It’s been a varied period at Fratton Park, with several changes being made both on and off the field. Firstly, I should update you all with the departure of Guy Whittingham who, after a string of poor displays, was let go by the Portsmouth hierarchy. After days of speculations and rumours, Richie Barker, formerly of Crawley Town, was appointed manager, alongside Steve Coppell, now Director of Football at Fratton Park.
It’s been a strange turn of events, but one that myself and many other Pompey fans felt was necessary. With Barker installed at the helm of the good ship Pompey, it was time for change on the pitch, something Barker expressed openly after defeat on his debut Pompey game.
Many players haven’t performed in a Pompey shirt this season, most notably last year’s ‘Player of the Season’ Johnny Ertl, who was immediately dropped from the team after being included in the starting XI of Barker’s first game in charge. This prompted the re-introduction of Simon Ferry in the midfield, taking the captaincy from Ertl, leading to a notably improved display in Barkers’ second game as boss. It became evident in December that the former Crawley Town manager needed to bolster the squad, but the question of everyone’s lips was who, and why would they come to Pompey?
With most free transfers being made in the summer, Barker and Coppell had their work cut out when it came to adding bodies to the blues squad that currently consisted of underperformers and youngsters. Although Barker is all for blooding the youngsters, especially at this level, it is ultimately down to him who has been deemed worthy to pull on a Portsmouth shirt and play in front of 15,000+ fans on a Saturday afternoon.
In my opinion, the culmination of Barker and Coppell has been working superbly, considering Coppell is on no wage whatsoever. Coppell’s contacts in the game have been invaluable, having already signed former Reading left back Nicky Shorey to the Pompey squad, alongside his former Bristol City teammate, striker Ryan Taylor, who scored Pompey’s 78th minute equaliser against Mansfield on Saturday. Adding to the striker force at Pompey has been the long-awaited signing of Jake Jervis, who has been waiting for international clearance to re-join Pompey from his previous Turkish club.
Jervis, an ex-Pompey loanee during the Appleton era, has been linked with a move to Fratton Park since August, but the move fell through due to international clearance being rejected. His previous spell with Pompey was cut short, after parent club Birmingham City recalled him due to an injury crisis. That following season, he took the leap to Turkey, which unfortunately didn’t work out. Having being released in the summer, Jervis was destined for the South Coast, however the move had to wait until Friday, when international clearance was finally granted, with Jervis beginning his debut in the 1-1 draw with Mansfield Town.
Barker set out to improve all areas of the squad, most importantly the defence, who have conceded the most goals this season. Recent signings of Nicky Shorey and Danny Alfei have strengthened the defence, and offered more options for Barker to rotate the team when injuries and suspensions arise.
The signing of Wes Fogden from Bournemouth has also proven crucial. The former Havant & Waterlooville wide man was signed by Bournemouth in the summer of 2012, but hasn’t played a game all season. Thanks to the generosity of Eddie Howe, and the urge to play first team football from Fogden, he has been permitted to leave the Cherries and join Portsmouth on a free transfer, signing an 18-month deal.
Lastly, the strikers this season have put in very irregular performances, without having an out-and-out goal scorer, adding to the plight of the blues. Barker seems to have plugged this gap, with the signings of Taylor and Jervis, conveniently at the time David Connolly has returned to full fitness, setting up Taylor for his first Pompey goal at the weekend having come off the bench.
With the backroom staff and playing squad being altered, performances have been picking up, most notably the Boxing Day win against Dagenham & Redbridge, with out of favour Romain Padovani getting his first goal for Pompey, having not played since August under Whittingham. His goal and reintroduction to the first team has sparked Pompey’s revival, having collected a point at league leaders Oxford United, who obliterated Pompey 4-1 on the opening day of the season.
I said a few months ago that the Christmas period would be what decides Pompey’s season; and I wasn’t wrong. Having the introduction of Richie Barker and Steve Coppell has certainly improved the Pompey squad and in turn, improved results. Now we wait until the end of the transfer window to see what other coups can be made, and whether or not Pompey can push for mid-table security.
Onwards and upwards, in Pompey we Trust!
Written by Harry Davis, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth blogger
Over the summer period, many Pompey fans expected to see a complete overhaul of the first team. Many were right; with Guy Whittingham keeping just six players from the team that played in the 2012/13 League One campaign (Smith, Moutakil, Butler, Ertl, Ageymang, and Connolly). Whittingham wiped away the cobwebs of Michael Appleton’s reign over the January transfer window, and was left with a squad of has-beens, and youngsters. This ultimately led to relegation, leaving Whittingham with a fresh pallet to play with in the summer. One of the tasks was to scour the country for strikers, with Connolly switching to a player/coach role, it was evident that one lone striker for an entire season was never going to be enough. This led to the signing of Ryan Bird from Southern Premier Division side Burnham, having scored 45 goals in as many games the previous season.
Many thought the jump from non-league to the fourth division would prove a difficult task for the hit man, who was ever-prolific in the conference league, having served Burnham for four seasons, scoring 133 goals in all competitions. Touted to be the next Guy Whittingham, and follow in the gaffers’ footsteps, he looked promising in pre-season, scoring twice in the local friendly game against Havant & Waterlooville, the first after just 10 minutes. Bird was an ever-present figure in pre-season, being selected for the starting 11 regularly, and making appearances from the bench; that was until his pre-booked holiday had come around. Taking two weeks out, without training or any game time, he returned in time for the last friendly before the season began, against La Liga side Rayo Vallecano.
When the season began in August, Bird took a regular place on the bench, being pushed out by David Connolly and Patrick Ageymang, the striking partnership that worked very well towards the end of last season. With the introduction of Tom Craddock to the first team, and the loan signing of John Marquis, Bird began to fade into the background, losing his place on the bench. Bird was then loaned to the team he scored his first goal in a Pompey shirt against, Havant & Waterlooville, where he made three appearances without scoring. Although he was playing alongside fellow Pompey loanee Ashley Harris, he never settled at Westleigh Park.
Having returned to Fratton Park, following the short return to Millwall from Marquis, Bird was given the opportunity to play in a Portsmouth shirt once more, and this time he didn’t disappoint! Scoring as a substitute in the 81st minute against Torquay, rescuing a point for the blues on the road, the Trashmen single, ‘Bird Is The Word’ was once again sung by Pompey fans. His ruthlessness was rewarded with a call up to the starting 11 against Exeter City. Yet again, Bird scored two magnificent headers, almost soaring through the box, living up to his name! With three goals in two games, Bird is certainly the word at Fratton Park.
Stevenage is the destination on Saturday, with the FA Cup beckoning once again, Guy Whittingham’s men will be looking to push on and play for a dream-tie against Premier League opposition in the third round. Following shortly after, the Quarter Finals of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy will test the depth of the squad, which is expected to be rotated at Newport County. It will be interesting to see how well the squad perform, with several games in such a short space of time, and hopefully the Bird will continue to fly.
Maybe, Bird really is the word?
In Pompey We Trust!
Written by Harry Davis, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth blogger
With the new era beginning, the club under ownership of the fans, all that was left was an opening day victory to kick-start the promotion push back to League One. However, not all went to plan. With a good opening 30 minutes against Oxford, Pompey looked strong and up for the challenge League Two was going to throw their way. The team looked confident, the fans looks confident, and most of all, the city felt united once more. Something I haven’t seen since the FA Cup win in 2008. 60 minutes later, the final whistle blew; one of relief for many who filled the sold-out Fratton Park that day, as Pompey crashed to a 1-4 loss. Many people knew there was still work to be done, and it seems that work is beginning to pay off. Pompey currently sit comfortably in 15th place, with 16 points, one that most would be happy with, given the poor form at the early end of the season. With the (dare I say it) Christmas period fast approaching, there are many points to be played for.
Last Saturday’s trip to Plymouth Argyle was a positive one, and in my eyes, a point gained. Plymouth, a side that have played in this division for several seasons now, like Pompey, were looking for promotion from the bottom tier. With a strong squad, that have gelled over time, it’s surprising to see their form, of late, hasn’t been positive. That in mind, Argyle took an early lead due to Yassin Moutakil’s mistake, leaving Pompey to play on the back foot. With a swift reply, the team looked confident at 1-1, with several balls being played into the box, they begin to take control. The half time whistle seemed to come too soon, with the playing being fluent from Pompey; something that has been missing since the season began. The second half was very end-to-end, with the final result being the same at half time, a well earned draw.
Saturday’s performance against Bury was a poor one. With Bondz N’gala currently on the goal trail, it was no surprise ‘He Scores When He Wants’ was ringing around Fratton Park once more. He’s beginning to remind me of Linvoy Primus, back in the day, when he played along side Sol Campbell – a partnership that many Premier League strike forces feared playing against. Linvoy was able to get up in the air, win headers, and score the occasional goal. N’gala has almost replicated those sorts of performances of late, with 3 goals in as many games. As well as scoring goals, he has been putting in award-winning defensive displays, that earned him a place in EA Sports’ Fifa Ultimate Team ‘Team of the Week’, two weeks ago. He was one of Guy Whittingham’s impulse signings, after playing one game as a trialist against Havant & Waterloovile; the local pre-season friendly that is played annually.
Whittingham made a few impulse signings this season after the transfer window, one of which was Therry Racon. Racon played a part in Whittingham’s January overhaul last season, and never really impressed me. This season he has certainly proven me wrong! With stunning midfield displays, winning the ball, running into pace, and pin-point passing was something he would never have done in League One, but League Two seems to be the one he thrives in. So much so, that Romain Padovani, and even Simon Ferry, have been kept out of the team.
I think the strength in Pompey’s defence at the moment is one that would cope comfortably in League One. With Jed Wallace being touted by several Premier League teams, Ertl and Ferry’s combined experience in the Football League, along with the pace of Barcham, and set-piece quality of Ricky Holmes, Pompey certainly have no problem creating chances. A problem that I have found with the squad, especially in the early stages, was the lack of ability up front, and lack of confidence attacking the ball.
Whittingham definitely pulled it out of the bag, bringing in youngster John Marquis from Millwall, who despite his poor goal tally at his parent club, has already formed a strong partnership with Patrick Ageymang. Both strikers possess different qualities; Ageymang has the strength to battle off defenders, and a first touch that would make Lionel Messi jealous! Marquis has the ability to run 20 yards into the box to poach the ball, get a head on the end of a venomous cross, and even take a shot so powerful it could actually break down a barn door!
With the league performances aside, Pompey also have the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to look forward to, with a trip to Newport County on the cards. A win in that game will see them just 3 games from Wembley, and within touching distance of a trophy for the first time in six seasons! Admittedly, it’s not a ‘major’ trophy, but it’s silverware nonetheless, and as usual, Pompey will pack out Wembley with blue flags once again! The cup is definitely in the minds of the players, however sustaining a decent league position until then is the most important thing to think about. I would love a trip to Wembley again, and to be able to keep a comfortable position this season. It’ll certainly make a difference from hearing about different ownership battles and back-to-back relegations!
We now look ahead to playing against Torquay in the league, the team’s second trip to the West Country in 3 weeks, and the second trip to Torquay in seven weeks, hoping to improve on their last performance, which ended in winning a penalty shootout, thanks to a Moutakil doing a cheeky ‘Pirlo chip’.
Onwards and upwards, in Pompey we trust!
Written by Harry Davis, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth blogger
As usual it’s quite a busy summer at Portsmouth, but this time, it’s not because we have been trying to save it from the brink….
With the new Pompey era in full swing things at the club had to be fixed with lightning speed in order to be ready for the new season. Players, a new kit deal, and new sponsorships were all high on the agenda. The new kit deal was one that had to be thrashed out; Pompey chose Sondico for the new kits with great promises to the fans – “the cheapest kits in English football” and the question that they might build up to 20 youth development centres for Portsmouth results in a great deal. After the deal, the home shirt was released not long after, resulting in a fantastic new design for the new era, and since then the away shirt has been released too with only the third shirt left to be released. It seems a thousand years since the last time Pompey had shirts on sale during the summer and not coming out in late October. Additionally, they may not be at the club shop yet,as its not officially open, but they are also on sale in many high street sporting stores!
The players arriving was Guy Whittingham’s main task, and to do it before pre-season too. Every player who has arrived has arrived on a free transfer. These players are: John Sullivan, Danny East, Sonny Bradley, Joe Devera, Andy Barcham, Ricky Holmes, Romain Padovani, Ryan Bird, Tom Craddock and as of yesterday Simon Ferry. The club also managed to retain Phil Smith, Yassin Moutaouakil and the incredibly important signings that were Patrick Agyemang, David Connolly and Captain Fantastic, Johnny Ertl. Guy Whittingham also already had Dan Butler, Ashley Harris and Adam Webster contracted while Jed Wallace had his option for another year taken up so he will stay at Fratton Park. The starlet has admitted contract talks will start within the next couple of weeks. In short, the only question mark remains whether Ricardo Rocha will rejoin, but there are strong rumours that he will sign by the end of the week.
The coup’s of the season stand at Devera, Ferry and Padovani. Swindon fans who have been commentating on Ferry and Devera say it is clear they are better than this level who are not even here on an extravagant wage Pompey’s budget stands at around mid-table in League Two and CEO Mark Catlin made it clear a while back that Pompey won’t break the wage structure for anyone. Ferry seems to be easily good enough for a top half League One side according to Swindon fans, and the same with Devera, while Romain Padovani was a free who no-one really knew when he arrived from Monaco without even a Wikipedia page. Since then he has shown class in pre-season, showing despite his tall frame he has great touch and skill. It’s the first time in years and years that there’s a selection dilemma at Portsmouth with Whittingham having to decide who he puts in midfield out of Ferry, Barcham, Ertl, Wallace, Holmes and Padovani. Ryan Bird was another player who’s arrived who nobody knew much about, but after a few quick bits of research we realised he’s clearly got something about him, 45 goals last season for Burnham, albeit not a great level, but if you’re scoring more goals than games at any level you’ve clearly got something. He has also impressed in pre-season when he’s started, although his pre-season was interrupted by his holiday….
With that squad it is sure that Pompey can challenge for promotion this year, with a lot of the players able to play at a higher level. Most bookies actually have Pompey installed as the favourite to win the league. While its clear that the squad is extremely talented it needs to be remembered that they have all just linked up. It’s predominantly a new team, so not finishing top wouldn’t be a disappointment, although we should be expecting the play-offs at least with this squad. There were also changes in playing staff, as last season’s number 2 Andy Awford decided not to take up the role permanently and go back to being the academy manager. This means Pompey needed a number 2 and Guy Whittingham didn’t have to look far, promoting Steve Allen to the role while he maintains his duties as head physio. Whittingham also recruited club legend and Ireland legend Alan McLoughlin, or ‘Macca’ as he’s well known, to the first team coach role after he has recovered from kidney cancer.
The club has also secured sponsorship deals again; Jobsite have continued as shirt sponsors while Convers have made an appearance as back of shirt sponsors. Pompey’s 12th man also recently held fans day at Fratton Park before the friendly with Charlton, all to raise money to do various things for the club. The signing of the season so far though, will be the fans, Pompey have sold over 10,000 season tickets for the upcoming season, which is simply incredible support. I am very proud to say I am among them. With the season ticket sales which will probably end up between 11,000 and 12,000 will mean over half of the ground is season ticket holders. On top of that the Fratton End, the loudest stand at Fratton Park has almost sold out entirely with season ticket holders, only around 100 seats remain in the stand where the noise of Pompey usually originates. Credit goes to every last person who works in the ticket office who has worked incredibly hard to sell as many as we have and the CEO Mark Catlin and Engagement manager Micah Hall. A magnificent credit to the club. Huge credit also goes to Guy Whittingham, Steve Allen and the rest who managed to assemble such a good squad in such little time.
We can now finally forget the heart ache of previous years, the frauds, the Sulaiman Al-Fahim and the Faraj era, Gaydamak, Joseph Cala and all the rest are now a distant memory. The fans won and for the first season in a long, long time, Pompey can enjoy football again. Play up Pompey!
Written by Lawrence Hall, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth blogger
On the 10th of April at 16:21 papers were signed as the Portsmouth Supporters Trust (PST) reached an out of court settlement with Portpin over the value of Fratton Park, giving the PST the go ahead to complete an incredible takeover.
Weridly, just five days after the takeover, it was 10 years since Svetoslav Todorov sent Pompey into the Premier League. Futhermore the following day, while Portsmouth were playing a charity midweek freindly against club legend Hermann Hreidasson’s side in IBV, Pompey had their drop to League Two confirmed.
In between this was a game away at Brentford, with 1,700 Pompey fans making the trip to London for a party after the PST were given the go ahead to complete their takeover. A party which was then scarred by a pitch invasion by 100 or so Pompey fans, and the club’s supporters have have come under a fair amount of criticism for this. I was there and didn’t go on the pitch but you have to say there are two sides to the story. The Brentford statement blaming the Pompey fans didn’t mention the flare that their fans threw on the pitch or them having to move some fans due to getting too wound up either. At the end though, this is all irrelevant and pointless.
The new era begins for the biggest community club in the UK, and surprisingly some fans would think the optimism couldn’t be higher right now in the Pompey community. The club starts debt free, we finally have a loyal squad of players who fight for every ball and we own our club.
Next season no one knows what will happen ahead of next season. We could end up signing the entirety of the current squad onto long term contracts and return to League One at the first time of asking. We could sign up a few, still have to build a squad and not go up, but with the revenue of our club through tickets and merchandising once the trust sort out all of the things that they can, there should be plenty to spend on the squad.
Whatever happens now we have amazing passion in this city, the fans have saved the club and no matter what anyone who doesn’t favour the trust says, just ask this; could it be run any worse than it already has been? The finances at the club are a business nightmare and now it can only be run better by people who love it.
The effort by the fans is almost unbelievable, so much money raised through pledges and no one can forget the people at the top of the Supporters Trust. Ian McInnes, Mick Williams and Ashley Brown, the non stop work and fighting from those three people who refused to let their football club die, we can give no more respect to people for doing what they know is right.
For the fans of other clubs, don’t pity us getting relegated, we’ve saved our club and we’ll be back before you know it. The future is bright.
We did it, we all did it.
Written by Lawrence Hall, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth blogger
On the 10th and 11th of April the future of Portsmouth Football Club will be decided. The administrators of Pompey (PKF) will go to court to decide the value of Fratton Park and if they lose, the club will be liquidated. If they win, Pompey will finally have a future where we aren’t looking at being pushed almost out of existence by dodgy owners.
On the pitch everything is finally looking up also. On Saturday Pompey beat Coventry City, a club with similar problems off the pitch. Coventry, who are still chasing the playoffs, would’ve been expected to win the game but thanks to Simon Eastwood’s penalty save and a great performance from the rest of the team, Pompey emerged 2-0 winners. The win means that in the last nine games Pompey have won more points than anyone else in the bottom five of the table. Pompey have taken 13, Hartlepool and Oldham 12, Scunthorpe nine and Bury six.
It’s a huge turn around from Portsmouth, a club that not so long ago went 23 games without a win. This can be attributed to the current side having more fight and determination than we’ve seen in years. A few youngsters have come into the side too, and it seems that Jed Wallace and Dan Butler aren’t escaping the eye of some Championship and Premier League clubs.
Wallace has scored four goals and claimed two assists in his short Pompey career, while putting in some very credible performances even when not chipping in with goals or assists. His impressive performances led him to being put on standby for England Under-19′s in the week.
Butler has very recently come into the side at left-back after the club released Jon Harley and has been good value for the decision to recall him back from his loan at Havant and Waterlooville. Many solid performances have strengthened his place in the side, although he was rested due to fatigue against Coventry. Also, no one can miss the warhorse that is Johnny Ertl, the man who gives 110% every game. Ertl is the best captain we’ve had all season and barring Sol Campbell, Linvoy Primus and Jason Pearce, the best captain we’ve had in a long while. A midfield general and a character, it’s almost a pleasure to have him at Pompey.
The manager is also to thank for this revival. He took the club on a large amount of the 23 game winless run and now we’re back on the rise. Guy Whittingham, or Corporal Guy as he’s also known, is Pompey through and through and has fought for this club ever since he was asked to on an interim basis, which is commendable.
A top Guy is Guy, but the long run without a win cannot be ignored for next season. Whittingham has had the hardest job in football but unfortunately there’s nothing to say he’s a great manager. There’s also not much to say he’s a particularly bad one due to the situation at Fratton Park, so we’ll have to wait and see what the club’s hierarchy decide to do with him next season.
While Guy has been as loyal as he has, you have to remember that the most loyal servants to Portsmouth Football Club are the fans., We still travel up and down the country to follow the team despite their awful form, the administration and everything that has contributed to the disaster that has been Pompey of the last few years. From over 1,000 fans at Leyton Orient on a Tuesday night to the 11,000 that still arrive at Fratton Park and continue to make the atmosphere what it always has been – loud and enjoyable.
Pompey are still five points behind Oldham Athletic in 20th place, with Pompey having played 40 matches while Oldham have played just 37. With a possible ten point deduction possibly on the way it seems survival is impossible, but this is Portsmouth and, as we learnt in the great escape season of 2005-06, anything is possible when you’re Pompey.
The future at Portsmouth Football Club is starting to look up. With the Portsmouth Supporters Trust about to take over a new beginning is finally on the horizon. The team are finally winning and with young starlets beginning coming through, the fans can start talking about football again in the near future. With the club finally being run sensibly Pompey can look up instead of down, even if it is in League Two.
Written by Lawrence Hall, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth blogger
Of all the things you are told to put on your CV in order to get a job, from being an all-powerful prefect at school to joining the ever-crucial debating society at Uni, there is one thing you need on there in the football world to guarantee you an improved career path – Manager of Portsmouth Football Club.
Amid the turbulence that has seen Pompey tumble from the heights of lifting the FA Cup in 2008,through financial crisis to end up in the lower reaches of League One, one thing has been a constant, any manager who has failed to stop the rot has been rewarded with a very attractive job elsewhere. Unfortunately for this trio of south coast failures, their lack of success followed them to the next port of call, but what was it about their time at Portsmouth that attracted chairmen around the country?
The story starts with Paul Hart in 2009 who, in fairness, kept Pompey in the Premier League when he took over as caretaker at the back end of the 08-09 season. Unfortunately he followed being offered a permanent contract with the worst start any team has ever made to any Premier League season, losing seven straight games. Understandably he didn’t last long but his reputation was fully intact and despite this record breaking failure he was almost immediately ushered in at the newly mega-rich and highly ambitious Queens Park Rangers. It didn’t go well, lasting less than a month. He then suffered similarly short spells at Crystal Palace and Swindon.
Hart’s successor at Fratton Park was the difficult to warm-to Avram Grant, who had the first ever points deduction in Premier League history to deal with, but given they finished eleven points adrift at the bottom of the table, even without the deduction it would have finished been last place for Pompey. It was clearly an incredibly difficult situation for the Israeli, but ultimately he failed nonetheless and the club went down. Grant though seemed to be held in higher regard at that point than he was when he took Chelsea to a Champions League final and second in the Premier League, and he was immediately offered the West Ham job in the top flight. Like Hart, this next move was a disaster as he took the Hammers down in his only season at Upton Park.
Steve Cotterill was the man to take the reins at Portsmouth after Grant, again in tricky circumstances but with a decent Championship level team to work with. The former Notts County manager had a half-decent season, stabilising the club to a degree and finishing a non-descript 16th. Not going down was an achievement of sorts due to the madness that was going on around the club, but as mentioned there were some good players there, 16th was nothing special and Portsmouth fans were far from enamoured with the style of football he introduced. It was enough for Nottingham Forest to come calling though after the resignation of Steve McClaren and duly Cotterill returned to Nottingham to take charge at the City Ground. Again though his move away from Fratton Park was not fruitful, he lasted less than a year at Forest after finishing 19th.
Now we find Michael Appleton in charge at Pompey in League One after they were relegated from the Championship last season. He has arguably had the most difficult job of all, having to deal with a ten point deduction, which if had not been in place would have seen Portsmouth survive, and then losing nearly his entire squad before the start of this season. The side are now in the bottom half of League One, and although you would be a fool not to recognise just how difficult the job Appleton is doing is, a relegation and encampment in the bottom half of the league below is not really working miracles. However, he is now being linked with a return to the Championship and is one of the favourites for the job at Burnley.
So what makes these men who have effectively done little to halt the demise of Portsmouth such attractive propositions for management posts? Well it seems that it has been their attitude and demeanour during what has been a torrid time for the club that has kept their profiles up. They have all been dignified, not moaned and complained about what is a shocking situation for a manager to find themselves in and just got on with it. It seems that getting on with it is what appeals to chairmen and they don’t seem too fussed that it was done with no great success.
The comparison could be drawn with a man mentioned earlier, Steve McClaren who arrived at Nottingham Forest, spent a decent amount of money for Championship level, lost a few games and was off again in no time at all. Although he got his old job back in Holland, there will have been few chairmen in England who would have been keen to offer McClaren a contract after he displayed that kind of spineless attitude. It seems that like the tenacious full-back that has no real talent but works his socks off for the team and will always be a fans favourite for it can still be a role applicable to managers.
Appleton may be the one to buck the trend – he has a lot about him, is young and is building a good reputation in the game. Let’s just hope he doesn’t become the latest in the line of much heralded but ultimately unsuccessful men to manage Portsmouth.
Written by Phil Haigh, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley blogger
As the away side in a football match, you are expected to keep things tight and make life difficult for your hosts. More often than not a well-fought draw will do and if you pick up a close victory, even better.
Thrashings in football aren’t a regular occurrence but they do happen. However it is rare when the visiting team hands out a pasting to their hosts. Last week Andy Hessenthaler’s Gillingham did just that with a 6-1 victory at League Two strugglers Hereford United, so today Toppo’s Top Ten looks at those occasions where the visiting team has a field-day in front of goal, leaving the home fans heading for the exits early.
10: Burnley 2 Sheffield Wednesday 7 2003
Sheffield Wednesday were already relegated by the time they travelled to Turf Moor for a Division One fixture in 2003 – you wouldn’t have known it though looking at the final score.
Paul McLaren opened the scoring for the visitors with a long-range effort which Burnley goalkeeper Nic Michopoulous failed to save. Two minutes later Ashley Westwood added a second with a close-range tap-in Brian Barry-Murphy’s cross. Defender Richard Wood made it 3-0 to Wednesday, his first senior goal coming minutes after Burnley striker Ian Moore was sent off.
Burnley manager Stan Ternent hauled off the goalkeeper replacing him with sub-goalie Marlon Beresford and the Clarets pulled one back through a Robbie Blake penalty but in truth it was a miserable first half for the hosts and things didn’t improve. A minute after the break, Richard Evans beat Beresford with a cross-cum-shot from 35 yards before Blake made it 4-2 with a left-footed drive.
Chris Turner’s Wednesday quickly restored their three goal advantage as Steven Haslam scored from Alan Quinn’s free-kick and within seven minutes they scored again. Burnley’s French defender Artur Gnohere put Grant Holt’s cross past his own goalkeeper before the travelling Owls capped off a memorable afternoon, Quinn hitting an excellent 30-yard drive past Beresford for an 7-2 success.
9: Crewe Alexandra 1 Coventry City 6 2002
In February 2002, Coventry City visited Dario Gradi’s Crewe Alexandra in a Division One fixture where the hosts had a shocker. The Sky Blues were still harbouring hopes of a play-off spot while Crewe went into the match having won their last four games in a row. By the end of this 90 minutes though there was only one emphatic winner.
The first goal came on 37 minutes when a Lee Hughes cross was spooned into the air by Alex goalkeeper Ademole Bankole and Laurent Delorge knocked it into the net. Crewe equalised in injury time when Shaun Smith curled in a corner and Rob Hulse powered a near-post header into the back of the net, but seconds later Coventry were back in front when £5 million signing Hughes turned Steve Foster before driving in a curled shot from 15 yards.
Two minutes after the break striker Hughes made it 3-1 as he beat Bankole to the ball, nodding home Lee Mills’ flick-on from a long throw-in. After the Crewe defence failed to clear a cross ten minutes later, Hughes saw his shot blocked but it fell to Delorge who slammed it home to extend the visitors’ lead.
Midfielder David Thompson made it 5-1 after a mix-up in the Crewe backline and then with 20 minutes to go Hughes completed his hat-trick as he ran onto Thompson’s through ball, outmuscled Efe Sodje and Bankole before finishing easily. Gradi hauled ‘keeper Bankole off, replacing him with Clayton Ince but by then the damage had well and truly been done.
8: Hereford United 1 Gillingham 6 2011
Hereford United have made a poor start to the League Two campaign this season and their misery was compounded last week as Gillingham inflicted a 6-1 home reversal on them.
West Ham loanee Frank Nouble opened the scoring after good interplay with Chris Whelpdale before Garry Richards made it two five minutes later, his looping header beating Bulls ‘keeper Dave Cornell from Danny Jackman’s cross. Luke Rooney scored the Gills’ third on 38 minutes as his driven cross-cum-shot deflected off a home defender and into the net.
3-0 down at the break and things didn’t get better for Hereford as Jackman netted a fourth for Gillingham three minutes after the restart as he curled an excellent effort into the top corner of the net from wide on the left. Hereford missed a penalty midway through the second period but it was Gillingham who scored again, Whelpdale’s low effort bobbling over the diving Cornell and in.
On 82 minutes the visitors added a sixth when Stefan Payne netted his first senior goal with a strike from 20 yards but Hereford did salvage some pride, as with three minutes to go as Sam Winnall powered home a free-kick from 25 yards. Despite that it was the Bulls’ worst home defeat since returning to the Football League.
7: Millwall 1 Watford 6 2010
Millwall went into this Championship encounter against Watford proudly defending a ten month unbeaten record at home, but the Hornets ended that run in style.
John Eustace bundled home Don Cowie’s corner after seven minutes to give Watford the lead, which Jordon Mutch extended six minutes later, lashing the ball into the back of David Forde’s net after seeing his first effort blocked. Marvin Sordell’s left-footed effort two minutes into first-half stoppage time tricked over the line and saw Millwall 3-0 down at the break.
Nine minutes after the restart another Cowie corner led to a Watford goal as Adrian Mariappa headed the visitors into a four goal lead. Liam Trotter reduced arrears two minutes later but soon after Danny Graham rifled a powerful finish into the top corner to restore the four goal cushion for Malky Mackay’s side. They made it 6-1 added time as Martin Taylor directed a header low into the bottom corner to compound Millwall’s misery.
6: Reading 0 Bristol Rovers 6 1999
Having moved to the new £50 million Madejski Stadium in August 1998, four months later Reading put in one of the worst performances seen at the ground as they slumped to a 6-0 home defeat at the hands of Bristol Rovers.
The Division Two fixture in January 1999 saw Rovers’ pick up one of their best-ever away victories while The Royals were left embarrassed, particularly when the half-time score was 0-0. In the second half Jamie Cureton ran onto a through ball and slotted a composed finish beyond the advancing Reading goalkeeper for 1-0. The striker then made it two from the penalty spot and soon completed his hat-trick, knocking in after a defensive mix-up between Elroy Kromkeer and Chris Casper. Jason Roberts then set up strike parter Cureton for his fourth goal – all of them coming within the space of 20 minutes.
More poor home defending allowed Roberts, a £250,000 summer signing from Wolverhampton Wanderers, to score twice and make it 6-0 to Ian Holloway’s men.
5: Bradford City 0 Portsmouth 5 2003
On their way to the Division One title and promotion to the Premier League in 2003, Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth travelled to Valley Parade in their final league match, where they hammered Bradford City 5-0.
Italian defender Gianluca Festa marked his final appearance for Pompey with a goal, his left-footed shot beating City goalkeeper Aidan Davidson to open the scoring. Svetoslav Todorov hit a quick-fire double after the break to make it 3-0 and was then felled by Bantams defender David Wetherall in the box for a penalty.
The Bulgarian striker stepped up and converted the spot-kick to complete a ten-minute hat-trick. Former England winger Steve Stone finished off the rout on 67 minutes with a well-struck right foot shot to give Pompey only their second victory at Valley Parade in 14 attempts and the best possible preparation for life in the top flight.
4: Hartlepool United 1 Plymouth Argyle 8 1994
Plymouth Argyle made the long trip north to Hartlepool United for a Third Division clash in May 1994 and left Victoria Park with all three points and a hatful of goals scored. Dwight Marshall set the visitors on their way with a 29th minute strike and Steve McCall added a second ten minutes later. Richard Landon and Paul Dalton made it 4-0 at half-time and there was no let-up after the break as Landon hit number five. Steve Castle added yet another goal before Hartlepool midfielder Nicky Peverell grabbed a consolation effort with 20 minutes remaining. Landon completed his hat-trick on 77 minutes to restore Argyle’s six goal advantage and midfielder Paul Dalton completed the scoring with a minute to go, as the Devon side racked up a remarkable 8-1 away win.
3: Oldham Athletic 1 Cardiff City 7 2002
Division Two promotion rivals Oldham Athletic and Cardiff City met at Boundary Park in March 2002, where it was the visitors who prevailed by some scoreline.
Veteran Scottish goalkeeper Andy Goram played for Oldham the club between 1981 and 1987 and was brought in by boss Mick Wadsworth to resolve a goalkeeping crisis for this match, but he found himself conceding seven goals. Scott Young put the Bluebirds ahead early on before Leo Fortune-West and Peter Thorne gave them a 3-0 lead after just 23 minutes.
Andy Campbell made it four half an hour in before Oldham’s Matty Appleby was sent off. Fortune-West hit the fifth and his second of the afternoon just before half-time and after the break striker Campbell completed his hat-trick, netting in the 64th and 73rd minutes. Stuart Balmer pulled a goal back for Oldham, a mere consolation sixteen minutes from the end which did little to gloss over a very poor performance from the Lancashire outfit.
2: Torquay United 1 Scunthorpe United 8 1995
In October 1995 Scunthorpe United equalled their club-record victory as they thrashed a lacklustre Torquay United 8-1 at Plainmoor. Torquay had made the Division Three playoffs the season before but lost in the semi-finals to Preston North End, however they suffered a play-off hangover at the start of the 1995/96 campaign which culminated with the 8-1 reversal at the hands of the Iron.
Future Torquay striker Andy MacFarlane caught the eye as he netted four goals but the manner of the defeat hit Torquay chairman Mike Bateson hard, admitting he could have sacked the vast majority of the players who took to the field for the game. Instead he relieved manager Don O’Riordan of his duties in a bid to turn around the club’s fortunes. See the goals from the game in the clip below.
1: Norwich City 1 Colchester United 7 2009
Colchester United manager Paul Lambert inspired his side to a remarkable 7-1 win at newly-relegated Norwich City on the first day of the 2009/10 League One season, putting himself in the frame for the manager’s job at Carrow Road in the process.
As Norwich City began life in the third tier for the first time in half a century, no one saw this result coming. Kevin Lisbie gave the U’s the lead after ten minutes, Clive Platt netted twice, David Fox netted from a free-kick and Lisbie found the net again as Norwich were 5-0 down within 38 minutes. Cody McDonald netted for the Canaries after the break but David Perkins’ volley and Scott Vernon’s close-range finish made it 7-1 to the visitors – a fantastic performance from Lambert’s side inflicting Norwich’s heaviest home defeat in their 109 year history.
Norwich sacked manager Bryan Gunn within a week of the thrashing and turned to the man who helped deliver it, Lambert being appointed Norwich boss soon after. He galvanised the Norfolk outfit and led them to promotion as Champions, before embarking on a memorable season the following campaign as the Canaries finished 2nd in the Championship to secure Premier League football for the first time since 2005.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and blogger
Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens
After Peterborough United’s 7-1 demolition job over Ipswich Town on Saturday, it is only fitting that this week’s top ten takes a look at some other big victories in Football League history.
Football is all about putting the ball into the opposition’s net and the vast majority of league fixtures will be settled by a couple of goals at the most. Sometimes there are dull, drab affairs with little goalmouth action, however occasionally there are matches which go against the norm.
Defences go walkabout while attacking sides run riot, having the sort of goal-gluttinous day they can only dream about. One goal quickly turns to two, two to three, three to four…..you get the picture. As one team bangs them in, the other looks on in bemusement and suffers complete embarassment. Such games go down in folklore – for the winning team anyway. Here’s ten memorable games from the Football League where one of the sides involved went goal-crazy:
10: Portsmouth 6 Leicester City 1 2010
Seven games into last season, both Portsmouth and Leicester found themselves nestled at the wrong end of the Championship table. Pompey, under new boss Steve Cotterill, were attempting to rebuild after Premier League relegation months before, amid financial woes which saw Cotterill working with a small, depleted squad. Leicester, having finished in the play-off spots the season before also had a new man in charge, Paolo Sousa, but the Portugese only picked up five points from his first seven matches and it was about to get worse for The Foxes.
Having beaten Pompey in the Carling Cup a few days previously, Leicester stayed on the South Coast ahead of this Friday night fixture, which got off to a bad start as centre-back Michael Morrison handled the ball in the box ten minutes in, Liam Lawrence converting the resulting penalty. Lawrence added a second twelve minutes before the break and as the teams headed off at half-time with the score 2-0, few could have predicted what would happen during the next 45 minutes.
Thirteen minutes into the second half David Nugent’s finish from a tight angle made it 3-0 then the striker turned provider for Dave Kitson, as he set up the former Reading man who netted with a chipped effort. Down to ten men after Migel Vitor rugby-tackled Nugent during the first period, Leicester’s defending went array follwoing Steve Howard’s consolation goal for 4-1. Kitson grabbed his second after the Foxes failed to clear a corner and then Michael Brown went on a sauntering run from midfield before slotting home from an acute angle to make the score 6-1. Leicester were humbled and Sousa was axed not long after with former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson arriving to steer the East Midlanders to mid-table safety come the end of the season.
9: Burnley 2 Sheffield Wednesday 7 2003
This game involved a side already relegated from Division One. Neutrals looking at the scoreline would’ve thought that team were Burnley, instead it was Sheffield Wednesday, doomed to the drop, who would sign off their campaign in the second tier with a thumping victory at Turf Moor.
Paul McLaren opened the scoring for the visitors with a long-range effort which Burnley goalkeeper Nic Michopoulous failed to save. Two minutes later Ashley Westwood added a second with a close-range tap-in from the brilliantly named Brian Barry-Murphy’s left-wing cross. It got worse for the hosts as Ian Moore was sent off on 21 minutes for a cynical challenge on Barry-Murphy.
Defender Richard Wood made it 3-0 to Wednesday, his first senior goal coming as he volleyed home Grant Holt’s header. Burnley manager Stan Ternent hauled off Michopoulous, replacing him with sub-goalie Marlon Beresford. The Clarets pulled one back through a Robbie Blake penalty but the substitution failed to stem the flow of goals. A minute after the break, Richard Evans beat Beresford with a cross-cum-shot from 35 yards before Blake pegged The Owls back again with a left-footed drive.
Chris Turner’s side quickly restored their three goal advantage as Steven Haslam scored from Alan Quinn’s free-kick and within seven minutes they had another. Burnley’s French defender Artur Gnohere put Grant Holt’s cross past his own goalkeeper before Wednesday set the seal on their performance as Quinn hit an excellent 30-yard drive past Beresford for an unexpected 7-2 away win.
8: Oldham Athletic 1 Cardiff City 7 2002
In the 2001/02 season both Oldham Athletic and Cardiff City were gunning for promotion from Division Two and the sides met at Boundary Park in March 2002, where Cardiff sent out a real statement of intent, leaving their hosts stunned.
It was a nightmare return to the Latics for veteran Scottish goalkeeper Andy Goram. He played for the club between 1981 and 1987 and was brought in by boss Mick Wadsworth to resolve a goalkeeping crisis, which he could not solve as he shipped seven goals. Scott Young put the Bluebirds ahead early on before Leo Fortune-West and Peter Thorne gave them a 3-0 lead after just 23 minutes.
Andy Campbell made it four half an hour in before Oldham’s Matty Appleby was sent off making his side’s day even worse. Fortune-West hit the fifth and his second of the afternoon just before half-time and after the break striker Campbell completed his hat-trick, netting in the 64th and 73rd minutes. Stuart Balmer pulled a goal back for Oldham, a mere consolation sixteen minutes from the end which did little to hide the total embarassment his side suffered.
7: Nottingham Forest 7 Swindon Town 1 2006
After Nottingham Forest suffered relegation into League One in 2005 they struggled to adapt to life in the third tier under manager Gary Megson. A series of humbling defeats at the likes of Yeovil and Oldham saw Megson leave by mutual consent in February with the team 13th in the table, four points off relegation. Assistant manager Frank Barlow and coach Ian McParland jointly took charge until the end of the season and resided over an fantastic run which nearly saw the Reds reach the playoffs as they won 8, drew 4 and lost 1 of the pair’s 13 games in charge. The highlight came during their second match in the dugout as the Reds ran riot against Swindon Town.
Nicky Southall bagged a hat-trick as the Reds stuck seven past their visitors at the City Ground, Southall opening the scoring just three minutes in with a half-volley which flew into the top corner. Wes Morgan and Ian Breckin nodded home corners to make the score 3-0 before the half-hour mark. After the break Swindon continued to ship goals as Forest’s passing football and the pace of Nathan Tyson down the left stretched them, Southall heading home his second goal before rifling home from close-range to complete his hat-trick. Morgan scored his second from another corner before Jerel Ifil received his marching orders for Swindon.
Football League journeyman Trevor Benjamin netted a consolation for The Robins, but Forest finished off the rout as Jack Lester’s deflected effort looped into the net to complete a memorable afternoon’s football for the Reds.
6: Preston North End 6 Cardiff City 0 2009
Two teams hoping to secure Championship play-off spots met at Deepdale in April 2009 and while the result may not have instantly affected Cardiff’s chances of a top-six finish, come the end of the season they would go on to rue their heavy defeat.
Neil Mellor opened the scoring on 17 minutes as his strike deflected into the net off Cardiff defender Roger Johnson then made it two on 41 as he got the final touch to another deflected effort, this time from captain Paul McKenna. Billy Jones then conceded a penalty, offering the Bluebirds a chance to get back into the game, but Ross McCormack saw his spot-kick superbly saved by Andy Lonergan.
In the second half Jon Parkin made it 3-0 as he raced onto Mellor’s pass and slotted a composed finish beyond the on-rushing Stuart Taylor and Mellor contributed to Preston’s fourth as his cross was headed into his own net by Mark Kennedy. Mellor was soon replaced but the goals kept coming as sub Chris Brown headed a fifth with fifteen minutes to go and Lee Williamson completed the scoring, making it a 6-0 thrashing four minutes from the end.
On the final day of the season Preston beat QPR 2-1 while Cardiff lost 1-0 against Sheffield Wednesday leaving the two sides level on points and a goal difference each of +12. By virtue of goals scored it was Preston who occupied the final play-off place having scored 66 goals to Cardiff’s 65 – an agonising near miss from Dave Jones’ men courtesy of that 6-0 defeat.
5: Millwall 1 Watford 6 2010
Newly-promoted Millwall went into this Championship encounter against Watford proudly defending a ten month unbeaten record at home. Ironic then that their defenders went missing as the Hornets racked up an unexpected five-goal win at the New Den in September last year.
John Eustace bundled home Don Cowie’s corner after seven minutes to give Watford the lead, which Jordon Mutch extended six minutes later, lashing the ball into the back of David Forde’s net after seeing his first effort blocked. Marvin Sordell’s left-footed effort rolled over the line two minutes into first-half stoppage time leaving Millwall 3-0 down at the break.
Nine minutes after the restart another Cowie corner was not dealt with by the Lions and Adrian Mariappa took advantage, heading Watford into a four goal lead. Liam Trotter reduced it to three two minutes later but that was as good as it got for the hosts, Danny Graham rifling a powerful finish into the top corner to restore the four goal cushion for Malky Mackay’s side. They got a sixth in added time as Martin Taylor directed a header low into the bottom corner to compound Millwall’s misery.
4: Peterborough United 7 Ipswich Town 1 2011
Darren Ferguson returned to London Road midway through last season and steered them to promotion via the League One play-offs. He’s done it before in 2009 but as was well-publicised, he left the club a few games into the Championship season which saw Posh relegated amid a host of managerial changes. You sense the club has learned from that experience, Ferguson too from his unsuccessful time as Preston boss and all parties are better for it now. At the weekend they hosted Paul Jewell’s Ipswich Town and blew them away with a performance which has made the rest of the league sit up and take notice. The loss of 35-goal man Craig Mackail-Smith to Brighton left some fearing whether Posh would have the firepower to compete in the second tier but with Paul Taylor, Lee Tomlin, and Grant McCann finding the net they have goals in the team. It was the visitors who went in front though as midfielder Keith Andrews slammed a 25-yard effort in off the post. Paul Taylor levelled with a fine volley from the edge of the area and Tomlin made it 2-1, chesting down a lofted ball forward, skillfully turning away from his marker and hitting an excellent shot into the far top corner. Taylor then pounced on a loose ball and sprinted away from the Ipswich defenders before slotting a composed finish past goalkeeper David Stockdale. Soon it was 4-1 as Tomlin grabbed his second, running onto McCann’s superb through ball and cooly rolling the ball through the ‘keeper’s legs.
Ipswich winger Lee Martin then saw red for a rash challenge on Mark Little and the controversial decisions continued as, 71 seconds after the break, Town subsitute Tommy Smith was sent off for bringing down Tomlin in the D, outside the penalty area. Despite that, the referee gave a penalty which McCann stepped up and scored with applom. Ten minutes after the break it was six as Lee Frecklington’s low cross was converted, via a deflection, by McCann for his second. In injury time the impressive Tomlin completed his hat-trick, following up on his cleared effort to make it 7-1, leaving Ipswich boss Paul Jewell reflecting on what he called an ‘embarassing’ defeat.
3: Hartlepool United 1 Plymouth Argyle 8 1994
This Third Division clash in May 1994 saw a relegated side host a promoted one and the gulf in class was easy to see, Plymouth Argyle thrashing United as they looked forward to a place in the third tier. Dwight Marshall set the visitors on their way with a 29th minute strike and Steve McCall added a second ten minutes later. Richard Landon and Paul Dalton made it 4-0 at half-time and there was no let-up after the break as Landon hit number 5. Steve Castle added yet another goal before Hartlepool midfielder Nicky Peverell grabbed a consolation effort with 20 minutes remaining. Landon completed his hat-trick on 77 minutes to restore Argyle’s six goal advantage and midfielder Paul Dalton completed the scoring with a minute to go, as the Devon side racked up a remarkable 8-1 away win.
2: Crewe Alexandra 8 Cheltenham Town 1 2010
One of the stand-out performances in the Football League last year came at the Alexandra Stadium as Crewe Alexandra decimated visitors Cheltenham, hitting eight goals as they chased a play-off place.
Clayton Donaldson opened the scoring for the hosts four minutes in, slotting home from Shaun Miller’s pass. The latter then added the second as he tapped in from Danny Shelley’s pass before Shelley laid on the third for Donaldson. Joel Grant made it four just before half-time and Cheltenham pulled one back after the break, Wesley Thomas with a close-range finish. Alexandra midfielder Ashley Westwood scored his side’s fifth as he converted Matt Tootle’s cross and Donaldson completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Steve Elliott handled in the area. Grant scored his second with a tap in and got his own treble with two minutes remaining as he netted Crewe’s second penalty of the match, awarded following a trip on Donaldson in the area. It would be a long trip home south for the travelling Cheltenham fans.
1: Norwich City 1 Colchester United 7 2009
As Norwich City began life in the third tier for the first time in half a century, no one could have predicted their opening day result at home to Colchester United as the visitors secured a memorable 7-1 victory in front of a stunned Carrow Road.
Kevin Lisbie gave the U’s the lead after ten minutes, Clive Platt netted twice, David Fox netted from a free-kick and Lisbie found the net again as Norwich were 5-0 down within 38 minutes. Cody McDonald netted for the Canaries after the break but David Perkins’ volley and Scott Vernon’s close-range finish made it 7-1 to the visitors – a fantastic performance from Paul Lambert’s side inflicting Norwich’s heaviest home defeat in their 109 year history.
Norwich sacked manager Bryan Gunn within a week of the thrashing and turned to the man who masterminded it, Lambert being appointed the new boss at Carrow Road. He galvanised the team and led them to promotion as Champions, before embarking on a memorable season the following campaign as the Canaries finished 2nd in the Championship to secure Premier League football for the first time since 2005.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up blogger
Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens.
Another new season, another new owner for Portsmouth FC. Pompey have been through a rough time through the past few years – with well-documented financial troubles, player sales, relegation, owner changes and manager alterations. In recent years it’s seemed to be never a dull day at Fratton Park. However, with new owners that look like they’re in for the long term and an ambitious young manager in Steve Cotterill, Pompey finally look on the up.
With Luke Varney arriving from Derby County, David Norris coming in from Ipswich Town, Greg Halford from Wolves and Jason Pearce from Bournemouth all signing for Portsmouth over the summer break, Cotterill is finally beginning to shape the squad to fit his vision, and to get them playing the sort of football that has seen his previous teams reap success in the past.
While the new signings are an encouraging start, more players are needed in critical positions, as the depth of the squad is a continuing issue. Full-back and striking positions are in desperate need of reinforcement, and a lot can be said about the loan market to fill the gaps, if only on a short term basis. Loans have proved to be critical to Portsmouth in the past, and while the Sheffield United chairman proclaimed the over reliance on loan players contributed to their demise last season, without the loans players that came to Fratton Park, we could have been seeing League One football this season.
Gael Kakuta and Patrick Van Aanholt of Chelsea both rumoured with links to Portsmouth this season. With only a month left of the transfer window remaining, time is certainly of the essence and Portsmouth chairman David Lampitt has even hinted there could be new faces at Portsmouth before Saturday’s season-opener at Middlesbrough.
Some will point to the departures of key players such as David Nugent and Michael Brown as reasons for Portsmouth to struggle this season, but there are some great young players knocking on the door of the first team. Many Portsmouth fans will certainly keep their eyes out for the pacey Australian winger Ryan Williams and England U-17 International Sam Magri to potentially grab some minutes this season – both impressed this summer in pre-season and the U-17 championships respectively.
Pre-season this year consisted of another trip to America, immediately bringing back painful memories of last years doomed trip which consisted of endless travelling, constant flights, injuries and poor games and facilities. A lot of people focus on the importance of pre-season, but for Portsmouth it was mainly about building fitness to ensure the club can hit the ground running away at Middlesbrough for the season opener. Charleston Battery provided the opposition over there, and surprised Portsmouth with their ability and fitness, with Greg Halford commenting on Twitter at his surprise of the abilities and facilities in the US.
Coupled with a traditional visit to West Leigh Park to play Havant & Waterlooville, and an embarrassingly cancelled game against La Liga side Real Betis, pre-season has been pretty kind to Portsmouth this year. Sure, there hasn’t been the glitz and glamour that other teams have had in pre-season, but Pompey have quietly gone about their business.
So, what are the odds? Sky Bet have Portsmouth at 33/1 to win the Championship outright, 9/1 for promotion, and 6/1 for relegation. What does that all mean? Mid-table, most likely. Sure, Pompey will push for a playoff place, but I think survival in the Championship coupled with two wins against Southampton will keep the majority of Portsmouth fans happy this year.
Play up Pompey!
Written by Chris Robinson, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth Blogger