Iain McInnes: During fight to save Portsmouth my house was broken into and I received sinister phone calls - but I’m a Paulsgrove lad, you can’t intimidate me
Iain McInnes represents a formidable character, exuding bonhomie and possessing an infectious nature, yet one borne with a steely disposition perhaps underestimated by those crossing his path in either business or football.
His forthright approach created conflict with other groups vying to seize ownership of a distressed Pompey during the 2012-13 campaign, with the club entrenched in administration and spiralling towards relegation to League Two.
In the 2020 book Pompey: The Island City With A Football Club For A Heart, the now Gosport Borough owner revealed how he came to be on the receiving end of sinister scare tactics.
However, McInnes is not one to submit to intimidation, nor is the Paulsgrove lad prepared to back down in a confrontation.
‘Whereas all my Warsash neighbours have gates and floodlights, I don’t believe in it. Why do I want a gate to shut people out of my house? I quite like to welcome them,’ he told Pompey: The Island City With A Football Club For A Heart.
‘Anyhow, in the early throes of trying to take over Pompey, when we were beginning to get some traction, I returned home one afternoon and discovered all the front windows - upstairs and downstairs - were open.
‘Well, that was really bizarre, as it wasn’t a particularly warm day, while my wife, Jane, wasn’t there and doesn’t like fresh air anyway. Approaching the front door, I discovered it was actually on the latch and open.
‘The previous week there were a couple of phone calls with a mystery voice saying “We know your daughter’s at Loughborough University and we know what nightclubs she goes to”, before hanging up.
‘I was told the administrator Trevor Birch experienced similar things, albeit not quite so clandestine, sometimes with people confronting him at his office or following him along the road.
‘Well, it’s not fun, is it? I called the police after the window incident. They asked what had been taken. Nothing. What harm had been done? Did anybody threaten you? Did you see any of them? It was a very professional job by our unwelcome house guests.
‘At that point, Jane was concerned that our family’s life was at risk. I’m not sure it was, but she moved to Port Solent for a while and I ended up going there to be with her. It wasn’t just us she rightly feared for, but our three children who, despite no longer living at home, would visit and stay at weekends, often with a number of friends.
‘There were all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff going on with the outdoor swimming pool as well. My gardener found debris in there – rocks, stones and a few condoms – and asked if the children had hosted a party. There hadn’t been any parties, of course.
‘I wasn’t really intimidated. Perhaps you should take it seriously, but I didn’t. I suppose I was obsessed with making sure everything was going through with the Pompey deal. I ignored all that stuff; I couldn’t let anything get in the way of saving our club.’
McInnes was at the forefront of supporter attempts to wrestle Pompey out of administration and claim control.
He had initially declined an approach from the Pompey Supporters’ Trust to join their fight, walking away unimpressed following a particularly fractious meeting designed to win his support.
However, he was persuaded to return to the table by Mark Trapani, a fellow future Pompey board member, and he emerged as one of the figureheads in the battle against Portpin to seize control.
McInnes added: ‘I never met Balram Chainrai face to face, but spoke to him a number of times over the phone.
‘The first occasion was not a good experience because he came on ranting and raving, I couldn’t understand him really.
‘I replied: “I don’t know where you’ve got my telephone number from, but I’m not talking to anybody who speaks to me like that,” and put the phone down.
‘That marked his card for me, as clearly this was somebody who was a bully. It was almost a pathetic attempt to try to invoke some kind of fear in me from day one, which didn’t work, of course.
‘I was quite relaxed about it, that’s one of the great things being a Paulsgrove lad. You respect all but fear nobody.’
Pompey: The Island City With A Football Club For A Heart is available from Waterstone’s, Pompey’s club shop and Amazon.
Alternatively, contact [email protected] for copies autographed by those in the books.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
You can support our local team of expert Pompey writers by subscribing here for all the latest news from Fratton Park for 14p a day.