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Paul Hardyman

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On This Day (16 June 1989): Pompey accuse Sunderland of trying to get player ‘on the cheap’

The signing of left-back Paul Hardyman had ruffled a few feathers on the south coast.

Photo by NCJ Archive/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

On this day in 1989, Sunderland were the target of Portsmouth manager John Gregory’s ire, as he rounded on Denis Smith for trying to get left back Paul Hardyman ‘on the cheap’.

These were the days before the Bosman ruling, and out of contract players were still the ‘property’ of their club. They could sign for whomever they wanted, but a fee either had to be agreed, or the two parties had to roll the dice at a tribunal to determine the player’s value.

Ian Wright
Hardyman in action for Portsmouth

Sunderland had captured the signing of the ex-England under-21 left-back Hardyman the previous day. Hardyman had signed a three-year deal at Roker Park, after rejecting offers from St Mirren, Sheffield United and Reading.

However, as the two managers had failed to agree on a fee – Smith’s offer reputedly £50,000 and Gregory’s valuation £275,000 – and so it was to an independent adjudicator so assign Hardyman’s worth.

John Gregory said:

Our asking price for Hardyman was always £275,000. However, if we could have settled the matter with Sunderland without resorting to a tribunal we’d have been prepared to accept £150,000.

But Sunderland’s offer was ridiculous. As a result we will be now asking the tribunal for our original valuation of £275,000.

Clubs had the option of agreeing upon a valuation prior to the tribunal, and Smith was hopeful this would be the case.

John Gregory has been away on holiday. We are still talking and I don’t see why we can’t reach an agreement.

I have only been to a tribunal four times in seven years as a manager so I can’t be accused of abusing the system.

If we have to go to the tribunal, we will abide by whatever decision is reached.

Paul Hardyman
And playing for Sunderland against his former team
Photo by NCJ Archive/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

In the end, the clubs couldn’t agree upon a fee, and the tribunal ended up putting a £130,000 price tag on Hardyman’s head – given Smith had been on the lookout for a left-back since his arrival at Roker Park, it was probably money well spent.

Hardyman went on to make 129 appearances for the club, scoring 12 goals – six from the penalty spot.

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