View from Pompey

With Salop travelling down to the south coast on Saturday, Alex took time out to talk to Portsmouth fan and journalist Chris Powers (@chrismpowers) who went into the goings on at the troubled club from Fratton Park.

Obviously the main questions were focused on the financial situation which has been well documented about Portsmouth Football Club but there was no way he could keep away from footballing questions.

Portsmouth’s problems have been well documented. Try to put into words how arduous the past few years have been for fans?

The past few years have been tough for anybody connected with Portsmouth.  Just four years ago Portsmouth were playing AC Milan at Fratton Park in the Europa League, having just won the FA Cup.

Since then, we’ve had two periods of administration, two relegations, and now sit near the bottom of the League One table.  We’ve certainly had our fair share of success in recent years, but that doesn’t make the current situation at the club any easier to stomach.

There seems to be an increasing number of parties interested in taking Pompey over. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? 

At the moment it’s hard to see.

Currently five bids are on the table for the club, and two of them are from previous owners. One of the bidders, Balram Chanrai, is a deeply unpopular figure at the club. He has owned Portsmouth twice before, placing the club into administration during both tenures. He describes himself as a ‘reluctant’ owner, as he seeks to recoup a reported £17m invested, and lost, in the club.

Yet, he is now seeking to take the club over for a third time.

Another bidder, Sulaiman Al Fahim, presided over a short and ill-fated spell at the club. He took over the club in August 2009, and by October had decided to sell.

There are also concerns over Laurence Bassini, the ex-Watford owner’s bid for the club.

With the number of bids submitted, the threat of liquidation – which was very real several months ago – looks less likely, but the future is very uncertain at Fratton Park. Anything is still possible.

Message boards would tend to reflect that the Supporters’ Trust would be the fans’ choice for new owners. Is that a fair assumption?

Most people at Portsmouth would rather have the Supporters’ Trust than any of the previous owners – you cannot doubt their good intentions and the hard work many people have put in to get their bid as far as it has done.

The Trust’s financial power primarily comes from pledges from fans, at £1,000 for a share. One of the biggest hurdles they face is convincing administrator Trevor Birch that these pledges will materialise if they were to take over the club.

The Trust has come under criticism for seeking the involvement of property developers, in their quest to own the ground, which, to complicate matters, is ‘owned’ by Chanrai, who reportedly wants to charge to Trust £1m a season rent for the ground.

Similar fees are crippling Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena. With the club’s league status not secure, the Supporters’ Trust face an uphill task to take control of the club, without being held to ransom. Quite simply, they could run out of money before a ball is even kicked.

Given the fact the Pompey squad has been thrown together, how have results compared with what was expected at the beginning of the season?

Realistically, we were always going to struggle to survive this season – both on and off the pitch.

Given the highs of recent years, it’s hard for supporters to readjust to life in England’s lower leagues.

How have the results been for Portsmouth so far this season? 

We started the season slowly as our small and unfit squad of strangers on one-month rolling contracts adapted to life in League One. Portsmouth have finally hit their stride though, and remain unbeaten in the last four league games – taking ten points out of a possible 12 in the process.

With a 10-point penalty seemingly imminent, are they in a relegation battle for the long haul? 

As the season progresses, Pompey’s already depleted squad could really start to struggle. Injuries cursed the back four for the first few months of the season, and another injury crisis could leave Portsmouth very exposed in key areas.

A mid-table finish is what’s needed, hopefully keeping Portsmouth safe, before the potential deduction kicks in.

What would constitute a good season for the club given their current plight?

Avoiding liquidation – anything else for the club would be a bonus. Surviving relegation and a resolution to the ownership saga would be very good, too. Most fans would appreciate a degree of stability at the end of the season, be it in the Championship, League One or League Two.

The club needs to undergo a rebuilding process, and sometimes you have to go backwards in order to go forwards.

A word on manager Michael Appleton. Has there ever been a period when he has come under fire from the terraces? How good a job has he done in the circumstances?

Appleton is on the radar of Bolton and Blackburn for their vacant manager positions in the Championship.

Under impossible circumstances, Appleton has done an outstanding job of holding the club together with a united front, and, despite no contract assurances, has managed to attract a number of ‘wanted’ players to the club including Izale McLeod from Barnet, and Sheffield United’s Lee Williamson.

The players remain behind Appleton – a manager who hasn’t yet been given the chance to stamp his mark on the club. Every player at the club, excluding two youth graduates, was signed several days before the start of the season – when the majority of loanees and free agents had already been snapped up.

The fact the team resembles a competitive League One side at this stage of the year is a testament to the personal draw of Appleton.

Who’s impressed in the Pompey camp this season? 

Portsmouth-born striker Ashley Harris always lifts the crowd when he comes off the bench, and his passionate performances have made him a local favourite. At only 18 years of age, fans hope he could lead the front-line at Portsmouth for many years to come.

Izale McLeod is the real dangerman though. His work-rate has come under scrutiny from the Pompey fans, but seven goals in 13 appearances speaks for itself.

Goalscoring defender Gabor Gyepes is also a player to look out for.

Luke Rodgers has now played for both Shrewsbury and Pompey. What do you think of him?

Although missing the last few weeks with injury, Rodgers has impressed so far in Pompey colours. The Fratton fans appreciate his work rate, and with two goals to his name so far this season, he has shown he can finish too.

Luke Rodgers Luke Rodgers of Portsmouth celebrates after scoring direct from a free kick during the npower League One match between Crawley Town and Portsmouth at Broadfield Stadium on September 9, 2012 in Crawley, West Sussex.

His free-kick against Crawley showed that he’s a player capable of real quality. Since his three-week injury though, he now faces a battle to regain his place in the starting XI from Wes Thomas.

Where will Saturday’s game be won or lost?

Portsmouth have managed to find the net in nearly every home game this season, only failing to score in a 0-1 loss to Oldham.

Despite this, the club’s number of defensive partnerships are already well into double figures, and the team continue to concede soft goals.  As already mentioned, fitness could also be a factor for the blues on Saturday.

Score prediction?

Portsmouth 2-0 Shrewsbury

Where do you thing both clubs will finish this season?

Even with a points deduction, Portsmouth should have shown so far this season that they have more than enough to stay in the league. Portsmouth to finish 16th.

As for Shrewsbury, the lack of away wins is worrying and could come back to bite you come the end of the season. You should stay safe though, and battle to a 19th place finish.

Anything else you want to add?

Have a good game on Saturday – but not too good of course, we’re desperate for the points with a deduction on the way. Hopefully Shrewsbury have a good season this year, and we look forward to meeting you on the last day of the season. It could be a six-pointer!

We would like to thank Chris for this brilliant piece and would like to wish him and Portsmouth all the best of luck starting from 21st October.

If you would like to follow Chris his twitter name is @chrismpowers.

You can also follow us on twitter, you can find us at

 

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