We all rolled up at Fratton Park yesterday full of anticipation for the season ahead. Now that would be the normal first line of any opening day report but it is not the way with Pompey.
A huge crowd of 17,703 turned up in the late summer sunshine to watch a bunch of loans and frees take on Bournemouth side fancied by many to finish in the top six. Earlier in the week the bookies were offering 9-1 on a Pompey win and they nearly were very close to having to pay out.
Pompey started with a team of debutants and they bellied the fact that some of them had only just been introduced with a spirited display that augers well for the future. Certainly there were some misplaced passes and players running into each other but they all wore the shirt with pride and that is what we fans want to see.
The Pompey goal was a deal fortunate as Cherries keeper Shwan Jalal inexplicably let a Izale McLeod long range shot squirm through his hands and then legs – some thought he might have had a few bob on at 9-1. Not that that worried the Fratton fans who celebrated wildly and noisily. The visitors did get a late equaliser but they did not look much and surely once the Appy bunch get themselves fit and familiar they should not have too many problems picking up points.
Of the new players Brian Howard was everywhere and knocking passes long and short to good effect. Lee Williamson also impressed alongside him in the engine room but ran out of steam and was replaced by Connor Clifford who despite his enthusiasm misplaced far too many passes which threw pressure on his new teammates.
Jack Connor was dangerous wide on both flanks while Kieran Djilali had a quiet game on the other wing. Up front experienced strikers Luke Rogers and McLeod will undoubtedly forge a good partnership with the latter`s pace and the diminutive Rogers` ability to roll off a defender.
At the back John Harley was as reliable as I expected for a player of his experience and the central defensive partnership of Kevin Long and Paul Connolly who only met in the morning looked more that good enough for this level. That is something we have to get used to now – we are in the Third Division!!
Keeper Mikkel Andersen made one super save and could not be blamed for the goal but it was right back Mustapha Dumbuya who immediately became the fans favourite with his tigerish tackling and love to get forward.
They all tired in the August heat though and did well to glean th point which almost became three when Ashley Harris – a long serving player – hit the post in the final minute.
One question – where were the ballboys?
Those older than a certain age will remember that matchday programmes would carry a small photo and a few highlights of the opposition players. These were usually prepared by the visiting club and more often that not were just printed verbatim in the home programme – that often meant they were out of date – players had left!
They were often incidents where the home club`s programme editor took so little care with details on the visitors that they would print details of the wrong club!!
Anyway with such a large number of new signings Toast thought we should carry out the same service as all those years ago.
Kieran Djilali 21 – midfield man released by AFC Wimbledon having been freed by Crystal Palace a year before.
Mustapha Dumbuya 25 – signed from non league football by Doncaster Rovers but released in May and many Donny fans wish he was still there. Quick right sided defender who loves to get forward. He also has international aspirations with Sierra Leone!
Jon Harley 32 – by far the most experienced of the group Harley started life at Chelsea and won England U21 honours and the FA Cup. He then started a move around the league clubs including Fulham, Sheff Utd and Burnley. Personally always a player I have like and failed to see why he has not achieved more.
Brian Howard 29 – went to school in Eastleigh and it is thought wants to settle in the area. An excellent passer of the game although perhaps not the hardest worker.
Izale McLeod 27 – released by Barnet after scoring twenty five goals last season. Has real pace and looked impressive when the Bees won at the Park in the League Cup last season. He has approaching 100 league goals and an England U21 cap.
Jack Compton 23 – former Pompey kid who made the unique move from Weston Super Mare to Falkirk! Also had a season with the Hawks – his only league experience was at Bradford City.
Luke Rodgers 30 – hard working and experienced forward with over 100 league goals to his name. Most of those cam at Shrewsbury where the Brummie started his career.
Liam Walker – born into a Pompey family but played all his football in Spain and Gibraltar. Has a real chance to make a name for himself. (still seeking international clearance)
Lee Williamson 30 – left Sheffield United last season after an impressive three year stay. Plenty of league experience at Mansfield, Northampton, Rotherham and Watford.
Simon Eastwood 23 – a real left field signing is keeper Simon. Last season at FC Halifax Town in the Conference North. Has impressed in pre-season games which shows Appy can spot a player even if he is the number two between the posts.
Loanees etc will be covered next week.
Toast will admit that when Appy was appointed as manager in the Autumn we were somewhat doubtful as to his ability to deal in the transfer market. But we will admit he has proved us wrong.
Last season he proved his success in the Bargain Basement department and attracted a number of loan signings who really looked the business and became heroes of the Fratton terraces – Chris Maguire, Scott Allan and Abdul Razak – who was on the bench at the Community Shield.
This term he cannot even look in the Bargain Basement and is consigned to rummaging in the Reject Bin by the back door. Early results seem to prove that he has done another great job.
So what does the future hold?
Toast decided to take the summer off but we have returned for season six of the roller-coaster ride that is life at Portsmouth Football Club. We started back in January 2008 and the road to the FA Cup and now we look forward to what? The road to oblivion?
Fifty years ago yesterday Pompey kicked off life back in Division Two with a 4-1 win over Walsall at Fratton Park in front of 18,469. Dave Dodson hit a hat-trick and there were no debutants in the side!! The average home gate in 1962/63 was 15,456.
Twenty Five years ago yesterday Pompey played their first top flight game at Fratton Park for twenty eight years – losing 3-0 to Chelsea. Both teams ended up relegated. That Pompey team had four making their Fratton bows – John Kerr, Mike Fillery, Barry Horne and Clive Whitehead. The average home gate in 1987/88 was 15,115.
Strange that both those seasons and this we have started life in a new division!
More good news
Pompey have extended their partnership with Jobsite.
The Havant-based leading UK job board have been the Blues’ main sponsor since the start of the 2009/10 season.
The club need more support like that from local companies.