Our beautiful games rears ugly head again

Andy Awford and Alan McLoughlin. Picture: Joe Pepler
Andy Awford and Alan McLoughlin. Picture: Joe Pepler
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There are three certainties in life: Death, taxes and the business of football will always be messy.

Benjamin Franklin might have believed there were just two but the mechanics of the beautiful game have long been ugly.

And that truism has been clearly witnessed down at Fratton Park over the past week.

The rights and wrongs of Pompey hall of famer Alan McLoughlin’s departure from PO4 can be debated from now until the end of the season the club are trying to impact.

What isn’t up for question, though, is the fact the whole sorry saga could have been handled better.

And it has left a bitter taste for a proud man who has served the club so well as player and coach over a period of well over a decade.

After a period of turmoil and soul-searching, it was Andy Awford who felt he had to pull the trigger last Thursday morning and tell Macca he was no longer wanted.

But how the bullet came to be loaded and gun fashioned back at the armoury is a much greyer area.

The view has been held for sometime now at boardroom level there was more experience needed of the League Two terrain than is currently in place. Understandable.

There is a void when it comes to someone who has experience in succeeding in the bottom tiers of the English game and an intimate knowledge of the terrain.

Recent inconsistent form came to a head after the FA Cup embarrassment at Aldershot, with pressure mounting and angst growing among fans.

That was noted in the Fratton corridors of power, as was the fact a solution is rarely arrived at by hiring and firing managers every two minutes.

An experienced head was seen as the answer, with the suggestion of a place for McLoughlin elsewhere.

Now anyone who was acquainted with the former midfielder’s principles would be fully aware that’s where the problems begin.

When McLoughlin left the club’s training ground a week ago he was in no doubt he’d been ‘sacked’.

Telling the 47-year-old he’d been demoted into an Academy position would have been tantamount to doing the same. That would have meant either going into a role which didn’t exist or taking someone else’s job.

McLoughlin would sooner relive hitting the bar against Liverpool in 1992’s FA Cup semi-final than do that.

So cue the wranglings which followed with The News among those in the firing line for its narrative.

Paul Walsh’s incendiary attack as those at the club kept their own counsel undoubtedly hit home. Walsh pulled no punches but echoed a lot of the anger, in and out of the club, circulating at the time. An online 
poll at portsmouth.co.uk last night had 34 per cent of fans saying 
Macca’s departure was the right thing to do.

Timing is another factor. Perhaps any changes would have been better actioned last summer. But, then, hindsight is 20/20.

There is certainly no pleasure taken in delivering events, such as those which have unravelled at Pompey in the past week.

But, even with a heavy heart, keeping supporters abreast of events is a task which won’t be shirked.

Lives are being changed, livelihoods impacted and friendships spanning decades affected.

We also know those who are making the decisions, rightly or wrongly, are now doing do so with the club’s best interests at heart. It’s not always been the case.

The coming months will tell us is they got it right or not.

As the clamour grows to fill McLoughlin’s boots and people manoeuvre themselves into position, we now see the grubby side of the game rear its head again.

But then it’s one of football’s own irrefutable truths that this horrible trade stands still for no-one.