Isle of Wight   Pompey Supporters Club
The Chairman & Old Sage's View on Being a Pompey Supporter, Life & Everything Else  ...

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No prizes for guessing what the above is...it’s certainly not a very bad selection on Countdown...that’s right, it’s our league form since the turn of the year a period when we went from close to automatic promotion certainties and regularly playing against ten men to play-offs, at best, and fat chance there if we get someone like Barnsley, Charlton or Sunderland in the two-leg semi-final! 

Most sides, unless they happen to be little Luton, have a dip in form when they are in the running for promotion but even though we’ve lost just one of our last eight games (there’s a bit of ‘spin’ for you) this has been pretty mind blowing stuff. But why? 

There’s no shortage of theories and, I suspect, no one reason why it’s all gone a bit pear shaped. In no particular order: 

·       The loss of Ben Thompson and Jack Whatmough.

·     The stubbornness and intransigence of a manager who simply hasn’t moved with the times

·     We’ve been sussed by other clubs...’we’ve been found out’.

·     One way or another our luck up until New Years Eve simply ran out.

·    A rigid antiquated one dimensional approach.

·    No Plan B

·   Lack of investment/fear of promotion on the part of the owners/administration

·   An inevitable dip in form for the likes of Lowe and Curtis.

·    January transfer business that consisted of buying a couple of benchwarmers for the future and desperately dredging the bottom of the pond for loan deals with minimal success other than Bogle.

·   Continually relying on a ‘centre-forward’ whose managed just five league goals all season.

·    Not using a proven goalscorer.

·    Distraction of an FA Cup run and reaching EFL Trophy Final 

I’ve no doubt that there is more but somewhere in the above list is the main reason(s) for our loss of form. Let’s be fair even when we were winning games we were hardly convincing and, other than a couple of games, we haven’t been what you’d call entertaining at anytime! 

I’m a fan so I don’t much care about the entertainment aspect, I just want my team to win games and this is usually achieved by a sound defence and a side playing open and expansive football. As good as Matt Clarke is he can’t do it all on his own and, although Ben Close has improved and Gareth Evens comes good about one game in three, midfield is not our strong suit, and Oli Hawkins has been the cause of debate all season! Enough said. 

Let’s not totally condemn the manager as his CV, although it’s beginning to get a bit dated, speaks for itself and, in my opinion, he has proved to be a good judge of a player even though he only he has a limited budget for a club that gets 18,000+ gates and is debt free. In modern football he’d be a really good scout; you only have to look at Brown, Naylor, McGillivray; then there is Ben Thompson and players that ‘slipped through the net’ like Longstaff and Yates who are now regulars for Newcastle and Nott’m Forest. 

In short, it’s a mix of four months of over achievement against a couple of months of a ‘bit of a car crash’!! 

Are we good enough for automatic promotion? No. 

Will we make the play-offs? Yes, if we don’t there should be a stewards inquiry! 

Would you bet on us reaching the play-off final? Probably not. 

If we don’t how will we look back on the season this summer? Don’t ask me! It’s going to be a disappointment that will probably put us back two or three years because I can’t see us holding onto Clarke, Lowe and Curtis and I think there will be, or needs to be, a change of manager. 

Cheers. 

PUP 

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Well you can’t say it’s boring, can you? 

We’re going to Wembley when it really doesn’t matter so that should be a really good day out! 

The ‘walking wounded’ won 5-1 on Saturday in the ‘drone game’...I’m guessing the only real danger was that if it had been American military was the possibility of ‘friendly fire’!! This was a welcome victory (understatement) but after the top three winning and our disastrous run it really only cements our place in the Play-Offs. That visit to Wembley, if it happens, may be a little more stressful. 

I’m a football fan so I don’t often have sympathy for other clubs but I was thinking after Saturday what a shame it would be if a club the size of Bradford dropped down to League Two and a club like Nott’s Co. dropped out of the league altogether, especially if that meant survival for trifling little clubs like Macclesfield, Yeovil, Cheltenham, Crawley and Stevenage because essentially they are non-league teams with no pedigree, real fan base or tradition/history 

Anyone who visits our website or receives e-mail from Steve should appreciate the fantastic job he did over the 48 hours up to Saturday morning in sorting tickets for Wembley as well as coach transport. Thanks Steve. Anyway that’s all in hand and if, at this stage, you don’t have ticket, don’t panic we’ve got nearly 39,000!! I still think it’ll be a record for a Johnstone’s Paint / Chekatrade.com Final, particularly if we play with the Mackems! This competition has been ill-considered since day one so the EFL should think themselves bl---y lucky if they get the two biggest clubs outside the Championship in the final. 

On that point it’s a shame that our CEO Mark Catlin, who ably led the campaign against the competition and actually asked Pompey fans not to go to the games, won’t be able to attend the showpiece occasion. I’m a big admirer of Mark and I don’t have him marked down as a hypocrite so he’ll have to stay at home and watch it on the telly!  

Putting that aside for three weeks we have two more vital league gamers coming up including the game at Charlton on Saturday tea-time (God help us) that will go a long way to deciding the finishing places in the top six come the end of the season. Personally when they were down here a couple of weeks before Xmas I thought that they were the best side I’ve seen this season but based on their recent form that doesn’t appear to be the case with one win and four draws in the their last six games. We will see. 

In the pub on Saturday I was in a minority (of one) when I said that Burgess would play against Bradford. So when the club says that the injuries we picked up in the game are only minor and they should all be fit for this Saturday I’m a bit sceptical.

That’s it for now. Your Committee have got a meeting this week so we’ll soon be able to update you on various things. PLEASE don’t forget the Race Night a week on Friday (15th March).

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Much like the Chairman, I thought it was about time the Old Sage returned with his thoughts. 

This season has to go down as one of the most puzzling I’ve ever witnessed. Even when we were winning what seemed like every game up until Christmas, everything just didn’t seem real. I would regularly get back to the hover at Southsea and we would all be saying, “well we won, but…..” The “but” would be followed by either we haven’t played very well, or we’re not really very good or something similar. In previous campaigns when we have done well there is usually some exciting football, goalmouth action and a feeling that we were actually a good team. Well apart from a couple of early season wins and the Sunderland game, entertainment has been in short supply. We were winning games by just doing enough, a solid defence and a little bit of luck. I think we all fell into the trap of thinking it was going to last all season but obviously it couldn’t. 

However, the fall has been quite spectacular with just 15 points from the last 14 games, and a miserable 5 from the last 8. There is a whole load of reasons which the Chairman correctly identified:

  • Losing the loan players especially Ben Thompson
  • Injuries to Whatmough and the other Thompson (although Burgess has slotted in perfectly)
  • Loss of form for Curtis and Lowe, not surprising really as they are young, inexperienced lads and we seemed to pin all our hopes on them
  • Poor selections and tactics from the manager

The most baffling situation has to be Pitman. Our captain, who KJ recruited as his major signing last season, who scored an impressive 25 goals now cannot warrant a place on the subs bench. It’s obvious that there has been a huge bust up between them. Suggesting anything else, as KJ has done, is just insulting the intelligence of the average supporter. To possibly think that Hawkins or Bogle are a better option is just crazy, and similarly we now have James Vaughan sitting here playing the odd 10 minute cameo. As we all know football managers are stubborn and I don’t expect Pitman to be restored to the league team any time soon. If the season fizzles out completely as it threatens to, then KJ will have to answer the question of why he hasn’t played our best goalscorer. It makes no sense because Jackett is a good judge of a player, even if the football is incredibly dull under him. 

Tomorrow we have a chance to reach Wembley and for me this game is the most important we have at the moment. I think we are destined for a play off place, only a continuation of the last 8 games until the end of the season can really stop us and that can’t happen surely!!

The Checkatrade Trophy is a great chance to add some excitement to the season, maybe Pitman will even get a game at Gigg Lane tomorrow, let’s hope so.

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Please note that the views expressed in this column are my personal views not those of IOWPS



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