Kingsmeadow club will be Pompey's template
10 August ~ It's Wednesday, August 8 and AFC Wimbledon are playing Portsmouth at Kingsmeadow in the final pre-season friendly of the summer. The game could have been Portsmouth's last-ever match ahead of the August 10 deadline set by administrator Trevor Birch, when the club's fate was to be decided. Pompey's financial situation is so desperate that it shows beyond their accounts. From the empty teamsheet in the programme (manager Michael Appleton can't sign players), to the same pink away kit used in 2010's FA Cup final (the club can't afford to replace it).
Despite these constraints, Appleton has managed to string together a group of youngsters and trialists. They're a decent team, playing high tempo football with an enthusiasm that compensates for the sometimes wayward passing.
Pompey fans spend much of the first half guessing who their players are. The mood is genial and doesn't befit the status of a 114-year-old club's final match. It appears that, along with much of the football-supporting population, many are worn down by the saga; resigned to cheerful fatalism.
A vocal minority boo Tal Ben Haim, the Israeli defender refusing to forego his lost earnings and leave the club. The boos are sometimes accompanied by chants of "get out of our club". A few hours later he agrees on a severance package with Birch.
The game passes by with sunny irrelevance. Portsmouth score two goals in the first half – the second by Liam Walker is a lovely curling chipped finish. Aside from an angry exchange between Appleton and Dons manager Terry Brown over an incident in the second half, there is little doing.
In some ways, there couldn't be a more fitting fixture for Portsmouth than AFC Wimbledon. One of the shining lights of the supporters' trust movement, the Dons' transparency and fiscal conservatism are the polar opposite of Portsmouth's profligacy.
They are also a template for the fan-led Pompey Supporters' Trust's bid for their club, which is gathering both momentum and pledges. Ivor Heller, the Dons' commercial director and one of the club's founders, even invited the PST as guests for the evening. "We always try to help trusts but these guys, in particular, need quite a bit of help," Heller said before the match.
Despite Portsmouth City Council approving a £1.45 million bridge loan to the trust the following day, keeping alive its bid to create the UK's largest supporter-owned club, there is still work to do. The trust must have its offer accepted by major creditor Balram Chanrai, as well as contend with Kanu's persistent claim for £3m in lost earnings. At least Liam Lawrence has now agreed to leave. The club no longer have a senior player on their books but it means the sale is likely to go through.
Back at Kingsmeadow a group of 20 Pompey fans lead a half-hearted conga through the stand. There is no take-up. "At least if they do pull the plug on Friday we won't have to put up with this lot anymore," one supporter mutters. The final whistle blows, the sun now long set. The same aspirant conga leaders start up a chant: "This is our last match, let's get on the pitch". No one bothers, not even those chanting. Tom Young @TomYoung17