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

The Old Sage Replies

That’s better isn’t it. Two away games and two very good wins. 

Last week I was questioning where we were heading and said that something had to change to stop the run of defeats. Well I’m very pleased to say that something did happen. A few changes in the team, some brought about by suspension, and a return to a side that looked far more like last year’s Champions. The re-introduction of Rose and Naismith has been championed for a while now and let’s hope that those players now get a fair chance to prove their worth. It was interesting to see, after a quick flick through the forums at about 2.00 on Saturday, the horror from many about Kennedy being left out. Of course these were the same people who have been saying ‘Naismith must start’ for weeks now! It was clear that if Naismith was brought in, the player who was most likely to make way was Kennedy. It may seem harsh as Kennedy has produced some fine moments but for me, they have been far too rare. When he does get involved in the game he affects it very positively, but he has to do more. 

Another player who had to do more according to many was the much maligned Ben Close. Now I have always been a fan of Close, he is very tidy, doesn’t often waste possession, and wins his fair share of tackles. What he didn’t have was that attacking threat, but that has suddenly appeared in the last 3 games. It started in the Bradford game when he was much further forward in the second half, carried on at Luton and then finally achieved gold with his first goal at Blackpool. I guess this is a management instruction to get more involved attacking wise, which is what we have sorely missed from our central midfield for the best part of 3 years. Hopefully a partnership with Danny Rose will now be given a good chance to blossom. 

It was certainly a bold move by KJ to switch Matt Clarke to left back and put Hawkins in at centre half. I suppose it just about worked, Clarke is quite capable of playing that role, he does like to get forward even from centre back, but I don’t really see it as an option on a longer basis. Hopefully he will be restored to the middle this week. 

It was good to see Pitman back in the goals. He had hit that blank patch that we all knew was coming and people were quickly jumping on his case. The fact is if Pitman gets the opportunities, he will score goals. Hopefully our new attack minded midfield can help him to keep hitting the net. 

A good week in all, an absolutely crucial win at Charlton which must have added that much needed confidence to the squad. It would be nice to press on with another win on Saturday but Southend are just one of those teams that we seem to struggle against. It was four straight defeats when we played them in League Two, so let’s hope that run can be ended. An interesting thought is that we could now have a match on F A Cup Round 2 day. The Cobblers defeat at Scunthorpe last night leaves them free on that day as well, so what chance our Checkatrade Trophy tie being brought  forward to Saturday 2nd December. Sounds like a sensible move to me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An away win, three goals and a much needed three points...brilliant, no complaints from me or any other Pompey fan, I would hope. 

Tomorrow the News will launch itself into the desperate over coverage of just about everything that happens at Fratton Park based around endless interviews with Kenny Jackett and anyone else who hasn’t ‘had a go yet’ this season. The one thing they like to do...you watch... is ‘what have we learnt from our trip to Blackpool?’. 

That headline is normally a cue for yet another interview with our manager and the same old platitudes and repetitious comments that he comes out with at least once a week. Usually he is keen to highlight where we need to improve defensively and going forward, what we need to change etc. Sometimes seems to forget that why we employ him...never mind I digress. 

Hopefully this Monday it’ll be what has KJ learnt from the Blackpool game? 

No guessing where I’m going with this one. 

The starting eleven on Saturday included no less than seven players that featured in our final game of last season...including three or four that in his view weren’t good enough for League One despite winning the championship in style in the last dozen games of the season! As an inside source, talking about the win yesterday said to me, ‘that’s given him a few selection problems for next Saturday’. That might be an understatement!! 

Basically he was forced (or possibly persuaded), kicking and screaming, into bringing the likes of Naismith, Rose and Co into the team because of poor league form, injuries and suspensions...and, blow me down, look what happens! 

Let’s discount Pitman and McGee (we didn’t even have a goalkeeper, Cook didn’t believe in them); his idea was that the team needed strengthening and armed with a ridiculously small budget for a debt-free club with average gates close to 18,000 he went out and decided to spread it pretty thin and bought two players from sides relegated to League Two; a non-league striker who may yet prove to be a better central defender (yesterday he actually won a ball in the air in the penalty area...that’ll be our penalty area!) and three loanees from Cardiff and the mighty Burton Albion. 

Good business? No, overall, in my view, very poor business and it’s been beginning to show in recent weeks.

Two points I’m happy to admit I may have been wrong about. If we create chances Pitman will get goals, all we need to do now is hope he stays relatively injury free. He needs support...one up front and numbers in midfield is not a realistic option with him. The other one is I’m delighted for Ben Close, who has clearly improved in recent weeks, pushing forward, shooting and has (finally) been rewarded with a goal...let’s hope it continues. Be nice if KJ got into the habit of admitting he is wrong now and then. 

I don’t care much about the comment we’re doing better than all the other sides that came up. 23 Points is a good return but in actual fact it could have been better that that! 

PUP

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Time for the Old Sage to return. 

I’m just puzzled by what is happening at the moment. Up to the win against Franchise FC we looked to be ticking along ok but we seem to have lost our way in the last 4 games.

The reason for this seems to have been Pitman’s injury and return. Pitman is that sort of player who will score goals, but if he hits a little drought then the knives will be out instantly. It seems clear to me that he performs best when paired with another striker and he can sit just behind that other striker. He will score goals in that role and has done this season. Hawkins and Chaplin have both played that role with him, result 9 goals in 12 games. Since returning to the side he seems to have been played in the “no.9” role, result, he looks isolated and nowhere near as effective. Saturday it seems that Pitman and Hawkins played in the reverse roles, now Hawkins is a limited player but will surely be most effective as the big target man (or at centre half!). A quick look at the limited highlights showed Pitman’s early break and shot with Hawkins following on about 30 yards behind. Playing that way round surely just doesn’t make sense. 

But there’s more. The ignoring of Naismith has gone on for too long now. Leaving out the player who made a huge impact last season and was a major part of our late run for the title just does not make sense. It’s not just leaving him out of the starting 11 but also the virtual refusal to use him off the bench. Since being left out after the third league game of the season he has made just 4 brief appearances as a sub. KJ obviously prefers Kennedy and that is his right as manager and would be fine if Kennedy was in brilliant form. Despite showing some promise Kennedy hasn’t delivered on a regular basis and I can’t really remember hearing his name at all during the first half on Saturday. Oddly enough he was just getting into the game in the second half, and we were starting to look dangerous, when he was then taken off.  

The manager has clearly come into the club determined to put his stamp on it. That is fine if it works and we improve as a team, but is a huge risk and if things suddenly don’t go well then supporters will be all over you at the discarding of a Championship winning side. 

After the recent Bradford game I had an interesting debate about whether we are a better side now than last season. Basically the only part of the team unchanged are the centre backs, over the other 9 positions I would only say that we are stronger in one position and that is Pitman, but only if he reverts back to the “no.10” role. Losing Stevens and Doyle were huge and happened before Jackett took over, but why let Baker go? A midfielder who scores goals is a precious commodity to have, but we chose to let him go. Naismith, I’ve said enough about but Bennett has had limited chances as has Danny Rose.

There is a real clamour to bring Rose in for Close and it may be worth a try. To be honest I don’t think it will make any difference, Close seems to be the current favourite for criticism, despite the fact that he seemed to be the one pushing forward in the second half on Saturday and had two of our best efforts. The problem was losing Doyle, a player who would take control, he simply hasn’t been replaced. As a team, we look weak, we have no leaders (don’t anyone suggest that Burgess or O’Keefe are leaders please!) and if we fall behind it’s almost game over. That has to change obviously. 

The manager needs to reverse this current run of form now and that starts tomorrow. Don’t let me hear anyone say the Checkatrade Trophy game at Charlton doesn’t matter. Some seem to think that we should give away these games in the belief that we can then suddenly turn on a good performance and win the next league game. Utter nonsense. Would it be better to go to Blackpool on Saturday with a win in this “Mickey Mouse” cup, or on the back of 5 straight defeats? For me it’s crucial that we stop the run of defeats and try and get some confidence back in the team for Saturday. Not an easy task at present.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To be frank a fairly typical weekend in the life of an Island Pompey fan. An excellent fundraising social event down at the Simeon Arms followed by another home defeat on the Saturday afternoon. 

Friday night went really well and it was nice to see lots of new faces supporting our endeavours to promote PFC here on the Island while raising money for a local charity donation at the end of the season. Many thanks to everyone that supported the event and especially  to Laurence as the promoter, Steve the accountant, Kev the ‘oddsman’ and Barnsey who put in a long stint on the tote. I thought the MC was c**p but there you go you can’t have everything! We should also thanks the Adams family. Thanks to the generosity of one gentleman, who put his winning ticket back, we raised £140 on the Danny Rose (remember him?) and, not for the first time, the auction money went back to Newport (no, not College Road). Happy days. 

Saturday? Well, where would you like me to start? 

It was a good game of football and they (Bradford) are third in the league. One goal was always going to settle it and, as you might have guessed, it was them that nicked the winner with ten minutes to go. We didn’t deserve to lose but when you do a lifetime experience as a loyal fan tells me that that’s the time to start worrying.   

Perhaps we ought to go back a couple of weeks to the arguably unjustified optimism after the 2-0 home win against Milton Keynes. At the time, he said smugly, I was shrewd enough to say. 

To me yesterday was also another three points in the bag because the next three games are going to be tough. If we’re still one point off the play-offs in two weeks time then perhaps there will be cause for genuine guarded optimism. 

Well we’ve had the ‘next three games’, one goal and no points. Apart from losing they summed up just about everything that is wrong at this moment in time. 

Doncaster, gave away two early goals, even earlier than usual, and although the better side we couldn’t pull it back. In fairness, it was a Tuesday night north of the Watford Gap...it’s nice to maintain some traditions. LOST 

Blackburn, most of the game is played in a northern monsoon but playing against a stronger better side we were never in it once we had conceded the first goal.  LOST 

Bradford, only club in league with a support base anything like ours (largely due to the fact they virtually give season tickets away) not dissimilar to us in terms of style of play and tactics, but failed to take our chances. LOST 

Help me here can anyone spot the common denominator? 

I suppose, in the process, we have learnt one or two things like poor little Kyle Bennett isn’t a great finisher, we still persist with Ben Close (why?), if you’re a 6’5” striker that can’t win a single aerial challenge over two games you’re unlikely to be much use to us, Burgess or O’Keefe should be leading the side, was a keeper who can’t command his area or kick really 3rd choice at Tottenham (?) and if Burgess or Clarke get injured we’re in big trouble! 

When you’re winning the manager gets all the accolades and usually can’t get to the press conference quick enough. So, by the same token, when things aren’t going so well I expect a bit more than a few carefully choreographed questions from our old pal Johnny Moore followed by the same old rambling nonsense including the well rehearsed endless repeated platitudes that include just about everything other than holding his own hand up! 

He’s very good at identifying areas where we have to improve but shows precious few ideas as to how that might be achieved! He complains we’ve only got three fit defenders (Burgess, Clarke and Thompson); well, whose fault is that?!! He came to us with an excellent CV and has managed at this level, with some success, clubs of a similar size to us, but to me there is very little evidence of any kind of connection with Pompey fans...he needs to show some passion, make it look like you care whether you do or you don’t! At this moment in time I would say that he simply doesn’t seem to get ‘the Pompey thing’ and looks like a square peg in a round hole. More than any other fans in the country we deserve something better, something more inspiring that a analytical approach; if it wasn’t for the fans this club wouldn’t be here! 

There’s too much ‘my team’, ‘my players’ and Portsmouth rather than Pompey. Here’s an example you’ll have heard thousands of times, ‘kicking towards the Fratton End’, unfortunately that translates in Jackett speak to ‘playing towards our own supporters’. 

Initially we ‘dined out’ on some good fortune and four or five stunning Pitman goals but now we are getting a better idea of what happens when you dismantle a Championship winning side, a team that blossomed at the end of last season, by paying off all the over 30’s and sending the rest, bar our central defenders, to the bench or even the stand and then replace them with average players, youngsters and a selection of loanees. To me that’s inexplicable in the same way that we only have an average (or less) playing budget, why?.  

The Close in for May or May in for Close things is another  mystery for the vast majority of the fans. The argument from one ‘insider’ is that Danny Rose has played precious little football at this level. Well the answer to that one is that Ben and Adam weren’t considered good enough to even play in League Two let along League One! Even I can see that they will be good enough in the longer term but not yet. As for Naismith, well you tell me. 

Before the Old Sage tramples all over me with his ‘nailed on’ mid-table finish argument, I don’t think we’ll go down either but it’s beginning to look like we could be there or thereabouts and I simply don’t fancy that particular prospect at all...I’ve got too many bad memories. Could be a long cold (more likely to be damp) winter folks!!

PUP

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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



Hit Counter by Digits