Football supporters are hopeless romantics. I’m not suggesting for a second that you all return home from a hard days hunting and gathering with freshly cut flowers under your arms for the trouble – that would be asking too much. No, I use the term ‘romantic’ to describe your undying love for a lost cause; your football club. For, like a beautiful but flighty date, they promise so much and yet often deliver so little. And still we love them…suckers huh?
And nowhere is this hopeless romanticism more apparent than in our love of the FA Cup . We know that neither Millwall nor Portsmouth is ever going to take the Premier League title race to the final day of the season, but in a one-off game, over ninety or a hundred and twenty minutes, to quote Gabriel – dreams can come true.
Sunday’s semi is a veritable David and Goliath clash, containing more sub-plots than an episode of ‘The Wire’. Harry gets the rap for Pompey’s ruinous financial straits (having already abandoned them once for their South Coast nemesis) and then has the temerity to poach the pick of the coaching staff, leaving behind a slightly deranged ex-Gooner to steady the sinking vessel (to use a seafaring analogy, since it’s Pompey).
Not content with removing an entire level of management, we then begin a calculated period of asset-stripping that Rupert Murdoch would be proud of. Defoe, Crouch, Kranjcar and Kaboul all follow the ‘big boss’ to the north side of London. In the meantime, Portsmouth bleeds money faster than a drug soldier that’s taken one in the head with a Glock semi-automatic. To add insult to the numerous injuries Pompey have, the league dock them nine points, guaranteeing relegation. Forget ‘The Wire’; this is Shakespearian in the scale and manner of its tragedy. Or maybe ‘Four Gaffers and a Brothel’ is a more suitable epitaph for the Portsmouth season?
It’s against this backdrop that we take on a Portsmouth side with little to play for except wounded pride. Add several Tottenham rejects into the mix and the stage is set fair for an upset of epic proportions.
If we were taking on say, Chelsea, with their nouveau riche vulgarities, the wider footballing fraternity (outside of N1) would have cheered us to the rafters. The fact we are up against ‘poor old Pompey’ means we are on our own with this one. You only have to read the message boards to gauge the way fans are thinking; the cup of kindness isn’t exactly overflowing as far as Spurs are concerned. This is an FA Cup semi-final as scripted by Frank Capra; Bedford Falls versus Pottersville.
Of course, the British public loves an underdog; we just don’t get that American thang of admiring people for working hard and achieving their goals – especially if they aren’t decked out in sack cloth and ashes. So no matter how much of Portsmouth’s current malaise is down to piss poor management, well you’ve just gotta love ‘em, haven’t you? Well, no, not really.
Personally, I’m a bit fed up with the ‘poor little me’ pose of both Pompey fans and players. It didn’t take a financial wizard like George Soros to calculate that the squad amassed under Redknapp was unsustainable on paltry gates of 18,000. The story of Portsmouth is a microcosm of the Las Vegas style gambling mentality which gripped global markets in the noughties. Turning a blind eye to your financial problems is one thing, gouging your peepers out is quite another.
Was winning the FA Cup really worth several years toiling in the lower reaches of the football league for, because I can’t see an instant yo-yo effect taking place on the South Coast – rather the opposite, with a real possibility of Pompey dropping even further down the pecking order. Maybe a day in the sun this Sunday will make all the heartache and folly of the past few years seem worth it. Somehow I doubt it.
As far as Spurs are concerned though, whether we thrash an injury-ravaged, financially ruined club heading south, or are the victims of a cup shock on a par with the 3-2 defeat by Coventry, we really can’t win either way…