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TOUR DIARY DAY 12: The fickle nature of football
IT’S funny how football has its swings and roundabouts.
Yesterday, only a matter of hours after I’d finished typing up a story reacting to the news that Town’s major investors were prepared to sink another £2million into the club and that they are actively looking for new money from elsewhere, a press release from the Football League landed in my inbox revealing that Portsmouth would start the League One season with a 10-point deduction if indeed they do start the season at all.
Immediately you can see how fortune and fame can be so fickle.
This is the same Portsmouth that reached two FA Cup finals in two years, played host to AC Milan in the UEFA Cup and spent seven terms in the Premier League over the course of the past decade.
But now it’s highly likely they’ll be confined to the basement division in England come May next year.
For everyone involved in the sport, Pompey’s fate is like a giant, flashing warning sign highlighting what irresponsible, reckless spending can do to a football club. For their fans it is a devastating reality.
Town have had their near-death experiences too, and thankfully grasped hold of life just when the lights were about to go out. As a fanbase, we’ve been subjected to just about every emotion possible.
Now it appears Swindon and Portsmouth are like ships passing in the night, one powering upstream at a rate of knots, the other drifting dangerously in the opposite direction.
When Swindon were fighting to get out of League Two in 2007 under Paul Sturrock, Pompey ended the campaign in the top 10 of the top flight.
Now the Robins are staring down at a multi-million pound investment, the prospect of a redeveloped stadium to be proud of and an on-field objective of Championship football.
It all looks rosy and, with a board led by Jeremy Wray and a squad marshalled by Paolo Di Canio, the club seems to be in safe hands for the short to medium term.
But what must be ensured is long-term sustainability, insurance that the club will always be there, will always be competitive and will not be abused irresponsibly.
I’d hate to sound unduly critical on a day when supporters should be allowed to bask in all the positive news that has flowed from the County Ground in recent weeks, and I hope I’m not out of place with what I write.
As a fan, the past 12 months have been something truly special and the outlook is indeed bright, nay positively luminescent. But in football, as in most walks of life, there must always be boundaries.
A redeveloped ground would most certainly attract new visitors to SN1, and the cooperation of the council in what has always been an awkward topic will be massive for town and club in the near future.
A hefty financial backing will enable the squad to grow in quality and, for those Swindon fans lucky enough to have been following the team before the turn of the millennium, a return of Championship to the County Ground would be a dream come true. But it must all be done to scale.
I am certain those in charge at this moment in time have the ongoing good health of the club at heart, and that my concerns are either naïve or paranoid.
But I see Pompey fans, friends of mine, suffering – and it’s just not worth it. Town have been on life support before. Football clubs aren’t like cats, they don’t get nine lives.
Let’s revel in what Wray, Di Canio and all those responsible for the club’s continued prosperity have done for Swindon Town over the course of the past four years.
Let’s thank them for their public statement of intent, their evident desire to allow the team to flourish and the people of Swindon to benefit as a result, their financial commitment to the cause.
But let’s ask them to bear in mind what else happened on the day they announced their plans for the future. Let’s ask them to think of poor old Portsmouth.