Comment: A grand apology but damage irreparable

Lomana Lualua

On this day: Lualua - I want Pompey stay

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Sam Sodje stood in front of his team-mates in the Boundary Park dressing room and vowed it would never happen again.

Too late for apologies – the damage is irreparable.

And the fear is his alleged actions on February 23, 2013, may be part of match-fixing on a far greater scale elsewhere in football.

Yesterday it emerged Sodje had been filmed describing how he had punched an Oldham opponent in that match to get a red card in exchange for £70,000.

Admittedly, those of us present on that bitterly cold day were left bemused at the details of 50th minute sending off which few glimpsed.

Over the space of 24 hours, video footage would reveal he had twice punched Jose Baxter in the nether regions to warrant his punishment.

Almost 10 months later it appears the light has been shed on the incident a little more. Pompey were already a goal down at that stage following a mistake from Simon Eastwood when attempting to deal with a Baxter shot from distance.

Heading into the fixture, they had gone 21 matches without a win and were adrift at the foot of League One.

Then came the Sodje incident to banish any hopes of scrambling something from the Oldham encounter.

Afterwards Guy Whittingham conceded he never saw the fateful moment involving the former Nigerian international, although had been informed by the linesman of a ‘punch’.

A three-match ban would follow, but it wouldn’t be until April before he returned to the side.

The campaign finished with the wholehearted Sodje alongside Gabor Gyepes in the side, making nine appearances in total.

He was popular with fans, though, unquestionably, and turned in a magnificent gutsy performance in a goalless draw at Hartlepool two matches before Oldham.

Yet there were concerns over a long-standing knee problem which restricted Sodje’s training participation to just a few days a week.

That was the overriding factor when weighing up whether to bring him back to Fratton Park for the current campaign, coupled with his 34 years of age.

Despite initial talks this summer with Sodje, Sonny Bradley and Joe Devera were instead recruited as interest was never followed up.

There have been times this season when fans have queried whether that was the right decision considering the porous Pompey defence.

Now the question is what damage has Sodje wreaked on football?