Oh, what to do if you are the F.A.?
You’re looking straight down the barrel of a .45, with a bullet labeled “HMRC” in the chamber, and the pinkie it is pointed at (Pompey) ready to be shot to oblivion. What do you do?
First, you pray that the HMRC decide to give Portsmouth a month to get their 213th owners in place (…okay, 5th, but, seriously, how many do you need to get through a season?) and settle some tax debts. Second, you beg and plead to the HMRC to let them stay afloat for a while longer. Third, you begin to really contemplate what to do now that the side is now no longer apart of your organization.
Losing Portsmouth (whom, by the by, will be joined by Championship side Cardiff City and League One outfit Southend United in court tomorrow on similar charges) would create a cataclysmic effect on the entire table of the Premier League. For starters, how would you handle the situation with points? Surely Pompey wouldn’t lose every game between now and the end of the term (they’d come damn close, though) so giving all teams three points for those matches would not be fair to teams who have already played them twice. Conversely, removing them completely and negating all points and goals would radically alter the table at both ends. Liverpool would suddenly find themselves in third place, owing to the fact that they lost to Pompey while all the teams around them beat the south coast side. Certainly Arsenal, Villa, City, and Spurs would raise hell about that.
It would have a far greater effect, though, on the bottom of the table. West Ham would sink straight to the bottom with Wolves darting out of the relegation zone. Here’s a look at the table if Pompey results were pulled:
1. Chelsea (55)
2. Manchester United (50)
3. Liverpool (44) +1
4. Arsenal (43) -1
5. Tottenham Hotspur (40) +1
6. Manchester City (38, 12 GD) -1
7. Aston Villa (38, 11 GD)
8. Birmingham City (33)
9. Fulham (31)
10. Everton (29)
11. Stoke City (27)
12. Blackburn Rovers (25)
13. Sunderland (24, -10 GD)
14. Wigan Athletic (24, -19 GD)
15. Burnley (23, -23 GD) +1
16. Hull City (23, -25 GD) -1
17. Wolverhampton Wanderers (21) +2
18. Bolton Wanderers (19) -1
19. West Ham (17) -1
You can imagine that would cause some serious consternation around both ends of the table. And Lord knows the lawsuits from any team that gets relegated by a point if they beat Pompey earlier this year. It has catastrophe written all over it.
All that said, I think HMRC ought to level Portsmouth. Not because it will make the rest of the Premier League big boys think twice about their current financial plights, but because, in all fairness, they need to get hammered.
You can’t let this kind of business keep going on, otherwise it sets a precedent that, no matter how badly you screw up, no matter how many people you owe debts to and no matter how many times fail to properly take care of your staff and players, that you can get away with it if you beg and plead that your club is “more than just a football club.” This lunacy has gone on far too long and if HMRC has the bollocks to do it, they need to put Pompey to the sword.
Of course, this is all subject to what the court decides to do. Administration would kill off what hopes the side has of staying in the top flight and, depending on how the “potential investors” see that, may watch them go down a further peg or two, if they even survive.
With this looming court battle superseding the Wednesday football action, it will certainly be the proper kickoff to a midweek fiesta of action…at least, so they say. But first, to get there, we must remember whence we came.
While some people sat through the borefest that was Fulham v Pompey (who, shockingly, were paid late again…only four straight months now, no worries about management here) the excitement at Elland Road was off the charts as Leeds and Spurs battled out for the right to go stomp on Owen Coyle’s charges. Spurs took an early lead before Leeds remembered that the goal on the opposite end of the pitch was, in fact, for them to shoot at. A late 1st half leveler put the tie back on its knife-edge before Jermaine Defoe finally swatted the League One gnats away with his second and third goals, finally killing off the bane of Old Trafford.
The weekend opened up with a bloodletting at Anfield, where the anti-football of Liverpool is somehow winning them more matches than the football they played before then. When one of the commentators (or studio people, I don’t remember which) claimed Carragher’s opening challenge on Pienaar to be “fair,” with Atkinson doing nothing to disprove that theory, sending offs were to be expected. The Reds and Blues traded absolutely savage tackles all throughout the first half, capped by the dual insanity movement of Fellaini and Kyrgiakos. Both should have been sent off, though only the Greek was sent on his way, though the Belgian would also not take any further part. That, however, would be Everton’s undoing.
Mikel Arteta, no offense meant to the man, actually killed Everton dead. With all movements moving though him, Liverpool were allowed to shell up, stifling every Everton attack in the second half without really any problem. Meanwhile, Dirk Kuyt won the contest on a terrible header that was defended even worse. Anti-football won again, something that has to make the team they are playing today all the more nervous.
The next two hours saw Bolton and Fulham get away with theft (of the fan’s money), Pompey ship three goals to United by themselves, Burnley remember what it’s like to win a contest, Sunderland struggling to remember what a win feels like, Stoke out physical Blackburn, and City deciding to not play Hull, and come away shocked that they would lose to the Tigers.
After that, anti-football returned as Villa decided that trying to play Tottenham would do them no good, but getting a point would. Since they don’t have anyone named Kuyt to score a terrible goal, they left with a draw and Spurs seething in their wake.
No one looked at the Birmingham v Wolverhampton match with much luster, considering the later match had far more star power, potential, relevance and scandalous characters. In fact, neither did Birmingham as they went down early to Wolves and it took an injury and an old man off the bench to get the two goals back to win. Of course, after a short break, the real contest of note erupted.
Arsenal needed a win to stay in the title picture. Chelsea needed a win to retake the lead over United. The contest only needed about 25 minutes to be completed, as Chelsea hit Arsenal at their weakest: defending set pieces and defending the fast break. Drogba nabbed both while the defense yawned, waiting for the Arsenal onslaught that, well, never came. The lack of a physical presence (not to mention an out and out forward) is hurting Arsenal badly in the big contests. Go figure, of course, that they have Liverpool today.
City decided to not play Bolton this time, only they actually won the contest. Pompey needed six minutes added on in the end (not to mention two sending offs compared to their one) in order to draw Sunderland, who by now are surely blaming the beach ball as it has upset the football gods greatly. Wigan and Stoke played out a draw while Fulham got a reprieve in the form of Burnley at Craven Cottage. Actually, Burnley anywhere but Turf Moor is a welcome sight on anyone’s schedule.
This brings us to today. Wednesday has a potential blockbuster in Everton v Chelsea, two potential anti-football clinics in Arsenal v Liverpool and Villa v United, one probable Spurs heart attack at Wolves, another venomless Gianfranco Zola rant at home with Birmingham, and Blackburn v Hull just because they have to play, according to the schedule.
Then, of course, there is the horror that is…an empty Premier League weekend. (Okay, sort of empty)
The F.A. Cup fifth round takes the stage at the weekend, pitting Chelsea against the victims (administration candidates) Cardiff City, Southampton v Portsmouth (maybe), Derby County and Birmingham, Reading and WBA and City against Stoke to close the Saturday proceedings. Sunday features Bolton frustrating the ever-loving hell out of Tottenham, Fulham against Notts County and Administration Palace with Villa.
Of course, all this leads up to the return of some bigger tournaments, some well known guy against his well known former side (maybe two or three, who knows?) and more Tommy Smith.
God bless us, one and all, that Derek Rae gets to do most of the talking.
Tags: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Hull City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Portsmouth, Premier League, Soccer, Stoke City, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers