Thursday, August 16, 2012


It is with some reluctance that once again I feature the improbable visage of Mr. John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood.   He is an interesting character.   By day a mild mannered bookshop owner in Petersfield, Hampshire, with a royal warrant for picture framing no less;  by night he morphs into Portsmouth Football Club`s uber fan, bedecked in his Pompey colours, his Pompey tattoos and his Pompey engraved teeth.

The reason for my reluctance is that, as a lifelong Saints fan, the rivalry between the Skates of Pompey and the Scummers of Hampshire`s finest has been as keen as any in the football world.   And that rivalry is now in serious doubt, as Portsmouth hover on the brink of liquidation (the word itself brings such a sweet sense of finality) and with it the future of Mr. Westwood`s alter ego.

For years now, I have belonged to a Saints fans forum and the ongoing saga of Portsmouth`s problems has given rise to just one of the threads having almost 72,000 individual posts and over 4.5million views.   I confess to having made the odd comment myself, but it`s not just us Saints fans who are following the Pompey saga, as witnessed, for example, by this brief synopsis posted on a Walsall forum:-

2009 - Portsmouth go bust, owing £135m. They are allowed to continue to trade after agreeing a deal to pay 20% of debt to unsecured creditors.
2010-2012 - Portsmouth fail to pay the reduced debt to unsecured creditors, instead choosing to buy a squad of players they can't afford.
2012 - Portsmouth go bust again, owing £58m. They may be allowed to continue to trade after agreeing a deal to pay 2% of debt to unsecured creditors. This means that the businesses still owed from 2009 will have to write off 99.6p of every £1 they were originally owed.
2012 - Portsmouth continue to exist in League One and sign Izale McLeod, Luke Rodgers, Brian Howard and other players out of the reach of current League One clubs

The history of this saga involves a cast of characters which include a convicted gun runner, another accused of bank swindling and a succession of Arab sheiks, one of whom probably didn`t exist anyway - so much for the football authorities` fit and proper persons test.   The debts to HMRC, other clubs, former players, local businesses and charities remain but that did not stop the Football League today `allowing` Portsmouth to sign no less than 10 players, some of whom are named above, on monthly contracts, and confirming that they will not incur the 10 points deduction at the start of the season on Saturday when they play south coast rivals Bournemouth. 

Ah, Bournemouth - a club who were themselves deducted 27 points for `offences` which seem mild in comparison with those at Fratton Park.  Similarly Luton Town and others and even the Saints` holding company were punished 10 points for briefly entering into administration.  Small wonder there is widespread bemusement about the apparent leniency shown by the Football League towards the blue few of Krap Nottarf and with it the suspicion that there is one rule for Pompey and another for the rest of football.

So what`s the answer?   Well, in all of this, there are some decent, loyal Portsmouth fans who want nothing more than to wipe the slate clean and have a fresh start as a new community club even if that means playing their football in a minor league, at least to begin with.   I actually wish them well in this endeavour, difficult as it appears financially, for the basket case of Portsmouth FC as it currently exists surely cannot be allowed to continue. Enough has been enough for far too long.

And as for Mr. Westwood and his technicolour persona, his only hope of avoiding the agony of tattoo removal and teeth disengraving is that the Pompey Trust succeed where the present club,  to whom he has hitherto pledged his devotion, have failed so appallingly.   Maybe, after all, he might just prefer the studious tranquillity of his Petersfield bookshop.

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