Allen will never forget the darkest of Pompey days

Steve Allen, left, with Guy Whittingham and Alan McLoughlin
Steve Allen, left, with Guy Whittingham and Alan McLoughlin

Steve Allen cannot forget the day Pompey’s potential demise loomed larger than ever before.

The e-mail stated the club would be liquidated on August 10 if players did not agree to compromise agreements.

Sent by Trevor Birch a year ago this week, the physio – along with then-manager Michael Appleton and the rest of the backroom staff – was inevitably among the recipients.

What’s more, they received what amounted to a death notification for the club while on their pre-season training camp in Marbella.

Back home, Fratton Park staff had been informed in person at a hastily-arranged meeting by Birch.

Unless Tal Ben Haim, Dave Kitson, Liam Lawrence, Luke Varney, David Norris and Greg Halford agreed to settlements and ripped up their contracts, the Blues would die.

Now 12 months on there is optimism about the Blues’ future – with the club secure under new ownership and with more than 10,200 season ticket holders.

But Allen – and so many others – had the scare of their lives.

He said: ‘We were in Marbella and I remember sitting and having a conversation with the other staff after we had an e-mail from the administrator.

‘It told us that if the players didn’t accept the terms, there would be a deadline for the club to be liquidated.

‘All along we had kind of been told there was brinkmanship going on to force the players out – then all of a sudden that e-mail came along.

‘Maybe it wasn’t so much brinkmanship, there was a bit of reality setting in.

‘Then we are thinking “this is real now, we are in a bit of trouble here”.

‘We then got involved ourselves and were trying to get the existing players here to understand that.

‘In the treatment room people come and talk to you and if they trust you they will open up.

‘I always try to be honest with them and told them at the time “I’m not really sure there are games going on here, the club needs your help”.

‘To start with, a few of them answered “good one, clear off” and stuff like that but they soon realised. In the end I think they tried to do the right thing by people and the club because they went.

‘It was horrendous. Awful. All summer we were worrying about it. It was a bad time.

‘Now we have Iain McInnes, who is like a breath of fresh air, different class, and Mark Catlin is the same.

‘You realise now this club has got proper people who actually love the club and care about it.

‘I hope we can deliver for them as well as the fans.’

With Allen and Appleton’s involvement, a productive three-day period saw Varney and Norris leave for Leeds, while Halford headed to Nottingham Forest.

Kitson was the next to go (August 4), leaving Lawrence and Ben Haim remaining 24 hours before the liquidation deadline. But they left in the nick of time – and Allen believes the actions of all those players should be applauded.

He added: ‘Give those boys credit. It wasn’t their fault, they sacrificed a lot in the end and going forward we have to remember that.

‘The players got made out to be the bad guys holding on but it wasn’t all their fault.

‘Some of those boys had given up contracts at other clubs to come here on a promise of a three-year plan – and it all evaporated in front of them.

‘While in Spain I rang up Luke Varney, Greg Halford, David Norris, even Tal Ben Haim.

‘I ended up speaking to him (Ben Haim) quite a lot and he was alright.

‘What people fail to realise with him is he probably lost a huge amount of money in the first administration and then he was going to lose again.

‘I know it is hard for a normal person to comprehend because they don’t understand the figures these boys earn but it’s not their fault, they were given certain contracts.

‘Back then the club bottomed out – but it has come up again.’