“Portsmouth’s chimes sound ominously like a funeral march” – Tony Cascarino

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “In my first year I was disappointed in myself. I need to say that. It was a big pressure for me and maybe I failed myself. I think I wanted to prove myself to these supporters. You must remember, they are used to Best, Charlton, Cantona. I am just Dimitar. I got a number of assists, but I must score more goals… I don’t know what I am doing wrong sometimes. Maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s me… who knows? At nights I have stayed awake thinking, ‘You could have done this instead’… I am more pleased with my overall game in this second season already. I feel that I have integrated myself better into the team. I am much stronger, much fitter. But I still wish I could score more.” – Dimitar Berbatov.

Runner-up: “Me and my family are from Samoa, I’ve got a lot of family there that got caught in the tsunami, and it’s just sad. It [the celebration] was a little bit of a tribute, there are a lot of people going through a hard time at the moment, not just in Samoa but in Asia [Indonesia was also hit by an earthquake this week]. I go every year to Samoa and it’s hard to take, family and other people where I’m from there suffering like that. I just felt in my heart it was the right thing to do.” – Tim Cahill.

Today’s overview: The woes of Portsmouth are reported and analysed this morning as the south-coast club lurch from crisis on the pitch to despair off it.

A number of papers reveal who has paid the wages of Portsmouth’s players. Matt Lawton and Simon Cass in the Daily Mail: “Sulaiman Al Fahim’s ownership of Portsmouth has been cast into further doubt after it emerged a rival consortium has paid the players’ wages. Sportsmail understands Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie has ridden to the rescue by using his relationship with Ali al-Faraj to broker a deal which will see the Saudi property magnate pump £5million into the beleaguered south-coast club. Storrie’s bid to gain control of the club with the backing of al-Faraj was gazumped at the 11th hour when former owner Alexandre Gaydamak plumped for Al Fahim. He has since promised to inject £50m into Portsmouth but if that money is not forthcoming soon, the club could face a similar wages shortfall at the end of this month. The Premier League are monitoring the situation.”

Sam Wallace in The Independent also reveals the extent of the crisis at Portsmouth. “The Premier League is preparing to make Portsmouth the first club taken under control of the league’s executive body after the club’s chief executive, Peter Storrie, admitted yesterday that there was “no money left”. A secret transfer embargo was implemented on the club during the summer by the Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Scudamore, as they struggled to stay afloat while selling off their biggest names. The club’s failure to pay players and staff on time this month has put the league on standby if the situation deteriorates.”

Matt Lawton interviews Paul Hart to try and shed some light on events on the south-coast. Hart: “The players were brilliant, very calm, very professional, the way they have been all along. It’s tough losing seven games on the spin. It hurts. But the lads are working hard. Last week we lost again but they got a standing ovation from the crowd for the way they performed against Everton. That says everything… I think they [the fans] understand how difficult it has been, in all my years in football I’ve never known anything like it. In the Premier League it’s unprecedented and I just find myself putting one fire out only to find another one has started somewhere else.”

Tony Cascarino analyses the situation at Fratton Park and is fearful for Portsmouth’s future. “Portsmouth’s chimes sound ominously like a funeral march. The intimidating atmosphere created by the fans at Fratton Park has been replaced by uncertainty, fear, doubt, mistrust and paralysis, and, before long, we could have a situation that eclipses the meltdown at Leeds United several years ago. Forget the perception that their players are highly paid and can afford to forgo a month’s salary. It’s not the case at Portsmouth. Mortgages and other commitments need to be paid and when your pay cheque doesn’t appear, it leads to an anxiety in the dressing room that could spill over on to the pitch. Players are as in the dark as everyone else. Some will have lost money on investments in the past year and might also be getting it in the ear from their wife that they can’t buy the latest handbag.”

Steven Howard is also all doom and gloom about Pompey in The Sun. “Back in 1996, then Southampton boss Graeme Souness received a phone call from someone claiming to be Liberia’s world player of the year George Weah. He sang the praises of his cousin Ali Dia and his pedigree as a star performer for Paris St Germain and Senegal. In fact, it was Dia’s agent. He appeared in one game against Leeds, coming on as a 32nd-minute sub – and being replaced 21 minutes later after a suitably ‘dire’ display. He came in for treatment the next day and then disappeared. Many Pompey fans will be hoping Al Fahim does the same.”

Following a couple of poor performances from Chelsea, Matt Hughes tries to analyse the difference between Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti. “To the most pessimistic Chelsea fans, the past few days must have felt like déjà vu. Just as 12 months ago, a magnificent start to the season under new management has been halted by an unexpected defeat, with the subsequent performance doing little to erase fears that a seasonal slump is under way. Chelsea’s home defeat by Liverpool last October was the point at which everything started to go wrong for Luiz Felipe Scolari, so as Rafael Benítez’s side prepare to travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday, it is legitimate to ask whether history is repeating itself. Recent results have followed a similar pattern, though there are sufficient differences to believe that last season’s dramatic decline can be avoided.”

Mark Fleming in The Independent details how things are going for Scolari in Uzbekistan. “Failure is proving to be a lucrative business for Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Brazilian is facing the sack – and a huge compensation package – for the second time in the space of nine months. The former Chelsea manager picked up a £7.5m pay-off from Roman Abramovich in February, and then walked in to an even better-paid job at his current club Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan, where he is the highest paid manager in the world on a staggering £12m a year. But the man known as Big Phil has failed to deliver success in the Asian Champions League, after Bunyodkor were humbled 4-1 in extra time to the South Korean side Pohang Steelers and were eliminated at the quarter-final stage. To make matters worse for Scolari, his team had been 3-1 up from the first leg, and in the second leg on Wednesday his team had gone in at halftime with the score at 0-0.”

Henry Winter is one of the few columnists to write of the decision to give Emmanuel Adebayor a suspended two-game ban for his celebration in the win over Arsenal. “So whose emotion do you want most in football? A multi-millionaire itinerant footballer crowing in the face of erstwhile employers who nurtured him, paid him handsomely and cherished him until he was tempted away by riches elsewhere, or fans momentarily allowing their passions to run away with them in defending their club? Thursday’s decision by the Football Association not to punish Emmanuel Adebayor for inciting Arsenal supporters at Eastlands on Sept 12 is devoid of logic, defies police evidence and makes a mockery of its chief executive’s stance.”

Harry Pearson praises the “goal-crazy Premier League.” “The early indications this season are that we may be returning to the days of primary school wonder. In the 1972–73 First Division season teams hit five goals or more nine times in 462 matches. The biggest tally was the six Leeds put past Arsenal. So far this season teams in the Premier League have got halfway to double figures or beyond six times in 66 matches. Top-flight football may be entering its second childhood. This is all very exciting, if a little bit rich for older stomachs. However, you can’t help wondering whether it indicates value for money in the defensive areas. After all, back in the 50s, if you wanted a centre-back you got some big bald bloke with no teeth to do the job in return for a dry place to sleep and some clean straw. Nowadays you have to pay £100,000 a week for the same shoddy service.”

The FA will target “hostile” fans, according to the main story in The Times this morning. Oliver Kay: “Ian Watmore, the FA chief executive, has called for a crackdown on “hostile and abusive” chanting as the campaign against disorder in football grounds is extended to supporters as well as to players such as Emmanuel Adebayor. The Manchester City forward was fined £25,000 at an FA regulatory hearing yesterday into his goal celebration against Arsenal last month, but a two-match ban was suspended until December 2010. Having served three matches for violent conduct over a separate incident during the game, he is free to return for the match away to Aston Villa on Monday.” In a supplementary article Oliver Kay reports how Ian Watmore, the new FA Chief Executive, has criticised irresponsible club owners. 

The standout article of the day, as ever on a Friday, comes from Simon Barnes in The Times who asks “Can football last with money as its goal?” “As football shows the rest of sport how to make the transition from sport to the entertainment business, we simply don’t know if this process will destroy those things that sport alone possesses. That is to say, the loyalty that lasts beyond disillusionment. Can football carry on if it erodes the idea that sport is part of one’s own story? Already many of the things that sport possesses are disappearing from football: loyalty, sense of identification, moral centre. Without these things football is nothing more than a business.”

There is of course some transfer rubbish. The Sun report that Manchester United and Real Madrid are interested in Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic, although he is set to sign a new deal with The Viola. And Gary Cahill will not be leaving Bolton in January, if Gary Megson has a say.

Finally, The Guardian have Small Talk with Luther Blissett. “Why didn’t things work out for you at Milan? I look back at it as a great learning thing for me. I went from a club [Watford] that had finished second to Liverpool, where we won most of the games we played so to go to Milan was difficult: they were a big club with a big name, great stadium and great support, but we didn’t have the players to back it up. [Franco] Baresi was the only world-class player we had, everyone else was just making up the numbers. If you don’t have the players, it doesn’t matter what the club is called, you won’t achieve much.”