Pompey crimes?

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Midway through a troubled season, a confused Steve Morgan unburdens his soul

Be careful what you wish for.

As a Portsmouth season-ticket holder, I feel well-qualified to comment.

I tap this out in the second week of January, and the slow death to which we seem condemned has almost exactly five months to play out.

Although I haven’t yet abandoned hope of some miraculous salvation, I’m reduced to hunting for omens, like finding the face of Jesus when cutting into a piece of fruit.

Everything points to our relegation, less than two years since we enjoyed the best day of our sporting lives with FA Cup success.

A little over a year ago we had no fewer than four current England internationals on our books.

Without wanting to call his credentials into account, Michael Brown isn’t exactly what anybody at Fratton Park had in mind as the must-have midfield accessory for 2009/10.

James, Campbell & Johnson celebrate FA Cup success

Aha, you cry, this is nobody’s fault but our own.

Paying huge wages, on crowds of 20,000 a week, in a stadium resembling nothing so much as a museum exhibit entitled 'how football grounds used to be': what were you thinking of?

Valid questions, granted. But people, you can’t have it both ways.

When King Harry Redknapp’s court was in session, people couldn’t get enough of us.

Urchins at the top table with unwashed hands and grubby necks, using the soup spoon for dessert and what-not, we were cheered to the rafters for muscling our way into the Premier League party. Good old ‘Arry.

Well, "Good old 'Arry" isn’t a phrase you hear often at Fratton Park these days – his undue haste off a ship that hadn’t even started sinking when he jumped won’t be forgotten.

While the Pompey tribute act he has assembled at Spurs is lauded, how joyfully the press have further trashed the spiritual home he has so shamelessly pilfered from.

"Meet you up the Lane, yeah?"

One respected football writer – I won’t embarrass him here – suggested last week that what we had done with our finances was no better than diving, or drug cheating.

You’ve got to love the moral high ground people take (as well as wondering why Liverpool and Manchester United’s debts are never the subject of quite so much disgust).

So, we maxed out on the plastic – admittedly a bad move with a global recession round the corner – and after living the dream, we’re locked in what seems like a slow-motion car crash.

Tongues clucked at us by all and sundry, we’re roundly mocked from pillar to post.

Someone even made a gag about us on Radio 4 the other day. Everyone’s a comedian when you’re down and out.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I crave sympathy. I’ve seen us win the FA Cup, after all, something I can say with a fair degree of certainty that fans of about 88 clubs will never live to see.

I’ve also seen us play in every division already, so if we disappear down the leagues, que sera sera.

I can take the shame and I can do it without blubbing like a Geordie.

What I can’t stand is the whipping-boy status, so indicative of the easy targets in football that miss the wider picture. The little guy always gets the grief.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think our fall from grace is a straightforward matter of over-spending, either.

The figures just don’t seem to stack up. And then there’s the labyrinthine nature of the ownership of Portsmouth, which makes about as much sense as a Dan Brown novel.

I’ve neither the time nor the brainpower to unravel that.

Board rigid: Exactly who owns Pompey?

However, I think we’re quite entitled to ask where all the money has gone, much as I think the Premier League ought to give up making money hand over fist for five sodding minutes to take a long look at how it regulates those who govern its occupants.

At present, Pompey remind me of Tony in that brilliant final scene of The Sopranos, surrounded by a circling mob, all of whom seem to have some interest in comeuppance.

That hurts. All I ever wanted to do was watch my football team – I didn’t want to have a degree in politics to be able to understand it.

But what upsets me most is that those currently on the playing staff – a team, incidentally, with which I feel far more affinity than the Cup winners – are suffering for the sins of others.

I feel sorry for the deposed Paul Hart, more of a man than the self-serving Redknapp could ever hope to be.

I feel sorry for Jamie O’Hara, Younes Kaboul and Frederic Piquionne, because they’re giving every ounce of effort they have and are rewarded with three late monthly salaries.

Nobody wants us to stay up and we’ll probably go down, but if we do, we’ll do it loudly and we’ll do it with dignity.

We won’t allow ourselves to be embarrassed by the deeds of others, or let our shoulders droop because of what others say about us.

The integrity of the fans is one asset of which we can’t be stripped.

More on from Steve Morgan:
How a Christian soldier set a Primus example

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