Colin Randall writes: just before Sunderland went to Portsmouth for what should have been a routine romp into the FA Cup fifth round, a Paris-based, Pompey-daft friend
Peter Allen– no stranger to Salut! Sunderland – said he had a hunch it might be another Wembley year for his crisis-hit club. Of course, Pete, of course, we thought, keeping an eye open for airborne pigs. Time to eat humble pork pie, and present the first of our fan previews of the final …
Portsmouth fans have a lot in common with the fabled band of the RMS Titanic at the moment.
The icy waters of bankruptcy are lapping in, most of the lifeboats have long since disappeared, and we’re left manning the trumpets and drums for what is potentially our last hurrah.
READ On – and come back tomorrow for a Chelsea fan’s turn
As a highly improbable Cup Final against Chelsea beckons following the end of seven successive seasons in the Premiership many of us are even prepared to admit that there might be a fun side to financial meltdown. We may be relegated, £120 million in debt and a few ….ahem…. “accounting errors” away from liquidation, but when there’s a chance to run through a few versus of Abide with Me while wearing a bright blue Afro wig what’s not to look forward to?
It will be Que Sera Sera after May 15, but the game itself will be the kind of David and Goliath confrontation that helped define Sunderland’s own recent history.
In 1973 it was Jimmy Montgomery’s double save from Peter Lorimer and an Ian Porterfield volley which earned the nominally second division Mackems a legendary triumph against high-flying Leeds United. As with Pompey, a dismal few months in Europe followed (you went out of the UEFA Cup in the second round to Sporting Lisbon) before some distinctly mediocre seasons and some very serious money problems starting in the 1990s, but at least you had your unforgettable day in the north west London sunshine to bask in for decades to come.
Do we have a chance this time round?
Modern, rouble-backed, and highly cosmopolitan Chelsea are probably a more fearsome proposition than Don Revie’s snarling mix of six Englishmen, four Scotsmen, an Irishman and a Welsh sub, but stranger things have happened….especially to Pompey.
With the usual apologies to any of our learned friends reading, the father of our last apparently solvent owner was convicted of arms dealing in a Paris court last October. Arcadi Gaydamak is widely suspected of bankrolling his lad, Alexandre “Sasha” Gaydamak, in the purchase of Portsmouth in January 2006, raising the terrifying prospect that some of our record “Galactico” signings (think Lassana Diarra) and over-priced “Shovel-Boots” (think Peter Crouch) were directly funded by the profits from Kalashnikov sales to Angola. Couldn’t-make-it-up revelations like that make another Kanu FA Cup winner positively likely, so – for the sake of optimism – let’s throw in a spectacular nutmeg past John Terry before the heartbroken ex-England skipper takes early retirement to begin a second career as a marriage guidance counsellor.
At a few months short of his 40th birthday, Pompey’s stopper David James had the confidence to wear a bright pink jersey and dreadlocks for the semi-final win against Tottenham, so why not another Monty-style performance under the Wembley arc? Kanu, meanwhile, is already as much of a legend to us as Porterfield is to you, so who’d bet against the Nigerian giant marking his 50th birthday later this year with his fourth FA Cup winner’s medal? (Only joking about your age, Nwanko. We know you’re not a day over 48.)
I’d originally put our chances against Spurs at less than 10 per cent, with a win likely to be down to criminal justice system and injury reasons, rather than playing ones. The former Pompey boss Harry Rednapp had been clearly rattled by a pre-match appearance before City of Westminster magistrates after being charged with two counts of cheating (the public revenue, rather than his former clubs on this occasion, m’Lud), while Jermain Defoe (another former Fratton Park servant still remembered fondly for his lack of interest in money and his all round selflessness) hobbled around as though he was recovering from another nasty head-on collision with someone’s shin pad during training (either that or he’d suffered his usual humiliation of being mistaken for one of the child mascots during the warm up).
No reason why the Fulham Road’s most famous global brand won’t be suffering with their own post-title problems when we meet, allowing Pompey to turn 2009-10 into a lot more than a Titanic-style set of accounts.
The eight musicians on history’s most famous liner played their hearts out during the tragedy of April 14 1912, even accepting requests like Alexander’s Ragtime Band and In the Shadows as the waves crashed in.
Both songs could not be more appropriate to our rapidly sinking club (think Alex Gaydamak, and the place you end up after falling out of the Premiership) but, win or lose, I can’t help feeling that our second FA Cup Final in as many years might still provide glorious inspiration for one of the greatest re-flotations in both financial and football history.
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