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Sep 25, 2009

Pompey in turmoil as Storrie threatens to quit

ESPN Soccernet can exclusively reveal the full and shocking crisis affecting Portsmouth FC at all levels from boardroom to the manager.

• Preview: Portsmouth v Everton
• O'Leary in line to replace Hart

The Premier League's bottom-feeders need £6 million in cash within "two to three weeks" or the club will go bust. Administration is not impossible and a 10-point deduction would follow.

Chief executive Peter Storrie has threatened to quit, and while a club statement says he will be at Saturday's Premier League match with Everton, and will be focusing on the game, his future will be decided within 24 hours of the clash.

Storrie's statement tellingly focused solely on the upcoming match and did not mention his future at the club. "I am here and my focus, along with everyone at the football club, is on tomorrow's match against Everton.

"This club is not about one individual and it's imperative that everyone here concentrates our efforts on supporting Paul Hart and the team tomorrow."

But the south coast club is buzzing with speculation that this will be manager Paul Hart's final game unless he can pull off a win over Everton, with David O'Leary and Alan Curbishley the two big names in the frame to succeed him. But they are closely associated with Storrie and their recruitment might be put in jeopardy if Storrie left.

Portsmouth have been thrown into total crisis with ESPN Soccernet establishing that Storrie, the man running the club on a day-to-day basis, did threaten to quit on Friday. ESPN Soccernet has also been informed that Storrie has staved off administration by bailing out the club on late payments on transfers, that I believe involve clubs such as Tottenham and Arsenal, by using his experience and personal contacts.

Storrie's frustrations at Fratton Park date back to when he tried to mount a buy out at Portsmouth when the takeover fronted by Sulaiman al-Fahim stalled, but was then beaten to the punch. That clearly made his position under Fahim interesting to say the least.

The Everton match now seems to be taking on the defining moment in the entire season for Storrie as well as Hart, who walked out of his pre-match press conference for the Everton's visit to Fratton Park.

On top of a dismal opening to the season of a record six league games without a point, the problems surrounding Fahim refuse to go away.

Fahim cancelled a meeting scheduled with supporters' groups but has now agreed to see them on Friday night and the Portsmouth midfielder Michael Brown revealed that the players requested double training sessions to improve the club's fortunes.

This week Fahim made it clear there would be no money for new players in the January transfer window. Yet, on September 14, Fahim insisted there will be money for the Hart to spend when the January transfer window opens.

Fahim told Bloomberg 11 days ago: "Hopefully by the end of this month there's new money coming in from my personal finances. I will meet my manager, Paul Hart, on 21 November and sit down and see which kind of players he needs. By January we will have more money coming in for the players."

Fahim has outlined his intention to treat Pompey as a business. "I'm not in this just to lose money," he said. "I like competition, I like to be a winner and I want to show with this club you can make money."

Fahim, the Emirates-based businessman, made it clear this week that no funds were available for Hart to invest in the team during the January window. Now Portsmouth today issued a statement from the new owners saying there would be money for players in January!

Storrie also accused the outgoing owner Sacha Gaydamak of "the ultimate betrayal" for his decision to sell to Fahim rather than the rival consortium that he had fronted.

Storrie claimed that the wealth and good intentions of his backer, the Saudi businessman Ali al-Faraj, would have secured the "long-term financial well-being of the club". He also said that Gaydamak would rather have put the club into administration than sell to him and Faraj. Gaydamak declined to comment.

Now, Portsmouth have made the worst start in Premier League history, having scored only three goals while conceding 12 to leave them four points adrift of the teams immediately above them.

Hart's job has been virtually impossible. Uncertainty about Fahim's takeover and the club's crippling debts forced a fire sale of nearly all their better players; Glen Johnson, Peter Crouch, Sylvain Distin and Niko Kranjcar.

Hart revealed that he was expected to have a meeting with the new owner and no doubt the subject of no funds for new players would be high on the agenda - as well as the manager's own position given the intensity that surrounds his future.

Hart was asked whether he was feeling any pressure regarding the club's predicament. "No. From what?" he said. "Pressure to get a result, we want to get a result. That's what I'm looking at."

When asked whether he would last the course, he snapped: "What have I got to fear? I know what I do day in, day out. It's not me who's going to make decisions like that, so it's not something I think about every waking hour. You're asking me, I'm not an owner. I'm a manager, a coach, and that's what my job is."

Had there been any discussions with al-Fahim or the chief executive, Storrie, regarding how long he, as manager, had to turn the club round, he was asked. "No," he replied.

Would it help, then, if he was told this? "Not really, no. I don't think so. It's about what we're doing and that's fine."

When asked to comment on how many more games could be lost before he might get the sack, Hart said, "I've no idea," before walking out.

Portsmouth midfielder Michael Brown, meanwhile, admitted that the squad is so determined to turn the club around they have asked for more training. "We've all been looking to do extra sessions and to keep working. We've all been doing gym sessions, extra shape sessions," the 32-year-old said of a request that Hart was happy to grant.

"Everyone wants to do extra and work hard, if you've got a good group of players that's what you'll get. The manager's working us very hard," Brown added.

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