Peter Storrie: Forgotten man has his day in the sun
The other member of the Pompey Three has finally been declared innocent despite being acquitted last year – and the strain was hard to bear
It is an enduring moment of any high-profile trial in which the defendant is acquitted: standing outside the court in front of a bank of cameras and microphones surrounded by friends, relatives and well-wishers to express relief, gratitude and whatever other emotions flood the mind.
Last Wednesday Harry Redknapp and Milan Mandaric were able to enjoy their moment in the sun after the dark days and they made the most of it. Peter Storrie, the other member of the Pompey Three, never had the opportunity despite also having been found innocent in a football-related case stemming from his time at Portsmouth.
When he and Mandaric were found not guilty last November after barely two hours of jury deliberations in a case that had hung over them for four years, the judge ruled that there could be no publicity, even of the verdict, in case it should in any way prejudice the separate case against his former club chairman and manager. That information could only be made public once last week's proceedings were finished.
If Storrie, even as a lesser known figure, might reasonably have expected a headline or two at that point telling the world he was innocent, events elsewhere – at Wembley Stadium to be precise – conspired against him in the form of Fabio Capello's dramatic resignation.
"I came back from a trip abroad and caught up with the papers and there's one paragraph on the end of the reports," he said. "And you think of all the bad publicity you got in the early days, compared to that. Of course I wouldn't have wanted to harm Harry and Milan's case in any way whatever but it was very, very frustrating in two ways. Firstly, having had all this hanging over you for four years; secondly, not being able to stand on the steps at Southwark Crown Court and talk about being found innocent."
The headlines had been huge enough when the Portsmouth trio plus the agent Willie McKay and Amdy Faye, whose transfer from Auxerre to Portsmouth he had brokered in 2003, were arrested. Storrie was alleged to have disguised a payment to the player as one to his agent, to avoid tax and national insurance.
All this can be traced back to the 15-month investigation led by Lord Stevens, known as the Quest Inquiry. "The police inquiry started about March 2007 and we [Portsmouth] had helped them all the way through that," said Storrie. "So when the raid happened it was a real, real shock. What was the purpose of it other than a massive publicity exercise? There was no need for it whatsoever."
Having been arrested at dawn, he was held for more than 24 hours, almost half of it in a cell. "It was on a so-called conspiracy to defraud and it involved a lot of people. It went on and on for the best part of two years, when I was told I was going to be charged on the case of Amdy Faye alone and suddenly it was cheating the public revenue. I stood outside Westminster Magistrates Court after being charged and said then, 'this is going to be the biggest waste of public money you're ever going to see'."
There was more. Early in 2010 came a joint charge with Mandaric concerning a severance payment that had been made to Eyal Berkovic. "You do start to get a bit worried and think, is there some hidden agenda here? Then Harry and Milan got charged on the Monaco situation."
Mandaric and Storrie appeared in court last May but after seven weeks the judge fell ill, forcing the jury to be dismissed and the case to be reconvened last September. "The jury took just over two hours," Storrie recalled. "Like us they had decided it was a nonsense case. We got full costs but of course the thing you don't ever get back is your reputation. Google my name and you see 'tax evasion'. You see people looking at you and thinking, 'he's the bloke in that trial'.
"Then there's your family. My parents are in their eighties. My wife needed a hip replacement but couldn't get it done while all that was going on. And I couldn't get employment. It's a wonderful moment when you hear that verdict. But then in our case the judge ordered that there couldn't be any publicity. So the world doesn't know. Poor old Milan has had to go through two trials and spent something like 15 months in court, which is pretty horrendous, considering all he's done for British football and the amount he's invested in his various clubs."
Redknapp spoke to him every day of Storrie's trial and in the past fortnight he returned the favour. They worked closely together at West Ham and then Portsmouth, "having an occasional row" with Storrie often caught in the middle between a manager who, like most of the breed, always wanted just one more player and a chairman or owner who was going to have to finance it. At ramshackle Fratton Park, the sums eventually did not add up and the price of attempting to fashion a top six club on gates of 20,000 has been heavy: after becoming the first Premier League club to go into administration, they may do so again this week.
Storrie left just after the first administration two years ago, and with the court case behind him he is now able to seek new employment, either here or abroad. He would be delighted to see his friend Redknapp in a new job too and believes him, as do so many others, to be the man for England.
"He's the best choice by a long, long way and I think he'd do a terrific job. His record shows you how good he is with players, of all ages, and he will build a team that plays football, that's his style. They'll be exciting to watch. I go to England games and frankly sometimes it's bloody boring. I think he'll miss the day-to-day involvement with players, that's a decision he's got to think about. But Harry's a proud Englishman and I can't think he would turn it down."
One thing the Football Association will need, he confirms, is a secretary to cope with the new man's technophobia. Storrie recalls a computer that sat in its box for months on end and a football trip abroad when he himself had to type a late-night text to the long-suffering Sandra Redknapp, whose husband had forgotten their wedding anniversary. An immediate reply came back, confirming that she knew exactly who had sent it.
View from the Orient: Hearn demands details of all transfer payments
Barry Hearn is calling for all football transfer payments to be made public. Hearn, owner of Leyton Orient, says: "My solution would be for English football to follow the American model. In a boxing match in Vegas you have to declare the gross receipts and in America all details of transfer payments are disclosed. Not just the total transfer fee but how much was paid to an agent or anyone else including a manager. If you have it in the public domain you would stop people gossiping and speculating about who got what."
But Rick Parry, the first chief executive of the Premier League who went on to run Liverpool, said: "I don't see why transfer payments should be in the public domain. It is confidential commercial information. I would not want to disclose the smart deals I had made on transfers, deals that gave me a competitive edge over other clubs."
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