Players answering survival call to arms

Pompey's players aren't willing to sit around and let the club die.

The Great Escape didn’t come off in the Championship as the Blues’ survival fight eventually saw them condemned to League One last month.

But the real fight for survival is now well and truly under way off the pitch, with the club in a critical period in its effort to stay alive.

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And the players are answering that call to arms in emphatic fashion.

Last week saw Pompey’s high-earners forced to take another deferral in wages to ensure the club can continue to operate.

And now Michael Appleton’s squad are coming out in support of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust en masse.

The Trust have made it clear it’s now or never as they need another 1,000 people to back its community share scheme – and make their effort to mount a takeover of the Blues a reality.

They are asking for people with Pompey in their heart to pledge £100 towards an eventual £1,000 stake.

And the players are putting their money where their mouth is on that front.

So far, 11 players – Jamie Ashdown, David Norris, Joel Ward, Liam Lawrence, Jason Pearce, Ricardo Rocha, Luke Varney, Stephen Henderson, Kanu, Aaron Mokoena and Benjani – have committed themselves to the cause.

The reality is, few if any of those men will be around next season given the club’s perilous financial position.

But that hasn’t halted their backing of the scheme.

Appleton revealed it has been the club’s longest serving player – Ashdown – who has been the catalyst behind the move.

Ashdown and his wife Zoe have been key players in getting the squad on board.

The Pompey boss knows it will come down to cold, hard cash whether the bid works.

And that is why the Trust are now in a defining period in their efforts to offer a viable route forward for their club.

Appleton said: ‘The scheme is a positive thing from the players’ point of view.

‘It was Jamie who mentioned the idea and the players want to give their support to the trust.

‘If it leads to going anywhere – whether that is part ownership of the club or full ownership – some of the players want to be seen to be doing something to help.

‘It has had its success at other clubs. But it all comes down to finance.

‘You can give something as much support as you could possibly want, but, at the end of the day, it’s the actual money that talks.

‘If the trust gets enough backing financially and the volume of people that do support the idea, then obviously it’s been proven in the past that it could work.

‘But there needs to be financial backing – and a severe amount of it.’

The Football League meeting on June 2 has been labelled as the defining day on Pompey’s horizon.

That is when it will be decided whether the Blues are capable of fulfilling their obligations in League One next season.

The ensuing weeks between now and then are going to be critical in deciding where the club is headed.

Appleton explained the wage deferral was a development which had to take place to ensure the club made it through May.

He said: ‘I’ve had conversations with the players and there has to be further reductions in salaries.

‘There has to be a cap on the amount that can be paid from now and in the foreseeable future.

‘This is where we are, this is all we can afford until we get some positive news in terms of ownership, which is not helpful.

‘It’s real, it’s what it is and where we are.’

With Pompey’s wage bill currently around the £12m mark, the reality is it will have to be hacked in half at least for the new campaign – if the Blues are to make it to League One.

Appleton has made it clear to the existing staff that will be the case, for whoever is still around once the summer overhaul has taken place.

He said: ‘There has to be changes and we’re all aware of that.

‘We can’t maintain the wages that we are paying at the moment.

‘We would have struggled to maintain the level of wages we were paying in the Championship, never mind in League One.

‘The players are aware of that and they understand that now. They have got to grips with that.’