Why Birch can’t allow another Winston Bogarde situation

Winston Bogarde
Winston Bogarde
Brandon Haunstrup. Picture: Joe Pepler

Gaffer: Bad feeling as Pompey head to Fleetwood

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Winston Bogarde was football’s trailblazer, the original high-profile instance of a player content to see out his contract on lucrative wages.

In four years at Chelsea, the Dutch international made just 12 appearances – earning a basic £8m in wages for the privilege.

As Stamford Bridge chief executive at the time, it was a battle Trevor Birch could not win.

Now serving as Pompey’s administrator, he faces the arduous task of persuading Tal Ben Haim to rip up the final 12 months of his £2m-a-year deal, rather than following Bogarde’s controversial lead.

Simply put, failure to reach a compromise deal with the Israeli defender could well result in Pompey’s liquidation.

Both Portpin and the Trust are watching with interest in the uncomfortable knowledge both will be forced to scrap their ownership bids unless the Blues’ current £9.5m wage bill is slashed.

Topping the earners list is, of course, Ben Haim with the reported £36,000-a-week four-year contract he signed in August 2009.

The former Bolton player may be entitled to see out his deal, yet the existence of the club he has made 57 appearances for remains under threat as a direct result.

For Birch, there are distinct similarities with the Bogarde situation he inherited after arriving at Chelsea almost two years later.

The defender arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2000 from Barcelona having previously represented AC Milan and Ajax.

He swiftly fell out of favour with a succession of managers, subsequently spurning a number of opportunities to be paid off in favour of seeing out his money-spinning contract.

Bogarde didn’t make a single appearance in the final 20 months of his stay, his deal coming to a natural conclusion in July 2004.

The Dutchman never played professional football again. You could argue financially he didn’t need to.

And for Birch it’s a highly-publicised saga he witnessed as first hand.

He said: ‘Bogarde was at Chelsea already when I arrived.

‘I can’t take any credit for that one!

‘He was on a four-year deal earning £2m for each year.

‘He played 12 times and famously sat out the entire four years.

‘As chief executive I tried to negotiate with him and wasn’t successful in doing that.

‘His attitude was “The club have made a contract with me so basically they should pay”.

‘There are so many times you can try to strike a deal with somebody like that. Intransigent is intransigent.

‘Bogarde was towards the end of his career in any event so took the view “I will stay then”.

‘He wasn’t budging so was made to train with the youth team.

‘It is not unusual.

‘I am sure there are others out there.

‘Each club has an example of a player they want to remove off their payroll but just sits in there because they might not be able to move or get anywhere else.

‘At the end of the day it’s a short career, that might be the final contract that they have.

‘With Bogarde, though, it is slightly different here in that Chelsea was in reasonable shape – whereas we are lying on a stretcher and need some help.

‘Hopefully at an appropriate stage the players will step up to the plate.’

Kanu and now Aaron Mokoena are others who have incurred Birch’s frustration of late with their compromise demands.

Kanu has not played since October and wants the full amount of his remaining 12 months – £300,000 – to quit Fratton Park early.

As for Mokoena, he already has a new club in South Africa lined up.

Yet his representatives are demanding more than £600,000 for him to walk out with a year left.

In the meantime, for the sake of Pompey’s future, Birch continues to plug away.

He added: ‘We all would like to think they would act honourably.

‘It’s difficult, though, it’s not black and white.

‘With Tal you have to try to do the deal at some stage.

‘A deal was offered to him, which has been refused so at the moment it is stalemate.

‘At some stage it will have to be “well this is the deal boys, you have to accept this or it’s liquidation”.

‘So much depends on those players and compromise agreements being reached.’