Richard Hughes: How David Lampitt treated me at Portsmouth made me fall out of love with football - I was scarred
Richard Hughes has revealed how he fell out of love with football following his treatment at the hands of Pompey chief executive David Lampitt.
The former midfielder endured an ignominious exit after nine Fratton Park seasons when a long-running contract wrangle forced his sidelining him for the final six months of Blues service.
Having signed a two-and-a-half year Pompey extension with a 12-month option in January 2009, Hughes’ Pompey stay hit the buffers in the 2010-2011 campaign.
In Played Up Pompey Three, he explains how appearing on 22 team sheets during that season entitled him to a new deal on the same pay.
However, he criticises Lampitt’s failure to resolve the issue – much to the cost of both club and player.
‘Before the season started, the newly-appointed Lampitt had flown back with the team from Washington in July 2010 following the pre-season tour,’ he told Played Up Pompey Three.
‘He told us he needed to speak to a few senior players after a Bournemouth friendly a few days later, which was fine, there appeared a desire to talk. We knew the club was affected by relegation the previous campaign and going through a difficult time financially.
‘However, nobody came to talk to us, there was no volunteering of anything. Michael Brown and myself continued to play games, made appearances and ticked towards our various clauses being met to earn new deals.
‘Then, on the Friday before the December 2010 trip to Norwich City, Steve Cotterill came into the dressing room and said to me “You can play one more game before your clause kicks in”.
‘I had appeared on 20 team sheets at that point and selfishly was thinking “I’m going to hit this easily, it’s only December”. The manager continued: “I can’t pick you tomorrow at Norwich, or even on the bench”.
‘That also remained the case for the following match at Fratton Park against Millwall. Then, in the final game of 2010, we faced a trip to Leeds United.
‘Michael Brown had started all but one match that season, yet had to be left out in order not to trigger his clause, resulting in a recall for myself. We drew 3-3, I scored my maiden Pompey goal, a deflection off former team-mate Andy O’Brien on my 165th appearance – and never played for the club again.
‘Cotterill was great after the game, singling me out for praise, something I had never received from him before. If you had told me it would be the last time I’d play for Pompey, I wouldn’t have believed it. My last time? Not a chance.
‘We were now 13th with a televised trip to Watford looming on New Year’s Day and Lampitt contacted my dad saying the situation needed to be discussed. That meeting never arrived.
‘My dad phoned him three days later and the chief executive’s response was “Sorry I haven’t been able to call you Kevin, I got snowed in”. Surely being snowed in is the perfect time to make phone calls?
‘This was their problem, they now had two players not featuring and a bench short every match – yet it was never really sorted.
‘The PFA advised me and Michael to keep quiet, standard advice from them, which in hindsight was a great shame. Telling the story after the event often has little impact.
‘We were still being paid, but not played, and there was a complete stand-off. If Pompey had tried to make it work, they could have done something.
‘I was prepared to reduce my wages in favour of extending my contract beyond that season. I was 100 per cent open to that, but the negotiation never took place.
‘Lampitt never tried to resolve it. He might say he did, but there was no mention of another season, instead just a derisory wage offer which represented my first Pompey contract almost nine years earlier. I never really factored that into my proper thinking.
‘I actually made the proposal for a cut weighing in at more than 50 per cent, taking me down to £10,000-£12,000 and putting me among the lower echelons of established members in the squad, well below new arrivals Liam Lawrence and Dave Kitson.
‘Lampitt’s proposal was a joke, offered just for the sake of it, and there was a lot of friction. Why did it have to come to the stage where I was left in the stands at Norwich? The PFA asked why I wasn’t being considered and either Lampitt or the club solicitor responded with they didn’t think the player was good enough.
‘So why was nobody put on the bench instead? Surely fresh air isn’t better than me? Don’t take the mickey.
‘At the beginning of the season, Lampitt should have come to us and said “Listen guys, you are two important players for the season, we need you behind us, we need to sort the situation”. I’d say we were important as we had six senior players for Cotterill’s first day of pre-season training!
‘They inherited the situation, but left it too late to be resolved. They hoped we would rip up our contracts and leave – but that clause was my trump negotiating card. As a professional, I had to use it.
‘I was hugely angry with Lampitt at the time, it was hard not to be, he should have done a lot better. The fact is they let it get to that stage – and we were made to feel guilty about the money we were on.
‘Upon the expiry of Michael’s contract, he joined Leeds in July 2011, whereas I was scarred by the whole situation, to the extent I lost my love for playing. It wouldn’t be until August 2012 before I returned to football with Bournemouth, seeking out another two seasons at Dean Court to finish my career the way I wanted.’
For player-autographed copies, with the signatures of Benjani, Richard Hughes, Sammy Igoe, Lee Bradbury, Martin Kuhl or Dave Munks, email [email protected]
MORE Played Up Pompey Three: Gary O’Neil – Liverpool were buying me from Pompey, then it collapsed in strange circumstances.
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