FOOTBALL is a wonderful game, capable of providing breathtaking entertainment and excitement but there is a dark side where greed and financial madness run rampant, and that has never been more apparent than during this last week.

Two non-league clubs close to my home are wilting under financial meltdown and their loyal supporters must be very worried at the moment.

Mansfield Town used to be a League club but sank into the Blue Square Bet Premier League a couple of years ago, and although they are currently third in the league they have been put up for sale by their owners and have had to cut their playing budget, scrap the youth team and centre of excellence.  The board said they have taken the club as far as they could and it was time for new owners.

In a statement, Mansfield plead: “Anyone wishing to have the exciting prospect of owning an established club with a dedicated fanbase should approach the club.”

So far, no takers….

Ilkeston Town, who are based only a few miles away and play in a league below Mansfield, has been wound up by the High Court over an unpaid £50,000 bill to HM Revenue and Customs.  After a two-minute hearing, court registrar Christine Derrett said: “I’m sorry, the company is plainly insolvent and I therefore make the final compulsory order.”  Unless a benefactor appears on the scene pretty quickly, the town will lose its football club.

Now compare their plight to the pathetic whinging coming from the mouth of Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini.  The former Italian international comes across as a pleasant chap but he doesn’t half spout some drivel.   Just listen to this (from a man in charge of a Premier League outfit which has spent around £350 million pounds on players in the last two years), following their 1-1 home draw against Blackburn:

“We are very unlucky because we are missing a lot of important players through injury.”

Against Blackburn, Mancini introduced three substitutes – Gareth Barry (England international, cost £12 million); Brazilian striker Jo (cost £18 million) and Spanish forward David Silva (cost £24 million). Yes, luck has definitely deserted him.

Maybe Mancini’s comments are more to do with the fact that although the season is only four games old, City are already seven points behind leaders Chelsea. He is feeling the pressure from his demanding employers who are expecting nothing less than a maximum return from their investment.

Portsmouth, who were relegated from the Premier League to the Championship, last season are a classic example of how not to run a football club.   After a summer of financial turmoil they have only just come out of administration and are waiting for a takeover deal to be ratified by the Football League.  Many creditors have suffered at the hands of Portsmouth but that hasn’t stopped the club’s administrator Andrew Andronikou  defending the  salaries offered to new signings Dave Kitson and Liam Lawrence.  He insists that the wage bill is being managed much more carefully at the current time and has assured supporters that will continue to be the case.  Andronikou told the local Portsmouth newspaper The News:

“There has been a significant change in the wage bill this season. It is something we have had to do.  Gone are the days when extraordinary pay packets put this club in financial trouble.  Nowadays we are looking at a budget of £13-15m this season and around £10m for next season if we retain our Championship status.”

Fine words you might think but read on:

“However, in the cases of Kitson and Lawrence, we have had to push the boat out a little.  Their wages are £19,000s and £20,000s but it is something we are comfortable with.   As long as our overall wage bill averages out at £10,000 a week then I am happy – and it still does.   Obviously we would rather bring in players on £8-9,000 but there is obviously going to be exceptions to the rules.  In this case we have brought in two players the manager really wanted.”

Will they ever learn?