Claridge: Pompey must cast high-earners aside

Swindon Town's Matt Ritchie celebrates his goal against Barnet to make it 2-0 during the Npower Football League Two match at the County Ground, Swindon.
Swindon Town's Matt Ritchie celebrates his goal against Barnet to make it 2-0 during the Npower Football League Two match at the County Ground, Swindon.
Jamal Lowe. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Steve Claridge urged Pompey to learn their lessons and insisted: You don’t have to pay players £1m a year to succeed.

The former Blues player and boss, who now works as a television pundit, has been a frustrated spectator as his boyhood club battle for survival on and off the pitch.

And having seen Pompey enter administration and suffer relegation in 2010, Claridge cannot believe the same mistakes have been made again, just two years on.

Now the striker, currently plying his trade with Gosport Borough in Southern League division one south & west, wants to see the Blues embrace a new blueprint for the future – casting high-earners aside.

Claridge said: ‘If Pompey drop down to League One, as is looking increasingly likely, hopefully they’ll stabilise and start again with a mixture of home-grown players and people on lower wages.

‘Then when they get back up into the Championship maybe, just maybe, they will learn and do things a different way.

‘You can’t blitz your way out of the division.

‘You’ve got to put some foundations in place and build from there. Fortunately, I think Michael Appleton gets the situation and understands what the club have to do to progress.’

The Gosport-born 46-year-old cites another Gosport lad Matt Ritchie – who left Fratton Park for Swindon last year – as the type of player Pompey should be looking to keep and build their squad around in the future.

Ritchie looks on track for promotion with the Robins and was named League Two player of the year this season.

Fellow Fratton trainee Marlon Pack is another to impress in the division with Cheltenham.

Claridge said: ‘I think Ritchie’s got a pretty big future and I’m a little bit surprised he’s not still at Portsmouth.

‘There were one or two young players who left around the same time as him and I thought it might have been worth keeping him and a couple of others for a year or two.

‘They weren’t on a lot of money but there was certainly the potential there.

‘Pompey could have loaned them out for a year and then had another look but that’s Pompey’s loss.

‘It wasn’t the route that Steve Cotterill wanted to go down at that time.

‘He wanted to go for higher wage-earners and more experienced players.

‘I’ve seen Matt play a couple of times for Swindon and they absolutely love him there.

‘Leaving Pompey hasn’t done him any harm.

‘He’s gone and played first-team football and has obviously thrived in that situation.’

And regardless of which division Pompey start the 2012-13 season in, Claridge wants to see the club’s high-earners banished for good.

He added: ‘We can’t keep taking risks on players on £20,000-£25,000 a week who might not perform.

‘We’ve brought in players on those wages and we were bottom-eight before the points deduction, so they weren’t exactly pulling up trees before all this kicked off.

‘If you’re top of the league and paying that sort of money, fair enough.

‘If you’re bottom eight and paying it then sorry, the policy isn’t working.

‘We need to learn that you do not have to pay people £1m a year to be successful in the Championship.

‘Why did the club come out of administration and start signing players on that sort of money?

‘We should have gone the other way and signed players on £3,000-£4,000 a week.

‘Whatever the circumstances, for a club like Pompey to be paying that sort of money just doesn’t make sense.

‘I hope they can still stay up and we’ll all keep our fingers-crossed but ultimately I’d settle to still have a football club going into next season – everything else we can deal with.’