When Peter Crouch joined Portsmouth in 2008, he thought it was a "fantastic" team destined to build on their FA Cup success. Little did the striker envisage that his arrival from Liverpool would add to the mounting debts that have ruined that vision. Portsmouth's relegation from the Premier League was confirmed yesterday as West Ham beat Sunderland 1-0 at Upton Park. The nine-point penalty incurred for going into administration had left them without much hope of survival.
Crouch left Pompey last summer to join Tottenham Hotspur and he faces his former employers today with a place in the FA Cup final up for grabs. The England striker admits today's semi-final meeting will leave him torn as he cannot help wondering how his old club got themselves in such "a horrible situation". "When I sign for a club I don't go through the books, I just assumed it was being run properly," said Crouch at a press conference on Tuesday. "They were buying a lot of players and I just assumed there must have been backing there.
"I joined just after they won the FA Cup and the team was already in place. "I remember watching them play away from home and absolutely batter teams. I remember thinking if we could have kept that team together, there's loads we could have achieved." Crouch lasted a year and joined Harry Redknapp, the manager who had left for Spurs and also taken Jermain Defoe and Niko Kranjcar from Fratton Park.
David James, the Portsmouth goalkeeper, claimed their cup triumph was the catalyst for their problems, and Redknapp has defended himself on buying players at that time, unaware of the crisis. But Crouch said: "If you asked a Portsmouth fan, 'Would you rather have won the FA Cup and had that experience, or be just above the relegation zone and not had that experience?' "It's a difficult one, but I think they might say they've seen their club win the FA Cup and there are not many clubs that can say that. The team was probably the best they've seen.
"I'm really sad for the plight they're in at the moment. They'll get out of it, I'm sure, and they'll be back again." Crouch will not allow sentiment to affect him at Wembley. He often looks at his FA Cup winner's medal from Liverpool's success in 2006 with pride. "It's probably the best moment of my career," he said. "When I was a kid, I didn't dream of winning the Champions League, I didn't dream of winning the league, it was always [lifting] the FA Cup. To do that was great and I'd love it again."
@Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Tottenham v Portsmouth, 7pm, Aljazeera Sport +3 and +5