Date: 11th August 2008 at 8:55am
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This is not really going to be a match report, merely a serious of musings from the day put at Wembley for the charity shield. It is more of a ‘it might not have been great, but it showed that we do have enough to have another fantastic season again’ thing…

It was a strange day – and that was before the game even began! Weather wise it was odd, one minute baking hot the next raining, nevertheless humid throughout. Travel wise is was awful there and back for us… My sister-in-law did a cracking job with the driving, making a journey that she had never done before look easy, but a journey that we were hoping would be 2 hours max each way proved to be at least 4 each time as the traffic was awful, whatever we could hit to be trapped in you can be assured we did and would be trapped in it for ages! The organisation to get out of the Wembley parking was also abysmal they leave it as a ‘free for all’ and this sees things quickly descend into chaos!

Anyway, myself and the rest of our travelling party, which included my brother, the already mentioned sister-in-law, cousin – Pompey Bluto – and Saunders – PFCMatt – all had a good day out and enjoyed a decent enough game, which was all we wanted from the day. It was just a shame that we were held up for so long as it meant missing the chance to meet and catch up with some people that had not been seen for sometime, or meet some that had not been met before, but there you go…

I was astonished to hear that Linvoy Primus had not even made the squad, and this really put a dampener on things, but it was later revealed he had picked up a slight knock, which is hopefully nothing too serious. The team put out was one that was not too bad on paper, but clearly lacked any sort of width and so this showed, showed so very much! We need some wide options as Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch will not be able to feed on scraps for the season.

We contained Manyoo well enough, the lack of pace at the back was evident when the speedy – yet ineffective and willing to go to ground so easily – Nani got involved, but defensive quality and the ability to read the game saw others cover as you would expect quite often with all having good games at the back, Sylvain Distin showed his quality again and he is no slouch, Sol Campbell is clearly lacking in pace now and struggles with this big time but is still a quality defender who can read the game and this can compensate for his lack of pace – as long as he is rested sufficiently. Hermann Hreidarsson was fantastic once again, and whilst he might be getting on once again showed why getting a left back is not a priority as if it is not broken do not fix it! We have enough to cover him for injuries, suspensions and the odd game rested. As my cousin says he is a 34-year-old that does not play or look like a 34-year-old. Glen Johnson did not have the best of games, but we know what he can do…

Few chances were created as either end, with Pompey never really threatening Edwin Van Der Sar, when we did get in the final pass could not be found or there was not really anyone to get on the end of it. When we did break through, which in fairness we did several times from the midfield – which is impressive to see – we lacked the options due to the lack of width, there was rarely an option for this – and we cannot expect the fullbacks to keep going up and down all day long acting like wingbacks. When Manyoo did have chances David James was his usual fantastic self, coming for and claiming most things and saving what he had to including one brilliant save from Carlos Tevez – who somehow got the man of the match award! He was good, but not the best player on the pitch.

The midfield was not really overrun, as the worry had been for most but we continue to look so narrow. Niko Kranjcar had a mere, looked really short of fitness and was not up for it at all. His lack of pace really showed, if you have Gary Neville out-sprinting you you are in trouble! Pedro Mendes worked really hard in the middle of the park, with his quality showing as he passed it around nicely. His presence really allowed Lassana Diarra – who was the man of the match – off the leach, which I think is a real plus of letting Sulley Muntari go. Yep, he is a quality player but his style and his lack of discipline to play his role could have a negative impact at times and left Diarra having to be more of a holding player, with Mendes doing this the Frenchman gets free reign, and this saw his class ooze through as he was absolutely fantastic, easily the best player on the park. Manyoo are no mugs, but he was making them look like this, beating their players with ease – if not he had the wide option he so desperately wanted as he burst forward… I am not his biggest fan but to his credit Papa Bouba Diop had a cracking game, he still does not look comfortable on the ball, and when he has to look around for an option, when there is not one he struggles to know what to do with the ball – but in fairness he was often not given an option, due to the lack of width problem again…

It as hard for Crouch and Defoe to get into the game, as they had no service and without this they cannot be expected to prosper – but hopefully this will come. Crouch looked unfit, and needs to work on this but he will get there. As previously said though they cannot feed off scraps, without the supply they cannot be expected to deliver – but I am sure they will.

All in all though I enjoyed a good game, we held our own and showed that we can cope with the likes of Manyoo and are a quality side. The 11 players that started are more than good enough to compete this season and see us have a good season again, but those that can come in are also good enough to see us ok. The pending arrival of Younes Kaboul will make us even stronger at the back, which is a real strong point anyway – despite the pace thing being an issue against speedy sides. But we were again well organised and will be hard to break down this season.

I keep saying it but the lack of width was horrible, this desperately needs sorting. John Utaka cannot play on the left, he showed a few good moments but again drifted into the middle too much, but if up for it he could have a great season on the right… We need a left sided midfielder as cover for Kranjcar as without him we really do have no one else. There must be a left footer somewhere, anywhere to fill this void if needed – there are players out there, they might not be the quality people expect but they can do a job.

The penalties were awful, so we need to practice these as there is a chance we might have to go through some of these this season in various competitions but all in all I was happy with another great day out at Wembley, as this was all I wanted as who knows it might be our last…

It all kicks off for really on Sunday against Chelski – I go into this season with the faith that we have a good squad, as good as anyone outside the top 4 and good enough to again see us have another good season, which could bring a slight improvement on the last once again… We ‘might’ break the top 4, but this is highly unlikely and I hope this is not expected. I also hope that the fans do not turn if we have a tough opening 5 or 6 games – as they are. Keep the faith and keep the expectation level realistic. We are not ‘little Portsmouth’ anymore, but nor are we a Manyoo, Chelski, Arsenal or Liverpool and probably never will be. We will have a dozen or so real top, top class footballers, the rest of the squad will be quality players to do a job when asked but we will never be able to have 20 top, top class players in a squad – as they will not be happy to not be part of the starting 11 unless it is most weeks, financially too this in not viable but we are getting there, yesterday again showed improvements are still being made and the positives far outweighed the negatives!

Despite numerous reports that seem to say we were overrun in midfield, displayed a lack of quality I thought we were ok – looked a good side and were not made to look mugs by Manyoo. Anyway, I think I have rambled on long enough! It might be a bit of a ‘beast’ to read, but I hope I have made some points that give you something to talk about…

PLAY UP POMPEY!

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