Portsmouth’s cup of woes keeps overflowing | india | Hindustan Times
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Portsmouth’s cup of woes keeps overflowing

Three summers ago, I was lucky to be in Hong Kong to cover the EPL’s Barclays Asia Trophy. Liverpool, Fulham and Portsmouth contested the pre-season tournament with local side South China. Pompey emerged the surprise winners.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2010 00:22 IST
John Dykes

Three summers ago, I was lucky to be in Hong Kong to cover the EPL’s Barclays Asia Trophy. Liverpool, Fulham and Portsmouth contested the pre-season tournament with local side South China. Pompey emerged the surprise winners.

It was by the far the most successful staging of the tournament — the Hong Kong Stadium drew good crowds, especially given the presence of Liverpool, for whom Fernando Torres made his first appearance. The teams were wowed by Hong Kong.

Not everyone enjoyed five-star treatment though. One of the more memorable contributions came from a pair of radio deejays who had journeyed to the East from England’s South Coast. Chris Wise, or “Wisey”, and his partner Mark Mudie, were there to report for Quay Radio, a commercial channel broadcasting from Portsmouth’s tourist hub.

On matchdays in Hong Kong, Wisey and Mark filled the air with their thoughts on Pompey’s chances on the pitch and their observations on what was an eye-opening first trip to Hong Kong. Neither was ashamed to admit they were operating on a tight budget.

“Who would ever have thought Pompey would be playing in a tournament like this, in a place like this?” was a theme they returned to regularly.

Almost three years on, my thoughts returned to those days in Hong Kong when I read a series of articles, all carrying variations on the same headline: “Portsmouth count the cost of living the dream.”

Thanks to erstwhile Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale, “living the dream” has become a phrase synonymous with financial imprudence. Portsmouth’s recent visits to Britain’s High Court have revealed how their dream was allowed to turn into a nightmare. When the club attempted to go into administration a week ago, a counsel for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs told the Court that the taxman wanted to know how “a succession of owners of the club have allowed such enormous debts to accrue”.

By the time Portsmouth returned to the High Court this week at the insistence of HMRC, which questioned the validity of administration, it was revealed the club needs £14 million just to make it through March. Portsmouth is carrying debts of £86 million. The court was told that the debts are £8 million higher than the figure given by the administrator, and that HMRC lawyers valued the squad at £21 million.

In 2008, Portsmouth welcomed Jermain Defoe, Lassana Diarra and Peter Crouch. They beat Cardiff in the Cup Final with a team having Glenn Johnson, Sol Campbell, Sylvain Distin, Sulley Muntari and Niko Kranjcar. They retained an unbeaten home record in Europe and led AC Milan at home with five minutes to play, only to draw.

The Wiseys, along with fans, are clinging to precious memories in these desolate times. They are praying that the taxman is appeased, that the winding-up order is avoided, a buyer found and that some years from now, Portsmouth rejoins the elite of English football.

Catch John Dykes on ESPN’s Football Focus every Tuesday and First Edition on Friday.