Ben Haim and Birch in war of words over fight for Pompey’s survival

Tal Ben Haim claims he has offered to waive �1.5m owed to him
Tal Ben Haim claims he has offered to waive �1.5m owed to him
Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder will relish facing former club

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Tal Ben Haim and Trevor Birch have become involved in an exchange of words as the fight to save Pompey enters its final stages.

The Blues defender remains the major stumbling block in the administrator’s attempts to secure the club’s future and has so far failed to reach an agreement on a compromise deal over his outstanding contract.

That could see Pompey liquidated by this Friday if no agreement can be reached, although the Israeli believes the two parties are now just £300,000 apart in striking a deal. But Ben Haim, who has recently been advised by former Pompey administrator Andrew Andronikou, cranked up the heat when he released a statement today to heap blame on Birch for his handling of the negotiations.

And that has led the 30-year-old, who is believed to be on £35,000 a week with one year left on his deal, to suggest the administrator will have ‘blood on his hands’ if Pompey go out of business.

Ben Haim said: ‘Most of the negotiations were done through the media.

‘When they (the administrators) actually sat and talked to us through the manager, the majority of the players moved quickly to do what was best for the club and themselves.

‘I have offered to waive a further £1.5m of my current contract. They now tell me this is not good enough.

‘The fact is that we are only about £300,000 apart in negotiations. If they want to liquidate the club for that money while they still charge their huge fees then all I can say that the blood is very much on their hands.’

Birch has hit back at the club’s highest wage earner. And, while he did not comment on Ben Haim’s claim over his offer to waive £1.5m, he stressed the defender should not be entitled to special treatment when several other players have already left the club and turned their back on vast amounts of money.

Birch countered: ‘It’s disappointing that Tal Ben Haim has chosen to make a personal attack but perhaps understandable when you consider his advisors in this matter.

‘I realise too that he hasn’t been willing to negotiate a compromise on a number of occasions in the past – including when the club was last in administration.

‘I understand why nobody wants to lose money – whether they are players or the club’s other creditors. Tal Ben Haim is not alone here.’

The likes of Greg Halford, David Norris, Erik Huseklepp and Dave Kitson have sacrificed money owed to them by leaving Pompey in recent weeks. And Birch also pointed to the local businesses and non-football creditors who have effectively written off the debts to try to keep Pompey afloat.

He said: ‘Many of his (Ben Haim’s) former team-mates were in the same situation, yet made big sacrifices and showed the club is more important than any individual.

‘Many non-football creditors, some small local businesses, have also told me that they’d be willing to take a personal financial hit in order to keep the club going.

‘And then there’s the pain felt by the club’s employees who lost their jobs or took pay cuts earlier in the year.

‘If we all keep that in mind over the next couple of days then there is hope that the club may survive.’