The Andy Cole Column: Don't blame the players for accepting Pompey's 'Champions League wages'

Fired Up!

Portsmouth were given a seven-day stay of execution yesterday at the High Court from being put into administration, or worse, but their financial problems are not new; they have roots dating back to at least 2006. As somebody who signed for Pompey that year I can give you an insight, and, I hope, explain how the players saw – and see – the situation.

Portsmouth's worries are simple to explain: they have spent more than they've earned for too long. That's it. It isn't rocket science. And let's not beat around the bush over what they've spent the money on. A huge part of any football club's outlay is players' wages, and Pompey are no different and probably "worse" in this respect.

It is no secret in the game that Portsmouth have given lucrative contracts over the past few years, contracts that you would not expect from a club of their size. I am talking about contracts worth £40,000 to £60,000 per week, as standard, four summers ago, and for all I know those figures have gone up since. "Champions League pay levels" is how one of their directors described it recently.

I was there for one season, and part of that away on loan. Things didn't work out as I would have liked, which was disappointing. I'd even bought a house in the area and moved my family down. But the fans were fantastic and I don't regret giving it a try.

It was not money that lured me. It was late in my career when I signed from Manchester City. I was heading for my 35th birthday and was attracted to Pompey because they offered me the potential of an extra year playing that wasn't on the table at City. I got no more money at Portsmouth than I could have earned by staying in Manchester.

That's not to say that Portsmouth did not pay top dollar to attract players, but it is absolutely vital to stress the context at this stage. Portsmouth had recently been taken over by Alexandre Gaydamak. He was seen as a wealthy football lover with huge ambition and resources to fund that ambition. He put his money where his mouth was. Nobody stopped him buying the club. Nobody prevented him hiring top talent – and nor should they.

He had means and he attracted quality players to Fratton Park by selling the dream of taking the club to the next level. Look at the calibre of players who moved there in 2006 alone: Sol Campbell, Kanu, David James. Sulley Ali Muntari (now good enough for Internazionale) came the next summer, with Glen Johnson from Chelsea later, and Lassana Diarra, Jermain Defoe, and on it goes. And the reward for this ambition was an eighth-placed finish in the best, richest league in the world in 2007-08, plus FA Cup glory in 2008.

Good players cost good money, and in a market place where clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are your rivals for signatures, aspiring to compete with them costs a lot.

Did we, as players, look at our contracts and think "Hold on, Portsmouth play in front of 20,000 people per week, the business plan is unsustainable"? Of course not. And why should we? There was an owner – a rich, football-loving owner with plans for a new stadium, an expanded fan base, Premier League stability and maybe even Europe – and he demonstrated the will and means to fund that.

In hindsight, the spending from 2006 seems to have been a significant factor in Portsmouth's troubles, but put yourself in any individual player's shoes and ask yourself, honestly, what you would have done, not through greed but because there is an opportunity in front of you?

If you're a brickie, a good brickie, earning £400 a week, say, and someone offers you £800 a week to join a new ambitious project that has no obvious flaws: what do you do? You move. The mess since Gaydamak sold up is extremely complex: four owners and counting this season is extraordinary. But to blame players for being paid a lot is way too simplistic; so too asking them to take sudden massive cuts. That is not to say they wouldn't. To save the club I'm sure all options remain open to everyone.

But it's owners who decide how much they spend. Nobody forces them to pay big money. Nobody.

The fee for Andy Cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. He works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at law firm Thomas Eggar.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Fair trade: the idea of honesty boxes relies on people paying their way
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary