The reputation of football's playing fraternity was not enhanced yesterday when it emerged that 85 people had been shown the door by financially stricken Portsmouth while only two players had offered to take pay cuts to save the fate of the less well-off.
David James, the England international goalkeeper, is understood to have been one of the players who told the manager, Avram Grant, a week ago that he was willing to take a drop in salary, though it appears that Portsmouth, the first Premier League side to enter into administration, have not yet been able to take up that offer. Administrator Andrew Andronikou is of the view that it will be easier to sell the club on if he maintains the core of the playing staff and keeps them contented, though he hopes the Professional Footballers' Association – the players' union – will encourage players to take lower wages.
Mr Andronikou announced the redundancies – including those of the training ground manager, youth academy coaches and warehouse staff – at a press conference late yesterday afternoon.
He also revealed that the chief executive, Peter Storrie, whom many had expected to see on his way out of Fratton Park, has taken a 40 per cent wage cut and will now earn "significantly less than half a million pounds".
The biggest spectre hanging over Portsmouth remains the High Court proceedings brought by HMRC. Mr Andronikou met HMRC on Tuesday afternoon and expects to receive a letter this morning telling him whether Customs are willing to allow the club to reschedule its outstanding debt or reach a settlement figure, ahead of a High Court hearing next Monday.
That much is inconsequential for Tug Wilson, the training ground manager, who lost his job yesterday. "It's been a very bad day for a lot of people but some of those laid off need the [salary] to pay mortgages, although I'm not in that position," he said.
A staff member from the club's youth academy emerged from a meeting to be told he was being axed with immediate effect. He had offered what many players had not – to no avail. "I asked them if there was any dialogue about possibly taking a pay cut and they told me that hadn't been considered," he said. "I'm still taking it in. I hope there's a buyer found [for the club] – there might still be a chance of getting my job back. I'm absolutely gutted."
Warehouse worker Mike Crawford walked out before his scheduled meeting as he said he knew he was going to be axed. He said the staff members who were being fired were being taken into the boardroom, while those who are staying were ushered into Mr Storrie's office to renegotiate their contracts. "What they're doing is going past all common decency. I've just been kept hanging on – I had to find out about my meeting yesterday in the local paper," he said.
The club's media-relations manager left last week, dismayed by the events which have befallen the 2008 FA Cup winners. The switchboard staff evidently followed him out of the door, as calls to the club switchboard elicited an "unobtainable" dial tone last night.