First published in The Pink on Saturday February 20 2010

HAVING gone through the process of administration last Summer, Saints fans would be excused for thinking they had suffered more than most.

However, what we went through back then doesn’t hold a candle to what Portsmouth fans are facing up to.

It’s taken a long time for Pompey fans to realise what has been going on at their club, but the penny is starting to drop.

At a fans’ forum broadcast on BBC Radio Five Live, many were still doing their best ostrich impressions.

Anyone they could think of was to blame – the Premier League, the media, Shergar – you name them, they blamed them.

Then stepped forward one lone voice of reason. A man derided by many Saints fans over the years for his Fratton Park days, but who has since made a name for himself as an informed, impartial and honest pundit.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Steve Claridge.

He spelt it out in black and white and in the harshest terms possible – no one is to blame but the club itself.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves.

Now, while I know full well that Saints were at risk of folding last year, I never really bought into the possibility of it happening - blind faith, if you will.

At Fratton Park, I can’t see how it can be avoided.

Now the Premier League has rejected their bid to sell players outside the transfer window, their only hope is a takeover along the lines of Markus Liebherr or Roman Abramovich – someone with deep pockets who is willing to pump a load of cash in no questions asked.

Sadly for Portsmouth, such a billionaire will also need to have an IQ of about seven.

There is nothing for anyone at Fratton Park.

The club no longer own the ground, they don’t own any land around it, they don’t own a training ground, they are £70m in debt, can’t pay wages, and can’t sell the few assets they have.

I wish these were just the ramblings of a bitter Saints fan after last weekend’s FA Cup match, but I don’t begrudge them that win in the slightest. They needed a glimmer of happiness far more than we do at the moment.

In the cold, sober light of day, I can not see any way back for them. Even administration, as painful as it was for us, seems like something of a pipe dream for them now.

In court, the HMRC claimed Pompey are insolvent and the registrar agreed.

Normally, that would be more than enough for any business to fold there and then.

Christine Derrett gave the club a lifeline and the best they have come up with so far was to ask to be allowed to break the rules – virtually admitting their own insolvency in my opinion.

The latest talk is of businessmen from South Africa and New Zealand coming in and ‘buying’ the club. If that happens, the blues will have their fifth owner of the season. They don’t have that many league victories this season – an incredible statistic.

The thing is, having new owners is tantamount to rearranging the Titanic’s deckchairs if they can’t tackle the debt.

It might mean a different name at Companies House, but the club will still be in debt, still have a winding up order and still be seemingly insolvent.

As to why things have happened as they have done at Portsmouth, we can only speculate.

Cock-up or conspiracy? Whatever it is, it’s shocking that it was ever allowed to go on unchecked.

It must not be forgotten that the £18m they owe the taxman – only £12m of that debt is being demanded as part of the winding up order – is not money being demanded by some offshore accountant who wants his cash back. Oh no, it’s money that all of us pay. It’s the sort of money that pays for the NHS, motorways and the armed forces. It is our money.

Pompey have taken the Leeds fiasco and multiplied it tenfold.

Football had no sympathy for them, so why should it for Portsmouth?

Just ask the fans of Kings Lynn, Luton or Bournemouth what they think should happen to Pompey.

They have exposed massive flaws with the laissez-faire attitude to football finance in this country. The game is at the whim of the markets, bankers and shady businessmen.

I can only hope that lessons are learnt from this sorry saga. While my dreams of a financial model based on German football or the NFL in the USA may be far fetched, at least they make things like this much more unlikely to happen.

As for Portsmouth, I genuinely feel sorry for Pompey fans. We know more than most what they are going through.

But at the same time they enjoyed the FA Cup win in 2008 – a trophy they won with players they couldn’t afford.

They weren’t complaining about media conspiracies or blaming the Premier League back then.

If you dance with the Devil, you wait for the song to stop. It seems the final chorus has just begun.

Rickie Lambert hits 28

SOUTHAMPTON’S goal machine, Rickie Lambert turned 28 this week.

Like all Saints fans, I’d like to wish him a happy birthday and many happy returns.

We all learnt from Agustin Delgado the folly of not wishing strikers well on their special day, so I hope that for the love of God, someone bought our favourite scouser a card.