Can Pompey supporters have some cheer after years of anguish?
It was only a few years ago that Portsmouth were in the Premier League, winning the FA Cup, with UEFA Cup dreams ahead of them. Now, they're in the fourth tier of English football, but can Guy Whittingham get the Hampshire side back into League 1 at the first attempt? To find out when we'll be playing Pompey, visit the official site on June 19th.
Portsmouth won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 2003, under Harry Redknapp. The following season saw Pompey finish mid-table in 13th place. The 2004/05 season, and Redknapp resigned from his position and he soon took over at local rivals, Southampton. 2005 saw Alain Perrin appointed as manager but with the club having a disappointing campaign, the Frenchman was sacked and Redknapp made a sensational return to Fratton Park, keeping them up with a win on the penultimate game of the season at Wigan Athletic. In 2008, Pompey won the FA Cup, beating Cardiff 1-0 and sealing a place in the UEFA Cup. Two years later and Portsmouth were relegated to the Championship, despite reaching the FA Cup Final again under Avram Grant. Financial difficulties saw the club struggle over the next two seasons under the leadership of Steve Cotterill and they were relegated to League 1 in 2012, before a second consecutive demotion to League 2 at the end of the 2012/13 season.
Guy Whittingham, who was voted Portsmouth’s Player of the Season in 1990, was appointed the caretaker manager of the south coast side in 2012, after Michael Appleton moved to Blackpool. Whittingham became the permanent successor in April 2013, despite Pompey’s relegation. Whittingham had previously had spells managing AFC Newbury and Newport Isle of White. The Evesham-born frontman began his playing career at Yeovil Town prior to joining Portsmouth in 1989. He made over 150 appearances for the club in four years before joining Aston Villa. From Villa, he had spells at Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday, Watford and Wycombe, before hanging up his boots at Newport Isle of White in 2005.
After Simon Eastwood’s summer departure to Blackburn Rovers, it looks increasingly likely that former Swindon Town and Crawley Town ‘keeper Phil Smith will be the last line of defence for Guy Whittingham’s side. However, Smith will face competition from new recruit, John Sullivan. A former teammate of Smith’s at Swindon, Joe Devera, should take his position at centre back, and ex-Aldershot Town player Sonny Bradley could play alongside him. New signing Danny East should play right back. Midfield will see Liam Walker play in a central position next to the experienced Austrian, Johnny Ertl, who is also the club’s captain. The highly-rated England under-19 midfielder Jed Wallace will play a big part in 2013/14, as will Andy Barcham, who signed following his release from Scunthorpe. Up front, Tom Craddock should lead the line. The 25-year-old knows the league well having played at this level with Oxford United. Big striker Patrick Agyemang could join Craddock in attack.
It was only in 2012 that David Connolly played his part in Southampton’s promotion to the Premier League. He was released at the end of that season and failed to find a club until Pompey brought him to Fratton Park at the end of December. The 36-year-old, who began his career at Watford, has had spells at Wigan Athletic, Sunderland, Leicester City and West Ham United. He also spent four years playing in Holland for Feyenoord. Between 1996 and 2004, Connolly represented the Republic of Ireland 41 times, including playing in the 2002 Fifa World Cup.
Off the field problems didn’t help Portsmouth’s cause with the club only being able to offer month long contracts to available players. A poor start to the season culminated in Pompey picking up just two points from their opening four games, prior to beating nine-man Crawley Town 3-0 on 9th September. Pompey went on a dismal run of bad form that saw the club go 22 league games without a win, a sequence that went from 23rd October, finally ending when they beat Crewe Alexandra 2-1 on 2nd March. Despite picking up some decent form at the end of the campaign, where they won five of their final 11 League 1 games, they were doomed, finishing in 24th place, but only after having 10 points deducted due to their financial problems.
Guy Whittingham didn’t hang around when it came to making signings. After a loan spell at the back end of last season, Patrick Agyemang signed a permanent deal with the Hampshire club, as did former Charlton Athletic goalkeeper, John Sullivan. Sonny Bradley and Danny East both joined from Hull City, Tom Craddock joined from Oxford United and Andy Barcham signed a three-year contract following his departure from Scunthorpe United. Joe Devera signed from Swindon Town and Romain Padovani was recruited from Monaco’s B team in France. Leaving Portsmouth were big striker John Akinde, experienced defenders Ricardo Rocha and Gabor Gyepes, and Simon Eastwood, who signed for Blackburn Rovers.
BLUES vs. PORTSMOUTH:
The last time the two sides met, was in the Championship in 1996/97. Blues won the match at Roots Hall 2-1 on 31st March, whilst Pompey picked up all three points at Fratton Park with a 1-0 scoreline.
Portsmouth are 5/6 to win promotion this coming season.