Arthur Guiness the famous Irish brewer and creator of the Dublin based Guiness brewery famously said “good things come to those who wait.” For a pint of Guiness to settle for example you’ll have to wait 119 seconds. For those who are handy with maths that’s a second less than two minutes and two minutes in the grand scale of things isn’t too long to have to wait. For example there are 1,440 minutes in every day so waiting for a pint of Guiness takes up just 0.0014% of your overall day. Imagine that again in the context of a week and it takes up just 0.0002% of your time. Now remember that the chances are if you’re reading this that you’re a Pompey fan and that after six months and five days we’ve finally seen Pompey win a game on a Saturday afternoon. No you didn’t imagine it, it really did happen. I know that the space in between wins on a Saturday included the summer break, but I’d have to argue with Arthur Guiness that whilst his quote makes sense in a lot of ways – over half a year is just utterly ridiculous.
Last weekend saw a 1-0 loss to Hull City away – a game in which the Pompey players failed to even muster a single shot on target. Pre-game yesterday at home to Blackpool much of the talk pre-game was of the threat posed by ex-Southampton striker Kevin Phillips and the dour performance the week previous. The wheels had been set in motion by some sections of fans that Steve Cotterill’s position as club manager had become untenable and that perhaps it was time for him to go. For 90 minutes yesterday the players failed to raise their game much above the level of the previous weeks defeat. The fans in the ground were getting more disillusioned before five seconds before the referee blew his final whistle into injury time, Eric Huseklepp remembered that the way to win games was to score goals. The celebrations by the players and the fans will have said a lot at what it meant to end such a miserable run of results on a Saturday match day. I know – I shouted so much and for so long in celebration that it took most of yesterday evening for my voice to recover and I gave myself a headache. As someone pointed out to me “That wasn’t very clever,” true I said but as a non Pompey fan you have no idea what a win means to every fan no matter how ugly it may have been. Nothing beats the buzz of Pompey winning. It’s what every fan wants for the team they support and love. But the morning after like every drug, there’s always the come down and for some a re-opening of your eyes to a situation.
Yesterdays win meant everything and the whole of Pompey smiled. Every Pompey fan around the world smiled. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off the shoulders of each and every fan. The reality remains though that all the win has done in reality is paper over the cracks of the problems and challenges that the club faces right now. For 180 minutes before injury time yesterday at Fratton Park the players had failed to deliver on the pitch and the performances in both games were dire. One last minute goal doesn’t change that fact even if we managed to pick up three points. Blackpool at times had managed to slice open our defence with consummate ease with gaps so big between the back four that you couldn’t have driven a bus through the space. At one point a hapless Mokoena was left waving for an offside decision he was never going to get like he was waving his mum off at the train station. No offence to Ian Holloway’s Blackpool, but had it been a side like Leeds United who’s strikers are firing on all cylinders even if their defence isn’t right now, they’d have probably torn us a new arsehole by half time. Who do we play next weekend? Oh crap. Let’s hope Andy O’Brien has another great game for the blues like he did last season scoring two own goals in a 3-3 draw.
For the fans who point out that our early season results have come against some of the better teams in the league I’ll state the obvious, that to get out of this league again – you’re going to have to take your team to the races and beat these sides week in and week out. I read a comment today online that someone thought sometime soon Pompey were going to batter someone after yesterdays win. Pompey don’t look like being able to batter a Mars bar at the moment let alone another Championship side. Steve Cotterill has a got an awful lot of work to do and fast with the set of players he has available at his disposal. The way the clubs on field disciplinary problems are escalating that pool of players will become less and less as the season goes on. Liam Lawrence returned to captain the side yesterday having served his one match ban for the sending off against West Ham away. He took the place of the suspended Luke Varney who started his first match of a three match ban. In nine games in all competitions that’s a total of 27 bookings and two sending’s off. Pompey haven’t managed a single game this season without having had at least one player booked. The only thing more shocking yesterday was the fact that Blackpool had six players booked double the amount Pompey did. At least we didn’t see the side collect another sending off.
Tuesday night see’s the visit of Darren Fergusons Peterborough United to Fratton Park who sit three places ahead of Pompey in the table, separated by just one point. Having battered Ipswich Town 7-1 at London Road the fortunes of Posh have started to slip somewhat having won just one game of the last five and losing four in the process against West Ham, Hull, Brighton and Peterborough. This on paper is a game you expect Pompey to win. However to win the game, the club needs to make big improvements on the last two performances. Just because we finally got a bit of luck late on yesterday doesn’t mean that we should start as clear favourites to win the game. Despite Ipswich Town having two players sent off in their 7-1 defeat, the first player wasn’t dismissed until Peterborough were leading 4-1. They remain a side who are very much capable of getting amongst the goals having scored 18 times in all competitions this season compared to just 8 goals in 9 games from our players. In their four pre-season games albeit to lesser opposition, they found the net a total of 16 goals. No one should underestimate their threat on goal going forward and if our defence play like they did at times yesterday we could be found out very quickly.
Yesterday saw the return of Ricardo Rocha to the starting line up coming on as a second half substitute for the injured Aaron Mokoena. Pompey started the game with Greg Halford at right back and Mokoena stepping inside as a centre half. Look up the definition of a good centre half in any text book around the world and I can pretty much guarantee you that the words Aaron Mokoena will not appear in any sentence together. The site of him waving like a loony yesterday was indication enough of that for all to see. For the fans who say he’s been our best and most consistent player this season gives you an indication of how the rest of the team must be doing so far. Our forward line has had the shooting prowess of a ballerina in plimsolls in front of goal. Would you want to kick a football wearing just those things? OK anyone with a secret fetish don’t answer that – forget I asked. Huseklepp’s goal was good but it owed more to the fact the goal keeper was caught flat footed and made no attempt to stop it going in just as much as it did technique and skill. I continue to liken him to being our new Matty Svensson which isn’t a bad thing, just expect to see as many balls sailing over the stands as you do hitting the back of the net and I think you’ll be fine.
What still worries me is Steve Cotterill’s willingness to continually pick Liam Lawrence. There are far too many throw backs looking at the situation to Ex-England boss Sven Goran Ericsson’s picking of David Beckham. I know we don’t have a big squad of players right now, highlighted by the obvious fact that we have the smallest squad in the league. But unless Steve Cotterill starts to give Ryan Williams his chance even if it’s only for twenty minutes to try bringing something else to the game, by the time suspensions and injuries kick in giving him his opportunity, he won’t be ready. I’m sorry but there is only so much a youngster can learn watching a game from a bench and if the club and Steve Cotterill isn’t careful I fear we will end up losing another talented youngster who’ll be off as soon as his contract starts to come near its ending. These games at the start of the season although important, aren’t as important as the one’s at the back end of the season when the pressure really hot’s up on teams and players. There’s far less pressure when there’s 90 points still to play for example than there is when there’s just 12 to play for although I hope by that point in the season we’ll at least be securely safe in mid table.
Be brave Steve whilst you still can because despite the win the fact is the last two performances were woeful and under par. The fans although fickle can also be a forgiving bunch. As much as the result matters there’s also a need to entertain and provide value for money. A fan can accept a 1-0 loss where the players have played out of their skin much more than they will ever accept a 1-0 loss and didn’t turn up at all - Just ask any of the fans who made the journey up to Hull. Discipline needs to be sorted and fast before it costs us even more. Three points on Tuesday are a must against Peterborough, the players need to build on the confidence and buzz that a win gives them and the fans and before the kick off they need to reconnect with that and make sure they give everything to feel it again before the bigger fish in the pond come swimming around and lapping at their feet, because if they play like that against Leeds next weekend I can only see one result – battered cod and chips and we’ll be the ones providing the cod and Leeds will be doing the battering.