against Premier League opposition, another of the South’s footballing forces, Portsmouth, have sadly gone into administration for the second time in just three years.
The ambition and excitement surrounding Sussex clubs Brighton and Hove Albion and Crawley Town could hardly be further from the doom and gloom descending on Fratton Park once again, as Pompey’s slump from Premier League status and two FA Cup final appearances into the depths and misery of financial strife continues to gain momentum.
After weeks of failure to pay their players and major press speculation, the writing was sadly on the wall for Portsmouth and their fans as they knew they would have to suffer the indignity of going into administrative control again. Things have reportedly got so bad that they haven’t been able to access their frozen accounts and as such haven’t been able to release the funds necessary to get a scan on captain Liam Lawrence’s calf injury.
Of course, this move into the administrative control of Trevor Birch does bring with it some hope of a silver lining to the very ominous clouds gathering overhead at Fratton Park. The moves that will be made by Birch will be targeted at clearing up the financial ruins at the club and will seek to make the club a sustainable force when moving forward from this incredibly precarious situation. Such improvements will make the endangered club a far more attractive investment prospect and if the administrators can engineer a successful sale of the club to a ‘fit and proper’ buyer then they will at least in the short term have brought the club back to it’s feet.
Hopefully for the sake of Southern football and British football as a whole, Portsmouth will bounce back from this latest huge slump but even with their now increased chances of finding a new buyer the club is set for an enormous challenge. The 10 point penalty hanging over their heads as a punishment for going into administration will bring them right down into the very heart of the Championship relegation battle and it will take one hell of a comeback to avoid the drop.
Not only will this period of administrative control lead to the loss of playing and coaching staff due to the inability to pay their wages but relegation too would have a major effect on the levels of quality and depth in their squad, as their strongest players will almost certainly seek the opportunity to jump-ship. The club will effectively be in survival mode for a period of time and will, for the foreseeable future, be something of a sitting duck as rival clubs will have license to raid the club of their best and most promising players without little resistance.
This position of enormous vulnerability is in stark contrast to that of Brighton and Crawley who are not only performing strongly in their respective leagues but are also about to enjoy the privileges of having enjoyed major scalps in the early rounds of the FA Cup.
League Two promotion hopefuls Crawley have already weighed in with a victory over Championship side Hull and will be looking to take advantage of a potential European night hangover when they host Premier League and Europa League outfit Stoke City this Sunday. Brighton are also in action in this weekend’s FA Cup 5th Round when they face up to a real ‘glamour’ tie against Liverpool at Anfield after having felled an in-form Newcastle in the 4th Round.
The exciting progression of these two Southern clubs doesn’t provide the only potential success stories south of the capital this season though, as AFC Bournemouth are flirting with the League One play-off places and Southampton are currently occupying one of the two automatic promotion places in the Championship.
Sadly though, the significant strides being made by several of Southern football’s resurgent forces and ‘new kids on the block’ are being put in the shade by Portsmouth’s high profile troubles. The South-South divide is developing at an alarming rate and it is fair to say that the Crawley and Brighton’s fans will be far more buoyant than Pompey’s even if they were both walloped 10-nothing this Sunday.