The thought had crossed my mind last week, in fairness.
As you started to trawl through the car crash that is Portsmouth FC.
Today’s reading in The Guardian offered little by way of comfort for fearful Pompey fans; the idea that FIFA might sanction out-of-window player transfers for one hard-up club looks far-fetched in the extreme.
That is one genie they won’t want to let out of the bottle; the Premier League, of course, might be more than happy to oblige if it got Portsmouth through their next date at the High Court unscathed.
Their line, of course, will be that they were only acting in the best interests of the Pompey fans.
The fact that if Portsmouth disappear for good awkward questions might be asked as to what, exactly, the point of the Premier League’s ‘fit and proper’ persons test is when it comes to a club’s ownership is – of course – wholly irrelevant.
That particular chestnut hasn’t even crossed their mind. At all.
But anyway, cue tonight’s story in the Evening News; that the Canaries might be popping up on the radar of potential investors Stateside.
It’s a good tale. And, in fairness to all concerned, the same point is made by all concerned.
Find yourself a Lerner and you’re laughing; find yourself a Hicks and, well, you might end up in the same boat as a Liverpool – with The Kop going one way, the absentee owners the other.
But the other point goes back to Portsmouth’s wretched plight.
Because, for me, there but the grace of God and the taxman goes any number of provincial, English football clubs – Norwich firmly among them.
If we forget, for now, the complexities of Norwich’s share-ownership and securitisation position – and what triggers what as and when a change in ownership occurs – there has always been a certain sense that all will be well with the world; that suddenly the numbers will all make sense.
Football’s sums will add up.
Here’s a thought; knock it around. Wishful thinking – of course.
But let’s suppose that events one away-day at Selhurst Park had gone differently; that the Canaries had actually managed to cling onto that 3-1 lead – and with it their Premiership status.
Fanciful, I know.
And let’s take a flight of fancy further… and suggest that Norwich were still in the top flight of English football now. A la Portsmouth.
OK, would they now be £23 million in debt?
Portsmouth are, what, £60 mill in debt; £11 mill of which is owed to HM Revenue. Me and you, effectively.
And bear in mind that this is the same Portsmouth that haven’t rebuilt their ground; if memory serves, the old wooden main stand is still in place; Pompey’s new home remains sat on some architect’s drawing board.
Chances are – as our new American pal Joe Kosich noted – to hope to compete at that level would have needed at least another tier to be slammed on top of the City Stand. And pronto.
As great and as amazing as 25,000 sell-outs are, it ain’t enough; hence the ‘build, build, build..’ mentality you see at The Valley, at Portman Road, at St Mary’s, etc, etc…
“We like the support they receive most of all,” said Mr Kosich. “When you can fill up a ground to that extent it really says something.
“Eventually the size of the ground needs to be addressed because that would be the leading driver in increasing revenue…”
Now, unless you have someone willing to pay for that extra seating capacity themselves – and there is little or no sign that the Hicks’ are going to fund a new Anfield – then that money has to come via loans – or I guess, player sales.
The Dean Ashton Memorial Tier. At which point you’re robbing playing Peter to pay a seated Paul.
The alternative, of course, is to pile everything into the players and the dressing room; not lash out on bricks and mortar until you were a firm fixture in the top half of the table.
When you were a Charlton with two seventh-placed finishes behind you; or a Newcastle United. Someone who was never, ever going to go down. Too big.
For me, it doesn’t matter which path you tread – the numbers don’t stack. Players wages are that grotesque, that bloated – and the agents that surround them, that enmeshed and controlling – that for clubs of Norwich’s ilk, playing in the Premiership is like a game of Russian roulette.
Somewhere in the gun lies your doom; and with every passing season in the top flight and with every passing ‘click’ as that chamber turns, so you know the odds on you copping a bullet shorten.
That somewhere, there’s a bullet with your name on it.
Those that have got it ‘right’, you can number on the fingers of one hand.
Arsenal. And that’s down to the genius of Wenger. West Bromwich Albion. But your lot is to be up one year, down the next.
Well, Villa. In Lerner. And O’Neill.
Marry another Randy Lerner to a Paul Lambert and that’s the Villa model; if ‘Uncle Joe’ Kosich delivers that then City’s medium-term prayers might be answered.
Deliver a Bill Hicks, however…