On the road: Pompey's chimes in tune, but the clock is ticking
They banged the drum for Portsmouth for 90 minutes at London Road on Saturday.
That bloke with the bell was there as well. You could hear him. 'Play Up Pompey' was sung with gusto by the 1,276 fans who paid 18 to squeeze through Peterborough's cranking blue turnstiles and warm themselves on the tiny terrace with Portsmouth's first win in these parts since 1968.
'Is There A Fire Drill' they sang to dispirited home fans leaving their 3-0 defeat early. It was a Pompey party atmosphere on the terraces, but then, it goes without saying that Portsmouth do not win 3-0 away from home every week.
Three and easy: Portsmouth romped to away-day glory over Peterborough
There was even a chirpy ditty about Harry Redknapp. That took you back. In a week when Portsmouth were given their latest winding-up order due to 1.8million owed to the taxman, the chant was a reminder, on an FA Cup weekend, of where Portsmouth were less than four years ago – and who Portsmouth were less than four years ago.
They finished eighth in the Premier League; they won the FA Cup 1-0 against Cardiff at Wembley. Visits to London Road were part of the past, so it was thought. Now liquidation looks as serious a possibility as administration.
David James, Glen Johnson, Sol Campbell, Sylvain Distin, Hermann Hreidarsson – that was the big, experienced and wage-heavy back five at Wembley.
John Utaka, Pedro Mendes, Lassana Diarra, Niko Kranjcar and Sulley Muntari – that still reads like a gifted midfield.
Former glories: Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 2008 after beating Cardiff in the final
And scorer Kanu was up front. No wonder they won the Cup – that team might do OK in the Premier League today.
Hreidarsson left for Coventry City earlier this month, but Kanu, who joined Arsenal in 1999 and Pompey in 2006, remains at Fratton Park. He is 35 and injured, but he is a link to that team, the only one.
Link to the old school: Pompey veteran Kanu
Michael Appleton, the manager who replaced Steve Cotterill in November, may need Kanu soon. One of the obvious ways to raise the 1.8m owed to HMRC is to sell players and there were covetous managers at London Road on Saturday witnessing Portsmouth's impressive display.
The transfer window closes at 11pm tomorrow night and there are offers for at least three Pompey players on the table from other Championship clubs.
A difficulty for buyers may be getting quick and clear responses. Sacha Gaydamak was allegedly the owner of Portsmouth when they won the Cup, though some said it was his father, the controversial Alexandre.
Hong Kong businessman Balram Chainrai became the fourth owner in a year when he took over in 2010 and he technically owns Ports-mouth FC. But there is a parent company,
Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI), headed by Vladimir Antonov. CSI has gone into administration, but the club haven't – yet.
Administrators, however, are on the premises so to speak – as, apparently, is football agent Phil Smith. Got all that
The HMRC deadline for their 1.8m payment – money that well-run clubs budget for – is February 20.
There is a scenario that sees Portsmouth failing to meet that deadline, being placed in administration and docked 10 points by the Football League.
A cynic could consider that more, not less, likely after the 3-0 win at Peterborough. Had Pompey lost, a 10-point deduction would leave them bottom of the Championship.
After the victory, losing 10 points could leave them fourth bottom on goal difference and in with a fighter's chance of avoiding relegation. Winning points has made losing them more palatable.
This is where Portsmouth have got to in 2012. In the circumstances the supporters' loyalty is all the more admirable.
There is hope and a plan that the next ownership of the club will involve them in some role. It is a situation we have become all too familiar with, clubs run recklessly, then reliant on fans for a bail-out.
The relationship between them and Appleton and the players was visible at London Road. Amid the bewildering detail of the financial chaos sucking at the very existence of the club, that was something for the travelling fans to cling to on the long dance home to Fratton on Saturday night.
Gary gunning for Spurs
Gary Smith started his job at Stevenage by making history on his first day. It's all downhill from here. Smith is an interesting appointment to succeed serial texter Graham Westley, who departed for Preston.
In charge: New Stevenage boss Gary Smith
An Arsenal schoolboy, Smith was a player at Wycombe under Martin O'Neill in the 90s. He was managing the Colorado Rapids before Stevenage.
Smith had gone to Colorado for
Arsenal to set up an academy – Arsenal and the Rapids are partners due
to Gunners' shareholder Stan Kroenke owning the Rapids.
quickly progressed to manager and they won the MLS in 2010, against the
odds. Smith, 42, had another Wycombe figure, Steve Guppy, alongside him
in America and they were both at Broadhall Way on Saturday to see
Stevenage reach the FA Cup fifth round for the first time in their
history by beating Notts County.
The reward is tantalising – a home game against Tottenham, the team Gary's father Roger played for!