These are worrying times for John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood.
Concerned readers have been emailing me to ask about the possible consequences for John should Portsmouth Football Club, his favourite team, go out of business – and rightly so, because although John is no Muggsy Spanier, Paul Kingsnorth or Jase Rooney, nonetheless he is a key character in Think of England’s motley cast. What, these readers have been asking, will become of the antiquarian bookseller with PFC engraved on his teeth if there are no more matches to attend?
The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is that if Portsmouth Football Club as it is currently manifested ceases to be, then John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood would in fact become Portsmouth Football Club. This is the result of an ancient pact or possibly curse or at the very least something signed in blood which requires a designated Chosen One to take on the burden, or ‘essence’ as it were, of Portsmouth Football Club, should the Club, in the sense in which a ‘football club’ is normally understood, fall.
Indeed, unbeknownst to many outside the city walls of Portsmouth, the current John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood is merely the latest in an unbroken two thousand year line of antiquarian booksellers called John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood to have held the office. Of course for the vast majority of these John Portsmouth Football Club Westwoods the position has been purely ceremonial as the possibility of the official purpose of the Chosen One coming to pass has seemed laughably remote. However, given the extraordinary debts now facing the club, the present John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood faces a real danger of having to taken on the terrible burden for which he was so cruelly bred.
If, as seems increasingly likely, John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood does indeed become Portsmouth Football Club, then according to folklore and FA Regulation 274 Part B Subsection III, John will simply drop the “John” and “Westwood” elements of his name and be required to remain at all times within the city walls except for away matches. Fans will still be able to ‘support’ him, purchase merchandise including stickers and replica shirts, wear tattoos bearing his crest etc. Season tickets will remain valid for him but on-the-gate purchases will also be available and may even see a reduction in price. He will not, of course, be permitted to play in the Premier League but will instead be required to enter the Ryman’s League Division One South for the 2010/11 season, where he will have to take his chances with the rest.