Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Time for a bit of Pomp and ceremony... lets back Portsmouth to beat Chelsea tonight. My boy and I will be there!

TONIGHT, while the rest of you Philistines are cosily nestled on your sofas or murdering people on your X-boxes, my son Kriss and I will be in Portsmouth, home of the worm-eaten HMS Victory and the saddest football club in Britain.

Destroyed by a succession of owners and profligate spending, Portsmouth FC are doomed to relegation following their nine-point deduction for going into administration.

The luckless Israeli coach Avram Grant must lead his hopeless side out against the biggest-spending club in Britain, Chelsea, backed by his old mate Roman Abramovich.

Yes, the billionaire Russian who dropped him despite the fact unloved Grant took Chelsea to within a John Terry penalty of winning the Champions League against Manchester United in Moscow. And he only fell two points short of the Premier League title.

Grant stood strong after Jose Mourinho's sacking and Big Phil Scolari's embarrassing departure. He left to be replaced by more fashionable men like Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti, who have not managed to get close to his heights.

Grant arrived at Portsmouth full of hope, replacing the popular Paul Hart... only to find the rug pulled from under his feet by banks and massage parlours.

Despite all this, Grant's men produced a stunning come-from-behind 3-2 win against Burnley on Saturday to keep hope alive, to keep the Pompey chimes clanging.

Without the nine-point deduction and despite a fine FA Cup run, they would only be five points off safety were it not for the cruel points deduction.

And tonight he must do it again, when he comes up against his former stars Didier Drobga, John Terry, Frank Lampard et al.

Kriss, 22, and I won't be the only ones shuffling up Frogmore Road to the dilapidated Fratton Park, capacity a measly 20,224, hoping for a miracle.

My father Bob, 77 this week, will be praying for them too. He watched them win the First Division title in 1949 and 1950 when they got crowds of over 50,000. He watches them every week on Supersport in South Africa hoping for a miracle, sending pleading texts hoping they will survive the current crisis.

As Arsenal fans, Kriss and I hope for a miracle too, as do the billions of Manchester United fans from Surrey to Salford.

And of course, for West Ham fans - still reeling after last night's emphatic defeat at the hands of fellow relegation candidates Wolves - there will be support for the hopelessly marooned club. Hope that they will carry on until the death, taking points off the others down the bottom.

It's so wrong what's happened at Portsmouth. FIFA's Sepp Blatter and UEFA's Michael Platini, not the most popular men in world football, have both warned against the massive borrowing behind England's Premier League clubs.

Manchester United and Chelsea themselves rely on a series of nifty accountants to keep afloat despite the spending. West Ham are suffering because Davids Gold and Sullivan have curtailed spending since they assumed ownership.

But for Portsmouth it's too late. The club can barely function. They've sacked half their staff... kit men, tea makers, bottle washers.

Too much money has been spent in hope rather than in expectation. Chief exec Peter Storrie (and a certain coach called Harry Redknapp) splashed the cash under a series of fly-by-night owners, leaving the historic dockyard club on the verge of sinking forever.

Victory - or even a point - for Portsmouth tonight won't just be a miracle. It would be a triumph for the ordinary football fan. The ones who care more about their clubs than the £40,000-a-week arrival of yet another foreign journeyman.

We travel in hope. A crusade from Buckinghamshire to Hampshire made without any real expectation of success.

But that's football. Real football. Forget the Glazers, Hicks & Gillett, Abramovich and the rest. If this nation has a footballing soul, everybody should back Portsmouth against Chelsea tonight in the battle of the Blues. For a billion reasons.

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