From Russia with love - and hopefully plenty of money

Russian tycoon Vladimir Antonov
Russian tycoon Vladimir Antonov
Mo Farrah after missing out on a gold medal
				 Picture: Adam Davy

VERITY LUSH: Leave me to browse the make-up counter in peace

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My younger brother has never quite forgiven me for choosing to meet Rob Lloyd.

Meanwhile, Knutsford Services will forever be tainted by Tom Lever.

As sure as Marley’s Ghost appears every Christmas, I’m haunted by the above spectres whenever the issue of prospective Pompey owners springs up.

Too many times there has been a knock at the door. Too many times it has been opened to find no-one of substance there.

It makes the pain worse if you have actually come face-to-face with such wannabes.

But fear not, new potential saviours have this week entered fans’ consciousness.

Russian banker Roman Dubov and his business partner Vladimir Antonov have been linked with taking over at Fratton Park.

Nothing against them but it is already sending shivers down my spine.

Let’s face it, we all know the football club is up for sale.

In fact, the lack of interest made public in recent times has been a disappointment, if anything.

The presence of Balram Chainrai and Levi Kushnir – the duo who have made no secret of the fact they want to sell – is clearly not beneficial to the club’s long-term future.

Only somebody who actually wants to be reigning at Fratton Park will be enough to put Pompey back on track and unite the divided support.

They need someone, anyone, to grasp it from Chainrai and Kushnir and allow them to skip merrily away into the distance.

A clean break all round is best, as the pair are sure to agree.

Now, after a deafening silence since the men who famously ‘ticked all the boxes’ of Andrew Andronikou reclaimed the club back on October 23, there are rumblings.

Not from Paul Duffen, either, a supposed candidate who emerged during the infamous black weekend when fans were told Sacha Gaydamak’s quibbling had taken the club to the verge of liquidation.

Within hours of that statement, the Chainrai and Kushnir era kicked off again – and Duffen has maintained a low profile ever since.

So here we are, with the Russians emerging to apparently show a genuine interest in displacing the current Fratton incumbents.

What’s more, it’s a rumour rubber-stamped by David Lampitt himself to add a welcome air of authenticity.

Well, to be precise, it is actually Dubov and Antonov’s company, Convers Sports Initiatives, involved in this new interest.

Meanwhile, the company’s third co-owner, Chris Akers, is a former chief executive of Leeds United.

They sound entirely plausible. They may be the real deal. There is definitely nothing to suggest anything to the contrary.

But it has forced the reopening of plenty of old wounds. Oh yes, the memories have come flooding back.

It was on Mother’s Day last year when the Allen clan converged upon Portsmouth to mark the occasion.

Except later, son number one had to duck out within an hour of their grand entrance to interview a certain Mr Lloyd.

Not that my glowering brother understood – and to this day fails to be persuaded any different, even if my mother naturally forgave.

Still, the millionaire held court at the Hilton in Farlington, with a select few present, including several members of SOS Pompey.

Mind you, Sky had also been given a tip-off somehow, as did Radio Solent, to swell the assembled ranks.

As it turned out, Lloyd was charming, honest and entirely plausible during his address to the room, even affording time afterwards to mingle.

Yet, for all his good intentions, there was very little substance to his presentation, nothing firm or concrete.

As it would turn out, that was the story of his interest.

Lloyd made no secret of the fact there was still some way to go before his mooted takeover would come to fruition.

But, we were told, it was time to come out and tell the fans of his hopes for the future.

For the next few months, Lloyd was a spotter’s dream. At Wembley. At Anfield. At Fratton Park. At Spurs. At Chelsea. At Wembley again.

The only problem was, once the season ended, his pursuit of Pompey ownership fizzled out.

As it turned out, Lloyd left his main backer behind, opting to capture the football club all by himself.

And he hasn’t been heard of since.

Then there was Lever, a character introduced to myself and colleague Jordan Cross on August 21.

Pompey had just suffered defeat at Preston when the offer came for an impromptu meeting on the way home.

Namely, Knutsford Services on the M6 – a midway point between his home and the polo match he had spent the afternoon attending.

Lever’s father, David, even splashed out on an apple juice for myself from Costa Coffee, before settling down with his son and family friend Ed Rawlinson.

Clearly genuine football fans, it was an excellent first impression, even if Tom Lever spent most of the time distracted by a Spurs match playing in the background.

They talked of plans, they talked of aspirations, they talked about mistaking Chainrai’s business card for a beer mat upon their first meeting with the then-owner elect at Heathrow airport.

Of course, with credit check and bank statements not at hand, their precise credibility was never going to be established at such a moment.

In the end, the very issue of wealth proved to be their downfall.

There were always doubts over how a 21-year-old with a father who went bankrupt earlier in the year would afford such a venture.

It got to the point when Tom Lever was fuming nobody would treat him seriously. He also complained of the relevance of his father’s financial situation.

Then developed a war of words, with Andronikou frequently pouring scorn over their interest, while Lever Jnr snapped back at every opportunity.

The simple truth of the matter is the finances were not there to progress.

And we didn’t hear from Lever again.

So here we are, faced with more parties interested in buying Pompey.

Patience is something Blues fans have had become accustomed to when awaiting a new saviour.

It hasn’t happened yet but, then again, without hope we have nothing.

And without money, no-one should ever be allowed near this club again.