The current cases of Luka Modric, Robin van Persie and Andy Carroll illustrate the dramas, tedium and sheer frustrations of our top-level game. These cases are not on all fours. Van Persie, a prolific scorer for Arsenal last season even if he disappointed so surprisingly in the Dutch Euro 2012 team, has a contract which runs out next summer and, thanks to the Bosman decision (Bosman himself, the root of it all, seems to have fallen neglected, on hard times) can walk out in a year’s time free of a fee.
Modric, by contrast, still has a four-year contract with Spurs but is desperate to join Real Madrid who however seem determined not to pay Spurs’ demand for £40 million. The irony being that Spurs could have banked £40 million last season from Chelsea, though you can understand that, with the Champions League in sight, Harry Redknapp couldn’t countenance the loss of his essential playmaker.
Spurs are now legally within their rights. Modric, under long contract, is debatably holding them to ransom.
And Carroll is the prisoner of the grotesque £35 million Kenny Dalglish paid to bring him to Anfield from Newcastle, who now want him back on the cheap. Although Brendan Rodgers, who wants to impose his elaborate Swansea tactics on his new Liverpool team, appears ready to accept £20 million. A tangled web indeed.
Alas the famous Portsmouth chimes of “Play up Pompey!” now evoke memories of rival fans once used to chorus, “Poor old Pompey!”
There is alas real danger that a once proud club can simply disappear.
Wretched administration, ludicrous expense and some very dubious owners have finally brought Portsmouth to their knees. This, despite the fact that is was so recently reported that yet another in the long, prolix line of supposedly rich foreign owners had been just about to take the club over. No such luck it seems.
That in recent years corners have been cut, sailing has been all too close to the wind, is beyond denial. Now even perhaps symbolically, the player who scored that winning FA Cup final goal against Cardiff City in 2008, the lanky elusive, ever-unpredictable Kanu, is demanding his money. Though the Israeli international Ben Haim has offered to forego much of what is owed to him, provided the administrator will do the same. (He reportedly won’t.)
How strange it seems to remember that back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Pompey were such a power in the land, winning two consecutive championships, with a famous half-back line of Jimmy Scoular, Reg Flewin and Jimmy Dickinson, with the likes of the highly versatile Jack Froggatt, capped by England both at outside left and centre half. In 1949 it looked as if Pompey would become the first club of the 20th century to win the league and FA Cup double, only for an inspired Don Revie to take them apart in the Highbury semi final for the then Second Division Leicester City.
In 1939, Pompey won the FA Cup against all the odds when they thrashed the favourites Wolves 4-1 in a one-sided final. The story goes that the Portsmouth players knew they were on a good thing when the traditional pre-match autograph book was brought into their dressing room, and they saw that the Wolves players were evidently so nervous that their signatures were mere scrawls.
Manager that day was the celebrated Jack Tinn, and before the kick off there was the usual ritual of Tinn sitting down to have his spats ceremoniously tied on by the outside right, Worrall, who was due to have an explosive game. But if Rangers, for decades a far more powerful and successful club than Portsmouth, can rise from the ashes, even at the expense of humiliation and severe relegation, might we see a new Portsmouth replace the tarnished old.