Date: 10th April 2007 at 1:03pm
Written by:

With a place in Europe now gone barring the mathematics, many may be forgiven if they questioned why, after our defeat at the hands of bottom club Watford, Harry Redknapp said “People might say it has damaged our European hopes, but at the start of the year I would never have thought about a European place.’

Quite why they would question it may well have something to do with the comments he made just after the encouraging performance of the players at Old Trafford after Pompey were knocked out of the FA Cup in the fourth round. He said after that match, “We have to get back on track at Fratton Park now. We want to finish in the top six this season and that is the ambition for the season. There is nothing more important for us.”

So this then begs the question, how important was yesterday`s defeat at Vicarage Road? If the attitude of the players was anything to go by, it was not in the least bit important. With the “magical” 40 points achieved some time ago, many may well question if the players have given up on the season now they are safe from relegation and nobody could really blame them for thinking along those lines. Many – if not the majority – of Pompey supporters do not even get paid in a year what many of the squad get a week, which makes the issue of the players` attitudes even more galling. If the supporters had the same mentality and attitude of the players, then Fratton Park would indeed be a dark, quiet and empty place. It does seem that the players really don`t care about the supporters, especially those who travel away frequently; if they did then they would certainly play with more passion and conviction.

The players know full well that we would never round on them during the match – indeed, a few so called supporters sometimes even boo the players but are then given a sharp piece of advice by the true supporters prior to their sudden silence. Perhaps this may be the cause of much of the complacency within the side; perhaps it may be our own fault because we always sing our hearts out for the players regardless of what happens on the pitch. This doesn`t happen anywhere else, the players at other clubs are made to know exactly how the supporters feel, so our player may well not feel any pressure at all to win as they know we are a forgiving lot.

It is no excuse to say that the players were tired after their heroic performances on Saturday against the league leaders, when yesterday`s opponents had the same day been thoroughly beaten 4-1 as this suggests the fitness and attitudes of the players is worse than that of the club who are bottom of the league and about to be relegated.

Then of course there is the other side of the coin – would it be right for the club to play in Europe, albeit the UEFA cup? For this to be successful, a larger squad with greater depth in strength would be needed, which in turn requires more finance to maintain. Also, if playing two matches within three days is too tiring then any European excursion would be pointless as this involves even more matches with greater distances to travel. Furthermore, if the players are unable to motivate themselves for matches at venues such as Vicarage Road, then how on earth would they motivate themselves for matches against the likes of FK Mlada Boleslav on a cold, dark and windy night with hardly any supporters there?

Whilst Europe is a dream that has yet to be realised, perhaps it is one that should remain just a dream until we have the ability to play in Europe without embarrassment, the ability to field a team of committed players, the ability to make Europe not only a reality but also a regular haunt. Many other clubs have made this journey and failed, sometimes disastrously if you take Ipswich as an example – is this the way we really want our beloved club to go?

So as much as defeat yesterday hurt, it would not hurt as much as our demise would if we went into Europe far too early. But yesterday`s performance cannot be excused and the players need to raise their game purely for the pride of the Club and it`s supporters for the rest of this season.

What do you think? Should we really have been trying for Europe or is it for the better that we have failed? Can it be that there really is “Nothing more important for us” than Europe?