Date: 10th April 2009 at 7:17am
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A look back at the season that should never have been for the South Coast blues, with the main question being: what on earth happened?

By the end of May last year, many people couldn’t believe what had happened. At Wembley, on the 17th of that month, Sol Campbell lifted the coveted F.A Cup in front of some 40,000 raving Portsmouth supporters. Our time in the spot-light beckoned. The exclusive club of European football finally had our name on its guest-list. It was the proudest and happiest time to be a Pompey supporter in such a long time. Over 20 years in the dark recesses of the lower leagues, the little south-coast outfit had done the impossible, by winning one of the most famous domestic trophies, and being the first outside of the ‘big four’ to win in it in around thirteen years.

The cracks appear

Star names like David James, Glen Johnson, Jermaine Defoe, Lassana Diarra and Kanu were rostered onto the team sheet for the 2008/2009 season. And then, the club recruited the lanky but oh-so-fantastic Peter Crouch into the brace, for a record estimated £11 million. It really was a good time to be a Pompey supporter.

Or was it?

The purchase of Crouch was indeed a good one, but let’s see who we had to sacrifice to get the funds. Perhaps two of our most influential midfielders ever; Sulley Muntari, and the legendary Pedro Mendes. The latter went for a paltry £3 million. Not enough in my eyes, to warrant the funding of another striker, especially when we had the un-played David Nugent in the wings.

Don’t get me wrong

I’m now very happy Crouchy’s in the fold. He’s settled very well, and at the time of writing, has scored three goals in two games after a drought; One against Stoke, and two against Everton, and of course got one in playing in a three lions shirt. But should we really have effectively ripped the soul out of our midfield for it? Was it too much of a price to pay?

And, of course, let’s not forget that ‘Jamie’s dad’ (as he’s now known henceforth in this article) has a penchant for spending other people`s money, and rather ludicrous amounts of it. No doubt, he can pick up bargains – Nadir Belhadj is a prime example – but there’s always that side of him that just wants to have high-profile names playing for him. Never mind the fact that he already had some big names already playing for him, and flourishing under his tuition – David James and Glen Johnson’s names spring straight to mind – he wanted more. And he knew he couldn’t get it.

Once forgiven, twice forgotten

I’ll never forget the day it happened. I had gone out with some mates that evening, and had no idea of what was unravelling at the time.

Upon my return, my dad asked me if I’d heard the news. ‘Harry Redknapp’s gone to spurs’, he proclaimed. I laughed, guessing it would be some kind of joke. He’d never burn us, not again. Would he?

Alas, a flick onto the channel, and there it was, clear as day. My heart sank. How could he do this to us? Where were the signs? What the hell had convinced him to make a huge sacrifice like this?

It just felt…. Odd. There’s no words to describe it. Then, of course, he plunged the knife in straight away, by ‘revealing’ Pompey were in ‘untold amounts of debt,’ and that he’d ‘done all he can’ to help them out.

Pfft. Yeah, right. More like ‘Sasha has no money left, Levy waved a blank chequebook under my nose, what more could I ask for?’

The cracks become chasms

Following on from this, is a time I shall call ‘the dark age’ of our season. The appointment of Tony Adams – whilst probably the best one we could make with no money at the time – proved almost apocalyptic for the club. A brave man to take on the arduous task of keeping H.M.S Pompey afloat, sadly even he became over-whelmed, and the player’s soon began to revolt against his methods.

It always seemed weird to me, that arguably one of the best defenders of his time could not seem to teach our squad how to defend. I’m pretty certain four colanders could’ve replaced our backline, and no-one would’ve noticed any difference.

‘Hey, here’s an idea – let’s flirt with the relegation zone!’

After more and more depressing results, Pompey slumped to their lowest position of the season – 18th place – and morale in the players, staff and supporters was at an all-time low. It was a hard time to be a blue, wondering where the next point would come from.

Then, after finally starting to show a modicum of promise in the Liverpool game, that was it. Adams was gone. After people had wanted him gone for a long time, it was strange to think we now had a ship with no rudder. It even scared some people, judging by what was going around some of the message boards at the time – people were starting to do the unthinkable, and consign their team to the relegation bin.

Hart transplant

In steps an unlikely candidate to be the replacement manager – Paul Hart, head of the youth development. Immediately, there’s a difference. The team are suddenly more up for it. They’re more like the Pompey of old. Things are starting to gell together.

And what a time for it to start happening.

The revivals under way, I can feel it. Pompey will get back into it and they will stay up this season.

But what then?

Never before have I seen such a company shrouded in mystery. Promises of this, that and the other, and it’s rarely been delivered.

So what should we expect for next season? Player exodus? The same thing again? Relegation? Administration? THE END OF THE CLUB?

Of course not. Some may jump, prematurely in my mind, onto the ‘Storrie and Sasha out’ bandwagon that will surely be pushed into movement by some of the more ‘plastic’ of Pompey fans soon enough, especially after the club’s accounts were released this week with a fanfare that was akin to a wet fart.

But really, I see no reason to panic. Key players like Crouch, James, and to a small extent, Johnson, have made the right noises so far about not wanting to leave, so we’d have to physically push them out of the door in order to sell them. The only one I can see wandering out on his own free will is Kranjcar, and let’s face it, whilst he shows flashes of brilliance throughout games, is he really the most trust-worthy player to have on the pitch? At times, he’s almost invisible.

I also see no problem as to getting a new owner. I don’t know why, but I feel that in a strange way, this relegation battle may help to show a potential investor that we’re worth it. The passion and devotion shown by the supporters at times is enough for even me to want to get the chequebook out, even though I’m a lowly student, using sugar puffs as his main form of currency.

But for me, the big question is;

Will we ever see a season like 07/08 again?

In my thoughts, yes. Easily. Pompey are not the kind of club, community or city that will roll over and die at the first sign of trouble. We didn’t the last time this all happened to us, so why would we now? What’s different? Yes, depending on what happens this summer, we may have a difficult time ahead of us, but it’s the pride of the club that will keep everyone going.

In fact, my prediction goes something like this:

1. We will finish this season with enough points to stay up.
2. Sasha will sell to a buyer who’s been secretly waiting in the wings, to ensure we’re still a PL club at the end of the season, before injecting the cash needed. The appointment of a top manager is also tied in with this. (Bilic, Bilic, Bilic!)
3. The redevelopment WILL go ahead, and the training ground WILL be nearing completion by the beginning of the season.
4. We will lose some players in the transfer market, but the big guns will stay, and with a new manager in line, we will utilise the money we have in a shrewd, effective way, to bring in a mixture of young, raw talent, with more experienced heads.
5. We will start next season on fire, maybe petering at around Christmas, but will come back to full force around March, to finish in a stronger position. My prediction is we’ll finish 9th come this time next May.

Rinse, and repeat, on a stronger pride setting.

Conclusion to my ramblings

Essentially, we’ve had a duff season. It’s been marred by the unmasking of the real ‘him’ to show him as he really is – a numb, selfish *******, who is only concerned with boosting his reputation (what tatters remain of it, anyway) and lining his pockets with everyone else’s money. It wasn’t helped by the appointment of a man who was a great coach, but a useless manager.

We’ve had it all this season – wins, losses, player punch-ups, manager walk-outs, manager sackings, broken promises, heart-breaks and a mad-man with a bugle and his own stage. That collapsed after a couple of months’ use.

It should be enough to make us switch allegiances to a more ‘stable’ club. And yet it doesn’t.


Simple. We’re Pompey. We don’t surrender.

Written by powered_by_pies.

The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.

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12 Replies to “The lost season of Pompey, 2008/2009”

  • At times I’ve thought to myself about this being a bad season, but then I rembered the European tour. The excitement of having to do a dash from work on the train to catch the early kick off of our first ever match against Guimareas, the totally surreal experience of going to Guimaraes, and Crouchies’ extra time goals. Didn’t make Braga, but Wolfsburg, after the ticket scramble was an amazing experience, even if the football went wrong. I remember meeting Rug after the game and even at that point the prospect of relegation was discussed – but we knew we’d be OK and we’d still be Pompey fans. And I haven’t even mentioned the AC Milan game, one of the most incredible and momentous ever in Pompey’s history. (Go on the forum to see the U-tube vid!). So since then we’ve struggled, we probably won’t go down but still could. Since Hart came in he’s brought out the best in the players, and the spirit is good amongst the fans. So a bad season? No, actually an incredible season. One we’ll look back on in 10 years time and remember.

  • Very well written article pies – should it finish with Part Hart returns to his academy and produces a string of young players to play in the Premier League?

  • Great article Pies.. What happened? .. In my opinion over expectation and Rose Tinted Glasses… As an example (just from your article) .. Pedro Mendes and Sulley Muntari were not two of the most influential players Pompey have ever had … Muntari was good granted but hardly a ‘great’.. Mendes left us with some great memories but prior to the Cup Final he was hardly considered a regular… As for Belhadj… In all honesty should we not have waited until now before signing him.. Did we not rush the deal? .. again over expecation but this time on the player … As for Harry leaving yes that was gutting but we had to get on with it and although I wasn’t a fan of the Adams appointment I really do feel the guy was either given the job OR sacked too early .. not sure which… Adams will rise again I’m sure.. Right bloke wrong time …. Also … during our ‘Dark Age’ we had surely the best moment of our season … The AC Milan game !.. Surely 20,000 Pompey fans singing TA B&W Army… would not consider that ‘dark’ at the time !…. As for Hart I’m not convinced yet.. we are not out of the woods and this month (starting tomorrow) will show whether he (and indeed) the team are really ‘up for it’ .. I remain unconvinced.. but obviously live in hope. I completely agree about Peter Storrie and Sasha .. There’s no need to panic whatsoever and as you say the more ‘plastic’ (your words) of Pompey fans need to engage their brains read and UNDERSTAND what is being written or said by the club and not The News, the Sun and the other crap papers that seem to have it in for Pompey … As for your predictions I agree with most but would settle for survival this year .. and 15th next .. The last couple of years have seen us punch above our weight and like it or not (in part) thanks to Sandra’s husband … We are Pompey and we will not lie down and die and with more fans like you looking at the whole picture and drawing a well thought out and sensible conclusion I think the pride and passion you speak of WILL see us supporters of PFC through anything that is thrown at us.. A great article Pies..

  • After nearly 35 years of watching Pompey, last seasons FA Cup win was the highlight. I have lived the highs & lows of all 4 division & kicked every ball duing that time. We all expected to kick on but life never pans out like that. Very frustrating season & the agony may continue. But whatever happens, we will follow this team to our end & we will always have the memories of the highs. Forever Pompey!

  • Great article. Hope your right on your predictions would love bilic to be here with some of his croatian gems.Paul hart should carry on with the youth thats where he is best.The transfer window will be intresting with niko surely going who will come in ?? the names who we are linked with i like. Jenas , dos santos , pele , liedson (sporting lisbon) will be good signings for us but at the moment there are just rumours.But if the newcatsle go down with boro maybe martins and o’neil will come who knows just wait till end of season.

  • Very well written pies – and awesome that someone agrees with me on the Bilic thing! When I first said his name all those months ago everyone laughed, but as time goes on it’s more and more likely. Fantastic article and I can’t fault a single thing you’ve said there.

  • Thanks for the comments guys, it was a long time in the making for this article.

    Whilst I’ve done my best not to put a pair of Mark Mudie’s ‘blue-tinted specs’ on, I will admit I wrote this with a slightly harsh aspect to it. I left out the Milan game on purpose, simply because it was the single greatest moment of my albeit short supporting career as a blue, and it showed the pinacle of the club’s progression from last season. That one moment will live with me forever, and even some of my mates who are Chelsea and Arsenal were rooting for us during the match!

    I do agree with you PFCGino, the idea of having Billic on board is, to me, much more appealing than Sven – Billic will be shrewd with transfer money, and will think about players with a view to improve them and build them into a unit. Sven’s a mercenary, he’ll buy big-name players for big bucks, and will just shrug his shoulders when it all goes wrong, hand out in preparation for his compensation cheque.

    I still maintain a firm belief that we’ll be safe, and we’ll strive to get back to the form we had in 07/08 – maybe even better!

  • Enjoyed this Pies. Well, not really enjoyed given the subject matter but it was very well written and informative. Of all the memories that sticks with me, the feeling I got when the train from Waterloo (on the way to Milan game) did that thing where it slows down just past the cemetery/hospital prior to turning west to head into Fratton and I could see the lights on and all the passengers wearing pompey scarves etc stood up to get off and you could cut the tension in the air with a knife. The fact that every time I use a train to come to Pompey means that I can recall this feeling when the train is pulling in. I was also a mused a few minutes later to see a bunch of Milanese fans drinking and singing quite happily outside Smiffy’s on Goldsmith Avenue – a far cry from the city of Versace, Armani and Leonardo’s Last Supper.

  • Like it Pies. I don’t think we will see the likes of 07/08 for a while, but in many respects this year has definitely been more exciting – hell of a roller coaster and more twists and turns than a Soap Opera. OK, I know its not over yet, but if all ends well, then great. Anyway, we still have a new owner and Manager and Stadium and Training pitch to look forward to. Oh and I forgot – WBA on Saturday.PUP!

  • Pies.. I’m getting very annoyed now .. you seem to be getting more comments on your articles than I do on mine .. are you after my .. or Pauls.. or dare I say Eastneydave’s .. or god forbids Rug’s job !!… Seriously mate take the praise and the comments on board and let’s see a lot more of you on the front page .. Gino has cracked it and so can you .. It all adds up to Vital being the best site on the net…

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