Wrong people have been punished, claims Grant

Portsmouth manager says players and fans suffered but blame lies elsewhere
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The Independent Football

Avram Grant reflected on a "sad day for football" after confirmation of Portsmouth's nine-point deduction for going into administration all but relegated the club from the Premier League – and he revealed he would meet the players today before deciding how best to tackle the remainder of the season.

The administrator, Andrew Andronikou, has confirmed that Portsmouth would not appeal against the ruling, formally imposed after HM Revenue and Customs dropped their challenge to the club going into administration.

The deduction virtually guarantees that Pompey – FA Cup winners in 2008 – will be playing in the Championship next season as they now have just 10 points, 14 behind second-from-bottom Hull who they face at Fratton Park on Saturday.

By then Grant will have gauged the mood in the squad, which still has an FA Cup semi-final against Fulham or Tottenham at Wembley on 11 April to look forward to, but which may lack motivation for what are now essentially meaningless matches.

Indeed, Grant refused to rule out fielding weakened sides should he feel the players are not fully focused, perhaps contemplating their own futures away from the club next season.

"Even though the writing was on the wall a long time ago and I tried to tell everybody we would do our best, for me, this is a sad day," Grant said. "It is also sad for the Premier League that this has happened for the first time in its history to what is the best league in the world.

"A football decision has not been decided on the pitch, it has been decided in an office somewhere, and that is wrong. What is Portsmouth? The people now, or before? That is the question. What they have done with this decision is not punish the people who did something wrong, so now the people who come along next time will think 'OK, I can go away to my house and they will punish the fans and everybody who came after'.

"This is not good. Do you think this decision will be a warning to the next ones who want to do something wrong? I do not think so."

Grant intends to give players, such as England goalkeeper David James, the chance to air their views after tomorrow's training session. "I cannot tell you anything about the future. I will talk with the players about it tomorrow and then we will make a decision, and go from there," said Grant. "It is not easy, because we still believed that even with all the difficulties we could fight against relegation, because Portsmouth did that a few years ago. Now, we need to think about everything."

Grant added: "Football needs to be decided on the pitch. You need to give all of the teams an equal chance, which we did not have in this case. The decision was taken a long time ago that Portsmouth would not stay in the Premier League, for one reason or another. Do the people who have now been punished deserve it? The fans do not, they did nothing wrong. They players have always tried to do their best for the team in difficult circumstances."

Pompey could do the other sides in the relegation dogfight a huge favour by beating the struggling Tigers, who this week replaced manager Phil Brown with Iain Dowie.

Grant, though, insisted: "We do not have a duty to the other teams – the Premier League has a duty to the other teams. We have a duty for Portsmouth. We tried everything in the last month to keep what I think the spirit of football is about. I do not see any reason why we should not do that even when we do not have a target.

"If we had given up before, people would not have thought that was good for the Premier League. We need to hear what the players think about what we need to do from now on."

Israeli coach Grant, 54, admits he is unchartered territory. The former Chelsea manager added: "For me, it is a new situation. It is the first time in the history of the Premier League this has happened, so I cannot use other people's experience – I cannot make a call to [Sir] Alex [Ferguson] or Arsène [Wenger] and say 'what did you do in this situation?' Nobody knows how to deal with it."