Portsmouth are bracing themselves to fight off the threat of a raft of top players joining former manager Harry Redknapp at Tottenham in the January transfer window.
But it is suspected in many quarters that Pompey’s owner Alexandre Gaydamak - who only last month said he would consider serious alternative investment in the club – no longer has the financial muscle to repel serious bids for some of the stars who helped them win the FA Cup in May and qualifying for Europe for the first time.
Many believe it could be a straight fight between former Bolton and Newcastle chief Sam Allardyce and ex-Chelsea boss Avram Grant for the role of Redknapp’s successor after his shock defection to Tottenham on Saturday night.
However, the biggest concern among Fratton Park fans is that major players like Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Sylvain Distin, Glen Johnson and Lassana Diarra will also opt out at the first opportunity along with their 61-year-old mentor
Chief executive Peter Storrie revealed it was a huge shock to lose Redknapp, who had been back at Portsmouth since December 2005 having quit a year earlier and controversially taken the manager’s job at local rivals Southampton.
And Storrie confirmed no agreement existed between Pompey and Redknapp forbidding him to come back and sign players he had brought to Fratton Park for major fees.
Storrie said: “I accept that many players did come here mostly because of Harry but that sort of thing also exists at other clubs.
“I don’t know what is going to happen in the future because Harry’s going is still a big shock.
“It is something we did everything in our power to prevent but in the end the lure of Tottenham was too much for him to resist.
“I’ve known him 14 years at West Ham and here and I know that he also wanted to manage a top club – in terms of great stadium and fantastic history – and I have to respect that as the reason why he’s gone.
“We talked to him long and hard and I think, at several points, he changed his mind, but that was just the same as when he was offered the Newcastle job earlier this year.
“He turned that down in the end and we immediately gave him a new contract to 2011 but I did not expect to be dealing with the compensation for that already.
“We have to make it clear that it is Harry’s choice to go and we have not done this for the money.
“Whatever Spurs give us as compensation is set in stone in the Premier League contract rules as either a fixed sum or whatever is left on a manager’s contract.”
Redknapp’s late-night departure left Pompey little time to reorganise ahead of the visit of Fulham but with assistant manager Tony Adams and coach Joe Jordan in joint caretaker charge, Crouch looked like being the hero.
He fired Pompey ahead from Defoe’s pass just after the hour only for Fulham substitute Clint Dempsey to grab an 87th-minute equaliser for Roy Hodgson’s battling team and stop their hosts climbing to sixth in the Premier League.
But Crouch said: “We were worth a win and our performance showed we are still up for the fight despite Harry going.
“Whoever comes in now has got a useful squad of players and the aim must be to carry on just like we have under the previous manager.”