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.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
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

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone