Who are you? We’re Portsmouth (again!)


So. I go away for 12 days and six home points turn into two, Sunderland are back in yet another relegation scrap and we’re left wondering where the next win is coming from. Fratton Park? We’d love to think so. Dave Byne*, from the myPompey fans’ site, thinks we’ll have to settle for a draw, but fears his own club is going down

Salut! Sunderland The cup game left Sunderland fans fuming. You must have taken heart for the rest of the Premier season – as in, there’s worse than Pompey!

Certainly on the pitch it has to be encouraging when you beat a Sunderland side that have clearly built on last season and have generally had a solid campaign so far. And yes, I believe that there are at least three worse teams than Pompey in the Premier League but we are now operating with a very threadbare squad and the chances of keeping them altogether feels doubtful. Good result for us though BUT we need to get some victories in the league.

And yet your club remains in crisis. What is your assessment of what’s been going on?

Crisis is precisely right and it’s probably not over yet. And it has to be down to severely poor management of the club over a period of time. In many ways I think we at Pompey represent the tip of the iceberg in football. If you were running your own business I doubt that you would take your lead from the way football clubs are being run these days. Pompey have emerged as front-runners in a race that nobody would really want to win largely because we have such a limited capacity at Fratton Park and therefore our gate income is quite clearly also going to be limited. To that extent, with the players that have been bought and more significantly the wages and bonuses that have been paid to these players the income generated through the turnstiles to cover players costs has simply been far too little. Ticket prices at Fratton Park have had to be on the high side compared to others in order to at least go some way to making up for the lack of capacity. The problem is, realistically, ticket prices probably needed to be closer to £80 per match with Season Tickets possibly in the region of £1200 per season to bring the financial ratios back into the real world. Consequently, as we stand today, I fear the worst for our club but I must stress that in my opinion most football clubs are over-stretching themselves and are only a stones throw away from where Portsmouth Football Club find themselves. I could mention Hull and West Ham for starters and even, maybe slightly more tongue in cheek, Manchester United too. There are lessons to be learned by others here – unfortunately at Pompey’s expense.

The players clearly have spirit. Will they get you out of the hole?

The players have really been terrific and shown a great attitude throughout all of this. Remember, they (and the general staff) didn’t get paid on time in October, November and December and I am currently waiting with baited breath to see what happens over the next few days for January payday. Anyway, to answer your question, whilst the players have shown great spirit, much will depend on the club’s ability to retain their services and hopefully add to what is a very small squad. Our best eleven at this moment in time would, I believe, be just about good enough to survive in the Premiership. But if we can’t keep them together and frre from injury and suspension (and at the time it seems unlikely) then I see only one outcome.

When the season started. what was your belief on where each of our clubs would finish? What do you think now, again for both Pompey and Sunderland?

At the beginning of the season I could genuinely see Sunderland finishing above Pompey this season. The writing was already on the wall for us whereas you strengthened in key areas with Michael Turner and Darren Bent being important signings. So, if you pushed me for specific positions I would have said Sunderland around 9th or 10th with Pompey around 14th or 15th. To reassess this now; Sunderland’s away form has obviously cost them but with 23 points from 21 games already I can’t see relegation being an issue this season (although you need to be careful not to get sucked into it). 13th position is an awkward place to be when the safe positions only go down as far as 17th – but I think you’ll be o.k. and rather than being at the bottom of the top half I can see you finishing at the top of the bottom half. As for Pompey, it’s difficult not to be a defeatist at the moment and things would certainly become clearer when the transfer window closes. My heart says that we can do it but my head says that we will be one of the three.

But in the meantime, you have Southampton in the next round of the FA Cup.

Well, you can imagine it will certainly generate some excitement and headlines on the South Coast and maybe even nationally. To that extent, it will be nice for Pompey to be the subject of some proper football-related stories. It seems an age since the club were associated through the media with on the field matters. Anyway, the cup draw. In truth I think that there are many of us Portsmouth supporters who are now regretting not having a tenner on the two sides being paired together for the next round. As soon as I knew we had both made it through the last round it was almost a no-brainer. It simply had to happen – and it did. And the fact that ourselves and the old enemy down the road were the final two balls left to be drawn out effectively added to the drama of the moment. It doesn’t bother me that it will be at St Mary’s as we should make a bit more money that way and we certainly need that. But it’s a MASSIVE game for us. Personally, if we end up getting relegated and also lose to Southampton in the cup, it will hurt me for longer losing the cup match than it will dropping down to The Championship. We have the local bragging rights at the moment because we are two divisions above them and also the last time we played we beat them comprehensively 4-1 at Fratton Park. That was also the score after 28 minutes by the way. It was some game and we would have won 7 or 8-1 if Diomansy Kamara had been a decent finisher. So to say that it matters is a huge understatement. They will no doubt fancy their chances. To be fair, the management and administration over there have turned the club around because they are another case of “Where’s all our money gone!”. Remember that they
sold players for big money too; Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, Wayne Bridge, James Beattie, Kevin Davies and others before being hit by big financial problems and administration. But they have developed a decent Academy setup over the years and are once again doing o.k. out on the football pitch with a young side, albeit in League 1. But they will be full of confidence with how they are performing in their league and I think what we have to try and do is take advantage of the possible lack of big game experience there. Please don’t ask me to predict how it will go. Defeat doesn’t bear thinking about and right now I just hope that we’ve got a proper team when Feb 13th or 14th comes around. It’s a game we have to win – simple as that. And in a way it was nice to practice beating a team wearing Red & White stripes in the last round!

Name this season’s top four, in order.

1. Chelsea; 2. Man United; 3. Arsenal; 4. Manchester City.

And the bottom three.

You’re being cruel now but here goes. 18th Hull City; 19th Pompey; 20th Wolves.

Kevin Ball was a great servant to both clubs – still is, for us, as youth team coach.Any memories?

Yes, I saw Kevin Ball make his debut for Pompey and develop into a really good player. He had a few injuries and on the basis of that the club in my opinion made a rather rash decision and allowed him to be sold earlier than he should have been – to Sunderland‘s benefit I might add!!. Kevin was a real winner; one of those players that you would want out there with you in the heat of battle; the sort who would run through a brick wall for you. Top man.

The Eduardo question: you’ve got to win the last game to stay up. In the last second, Boateng goes down in the box and everyone in the stadium except the ref knows he dived. You score the penalty and win. Take it gladly, take it guiltily or feel so ashamed you almost wish you’d only drawn and gone down?

Take it gladly I’m afraid. I know the saying goes “you make your own luck” and “things even themselves out over the course of a season”. Well, if it was the last game of the season and we had that sort of situation then I guess we would have been owed it from whatever had gone on during the previous eight months. I can’t condone out and out cheating but referees get things wrong, sometimes to your detriment and other times in your favour so whatever happens you have to take it and move on. As we all know, referees rarely change their mind and it’s probably not up to players to try and convince them. What a dangerous precedent that could set (!). Blimey, I almost feel guilty now!! Only for a second though!

Is it time for us to lay off Eduardo and use other divers – Drogba, Ngog fr example? And was it outrageous to use Kaboul’s name ( at random)?

Yes, I really think that it’s time to put the Eduardo incident to bed now. I’m still not convinced about it anyway to be honest. Drogba – definitely a good shout. And I would even nominate Steven Pienaar for this one. Goes over in a strong wind that one! You mentioned Kaboul and outrageous is the right word to use. He’s been a colossus for us and when you’re that big sometimes you do go down ‘in stages’ but he’s no diver. Can’t think of a bad word to say about the fella – unless since the time of writing he has signed for Spurs of course!!

Club vs country: rooting for England all the way at the World Cup or too concerned with Pompey’s troubles to care?

I really am a ‘club over country’ fan, especially at the moment. Pompey are all-important to its supporters as I’m sure Sunderland are to their fans – and whilst I always want England to do well in the major competitions, my concentration has to be on what happens to my club. When June 2010 arrives, if I still have a club to support then I will get the England flag out. If there’s no Pompey (and we‘re all praying it doesn‘t ever come to that), then I’ll probably switch-off of football totally for a while. That’s just the way it is for me. Pompey are everything as far as my interest in football is concerned.

Will you be at the Pompey v Sunderland match? Give us the score.

I’ll be there. The score. Well, I’ve seen Pompey play the same teams close together in Cup and League on quite a few occasions over the years. I remember playing Reading in the Cup one year and we lost 1-0 at Fratton Park and then seven days later played them in the league, again at Fratton Park, and beat them 4-0. The unpredictability that is football eh! Let’s face it, Sunderland have a decent squad and will probably have a few recovered from injury by February 9th but if I use an old cliché’ – “it’s what we do that matters” – but more to the point it will be a case of can we field a team that will be able to compete. We all hope so but just don’t know at the moment. But if we assume the same or very similar line-ups for both Pompey and Sunderland I can see another 1-1 draw, similar to that at the Stadium of Light.

* Dave Byne on Dave Byne:

I’m an Accountant by trade and currently working on the commercial export side for a major defence/electronics business.

I’ve supported Pompey for 44 years now and attended my first match when I was 9. In the late 70’s I was a member of the Pompey Action Group who busied themselves fund-raising for the club during another financial crisis and consequently it feels like the club have gone full circle with things the way they are right now. Regardless, they are my home town team and will be my club for as long as I’m around. Supporting you home town club is something I feel quite strongly about. Take note all you Manchester United fans living in Surrey, Chelsea fans in Kent etc etc!!! I’m a Season Ticket Holder and have in fact now held a Season Ticket on all four sides at Fratton Park at different times but I’m now settled in the Lower North, nicely pitched up in line with the half-way line. Things aren’t great at the moment and the off-the-field problems are dominating the club but whilst I fear for Pompey I also fear for football in general. It feels on the verge of potential financial meltdown unless somebody does something about it. However, any such action will need to start from the top which unfortunately makes it unlikely in my opinion. Play up Pompey.

I’ve been a member of MyPompey for just under a year now and it took me a while to decide (a) whether to contribute to one of the Pompey related football websites and then (b) which one to pick. In the end I opted for MyPompey as I felt the organisation and presentation of the site together with the overall quality and intellect of the contributors provided a better balanced forum for considered discussion than some of the other alternatives out there. And I’m pleased to be a part of it.

That’s it really. Good luck Sunderland. I’ve got a couple of contacts up that way who are Sunderland fans and it would be great if you could do us a favour by beating soundly the likes of Burnley, Wolves, Hull, Bolton and others around the bottom eight. Cheers, and with a bit of luck (and some hard cash!!) we’ll see you next season.

Colin Randall

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