POMPEY fans have been left ‘shocked and ‘disgusted’ by accusations that former defender Sam Sodje took a five-figure bung to be sent off while playing for the club.
Sodje has been arrested after a national newspaper claimed he told a reporter he had accepted a £70,000 cash bribe from a betting cartel to get sent off during Pompey’s away fixture with Oldham on February 23 this year.
The Nigerian, who was a Blues defender during the later stages of last season, has been arrested over the allegations and was yesterday in police custody.
Sodje also claimed he would charge £30,000 for players at other clubs to get booked, and £50,000 to be sent off.
Fan Bill Gillon, from Fareham, who runs the Pompey Online fans’ forum, said: ‘I am absolutely disgusted.
‘Just as the club is starting to get on its uppers again, and we’re trying to build a good reputation in football, we’re getting dragged through the mud by something else.
‘This is not the club’s fault, but it just adds to what’s gone on before over the past few years.
‘A lot of people are just tired of it. We just want something to be optimistic about.
‘The fans’ takeover earlier in the year was great, and we were all looking forward to a good start to the season.
‘A lot of fans wanted him (Sodje) to come back to Pompey this season. Thank God that didn’t happen.’
Fan Mike Tuttiett, from Portchester, has supported Pompey for the past 35 years, since he was in his teens.
But, on hearing the allegations, he said: ‘My love for football has been dwindling over the last few years.
‘This just makes my heart sink more.’
The allegations relate to the two times Sodje thumped Oldham Athletic’s Jose Baxter below the waist, which resulted in him being immediately sent off by the referee.
At the time of the match, Pompey were struggling in League One, cash-strapped and still making headlines for an ownership tussle in the courts.
The Sun on Sunday has released a film which, it says, shows Sodje owning up to accepting the bribe, and saying that even with a £10,000 fine handed to him by the Football Association for his dismissal, the 34-year-old still made £60,000 profit.
In the film, Sodje is shown saying: ‘I had to do it because the referee wasn’t booking me.
‘Someone kicked, tackled someone and I went, “Ah, this is the chance” and I just ran in there. The guy didn’t say nothing — I just started punching him. Everyone happy.’
But, almost more shockingly, the film appears to show him offering his services to an undercover reporter, posing as a member of a betting syndicate, to get players in the Premiership and Champshionship to get themselves a yellow or red card.
The revelations have shocked those who played alongside Sodje when he pulled on the star and crescent.
Former Pompey midfielder Liam Walker told The News: ‘I can remember Sam saying “sorry lads” in the dressing room afterwards, just like you would if you had been sent off.
‘Hearing about this is a real shock, you don’t expect it at all.’
And ex-Pompey keeper Simon Eastwood said: ‘Obviously I’m shocked at what has come out about Sam.
‘I remember after the Oldham game he was really apologetic and told us he had let us down.
‘That was the end of it, no-one thought much of it – until now.’
The anger and frustration on Pompey’s message boards, on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and even in the pews at yesterday’s Christingle at St Mary’s Church in Fratton, showed how much of an impact the revelations have had.
The Pompey Supporters’ Trust (PST) fans group, which is the majority shareholder in the club, echoed the sentiment that these revelations are once again dragging the club’s name through the mud.
John Kimbell, PST spokesman, said: ‘I think, knowing what was going on at the club at the time, it was even more galling that a player claims he could take £70,000 from anyone to benefit himself – and doing it while on official club business, so to speak, is unforgiveable.
‘This is against the spirit of everything the trust stands for.
‘Given that people were losing their jobs at the time, and money was tighter than it every has been, it’s disappointing that any player would do that.
‘We all thought those dark days were behind us.’
Other fans have also added their anger.
James McCarvey, 21, from Fratton, said on Twitter: ‘I’d like to see him come back to Pompey. I think he knows what kind of welcome he’d get.’
Julian Bransbury, 48, from Leigh Park, added: ‘I don’t think you’d be able to print what I really think about it.
‘It’s disgusting and it shows everything that’s wrong about football these days.’