It was a bit of an unusual Saturday for me in terms of my viewing habits. I began the day by watching Portsmouth against Birmingham City in the FA Cup. But instead of watching my customary 10am ET Premier League match, I watched Nottingham Forest against Swansea City and later regretted it after seeing Forest’s late winner go in to the back of the net. To end my day of soccer viewing, I watched Wolverhampton Wanderers against Manchester United, which ended up being a predictable win for United in a physical but boring match.
Out of the three matches I watched Saturday, the one that was by far the most entertaining was Portsmouth against Birmingham City. These are two teams that have been playing some of the best football outside the Big Four in the Premier League this season. But their positions in the league couldn’t be more different.
But in the FA Cup, anything is possible, so it was lovely to see Portsmouth put on another brave display in front of a sold-out crowd at Fratton Park. Not to take anything away from Birmingham City who could have easily won the game too with an admirable display, but it was Portsmouth who deservedly won the match and now find themselves in the draw for the semi-final of the FA Cup and will be playing at Wembley Stadium.
Portsmouth’s season is a Cinderella story with a ton of baggage. If you watched many of their matches this season, you know they’ve been playing an entertaining and attacking style that many oppositions have had a difficult time defending against such is their speed down the middle and flanks. Watching Portsmouth is a wonderful experience, whether it’s the football on the pitch or the passionate supporters who crowd into Fratton Park. But the club hasn’t been able to transfer that into much needed points in the league despite the herculean efforts of Paul Hart and now Avram Grant.
Commentator Guy Mowbray best summed it up on Saturday when he spoke of the joy of football and seeing Frédéric Piquionne celebrate his first goal with such glee as he bounced up and down across the pitch and encouraged the crowd to get even louder. Then, at the full time whistle, when the camera zoomed back to show the North Stand erupting with fans giving the players a standing ovation and unfurling flags and scarves, Mowbray again mentioned the joy of football.
It’s a joy that has been sadly missing for most of this season at Fratton Park. Not because of the flowing football, but because of the incompetent financial decisions made by the people in charge of the club. But such is the game of football that no matter how treacherous the financial state of a club is, the players can play out of their skin and turn the reality on the pitch into a completely different experience that what is being seen by the administrator assigned to clean up the financial mess at Pompey.
If you could predict what type of football Portsmouth would play this season based on the financial predicament they’re in, you would imagine it would be a tense type of football with the team playing pretty desperately by floating long balls into the box hoping that someone would latch on to it for a lucky winner. In fact, it would remind you of what Tony Adams was doing with Portsmouth last season before he got sacked.
But the Portsmouth players have been producing an exceptional brand of football that they should be applauded. I have a lot more respect for the Pompey players, many of them who have no idea when and where their next paycheck is going to come from, than I do for players at other Premier League clubs.
Speaking of players, Frédéric Piquionne has been inspirational this season. It’s not just the slinky skills he has, but it’s also his attitude. But my favorite Portsmouth player this season has been Jamie O’Hara who has so often been the playmaker in the middle of the park and has delivered so many inch-perfect passes to his strikers and wingers that have led to goals for Portsmouth.
I say that Portsmouth has been my guilty pleasure this season, which is true. I’m supposed to be unbiased and not supporting any club in particular in this league. While I’m not a supporter of Portsmouth Football Club, I have a deep amount of respect for what they’ve done on the pitch this season especially considering the hell that the players have been put through and how wonderful the football has been to watch.
With the end of the Premier League season just weeks away and a FA Cup semi-final on the horizon, I’ll continue watching Portsmouth with a deep amount of interest and a hope that more soccer fans will join me in this pleasurable experience.
Photo credit: Beefy_n1