AS a long-serving crew member of the good ship Portsmouth, Richard Hughes experienced both calm and choppy waters during his time at Fratton Park.
Hughes left Dean Court to set sail on his Pompey career in 2002, plying his trade in the Premier League in all but the first and last of his nine seasons with the club.
Capped five times by Scotland, he played in the UEFA Cup, was involved in Pompey’s 2008 FA Cup win and was once head butted by Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Far from being one of the top earners as the club prospered under former Cherries boss Harry Redknapp, Hughes was well paid and lived comfortably if not luxuriously.
However, after the rug had been pulled by backer Sacha Gaydamak in 2008 and Pompey had started to pay for their excesses, Hughes and other players became a strain on the balance sheet.
Despite offering to take a 50 per cent wage cut, Hughes played his final game for Pompey in December 2010 and severed ties with the club just six months later.
Pompey, who are said to be £61 million in debt, have been in administration for a year and are facing a second successive relegation, with a 10-point deduction still on the cards.
Their fate is expected to be decided in the courts with the administrators having agreed to sell the club to a supporters’ trust, on condition they buy Fratton Park from former owner Balram Chainrai.
In the meantime, Hughes, who came out of retirement to rejoin Cherries at the start of this season, remains a creditor and continues to monitor developments.
Discussing Pompey’s plight in an interview with the Daily Echo, Hughes said: “The club is still going because of the supporters and that’s why they deserve to take ownership. There will always be a Portsmouth Football Club because of them.
“Those of us with a financial interest going back to the Premier League days are kept up to date on a weekly basis. In the past couple of years, there have been a few occasions when a chink of light seems to appear and then it quickly goes back to uncertainty.
“Throughout it all, the fans have been unbelievable. From my conversations with the trust, I think it would be beneficial if they could take over because they could bring it forward. You just feel other people’s interests may be more short term.
“I am not the only player who is owed money from my time there. It is not as if I am expecting it today or tomorrow because I know it is a drawn-out process. Money or no money, I want the club to keep going and I want the supporters to have the club they deserve.”
Hughes added: “I don’t think you can level any blame at the door of the players. I don’t think you can foresee a situation like that materialising.
“We were a successful team in the Premier League and were competing for European places. We had a wealthy backer.
“Players like myself, Gary O’Neil and Matt Taylor made a career at Portsmouth. There were also players who came with fantastic reputations. If Pompey had n’t had the money to pay them, it would have been someone else.
“The wages they were paying at the time were unsustainable unless there was a backer who was prepared and capable to pay them. When that ceased to be the case then clearly there wasn’t the income through other areas of the club to sustain the wages. It was always going to be a recipe for disaster so long as the owner wasn’t there to continue backing it.
“I don’t know the ins and outs under Gaydamak. The future looked rosy but, for one reason or another, it ceased to be the case.”