Why Portsmouth Has Been My Guilty Pleasure This Season

avram grant portsmouth Why Portsmouth Has Been My Guilty Pleasure This Season

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

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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14 Responses to Why Portsmouth Has Been My Guilty Pleasure This Season

  1. Tom Hingley says:

    Call me a cynic, but I don’t buy this ‘Portsmouth players have been so brave’ stuff.

    They are millionaires, paid thousands of pounds a week. On three occasions this year they have been paid about 5 days late. How brave of them to still be able to function. /Sarcasm. ;)

  2. Squelch says:

    Some positive press for our play? I’m in shock. One of the papers needs to sign you up fella. Nice to see our financial woe only fleetingly mentioned for once as well.

  3. billmapguy says:

    Thanks, Gaffer, for this article and your full disclosure :)
    Jamie O’Hara really has been fantastic this season. And Avram Grant has shown that he is a top-notch manager. I find it ironic that a man, whose looks and demeanor suggests a funeral home director, can speak so eloquently about the importance of football in it’s being able to bring joy to fans…see this http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/mar/06/portsmouth-birmingham-city-fa-cup
    The man is already becoming a legend in Portsmouth.

  4. ovalball says:

    Maybe Atlanta Pompey can explain…is that an actual grin on Avram’s face???! Nah, must be Photoshop.

    • AtlantaPompey says:

      Yes, that was an actual grin. In other news, pigs were seen flying and hell has frozen over. Film at 11.

  5. Mark Botham says:

    Many thanks for the photo credit Gaffer, had noticed an increase to my Flickr collection today !

  6. Simon Burke says:

    Nice article, i feel the same away about Pompey and will miss them – they keep creating stars of sorts even after they have sold a whole teams worth they seem to be able to produce more talent.
    Would love to make the final -and win it though I cant see it. Hope I am wrong.

  7. Bruce Gottesman says:

    Good job Chris – if Portsmouth win the Cup, could the administrator use the expected return from the ’10-’11 UEFA Europa league to help keep them afloat?
    Anyway, I’m not too happy about the Forest late winner either. Was out yesterday morning, and I kept refreshing the Newcastle score on my phone. Once that was in hand (and was it ever!), over to the Forest match. Hoped Swansea could at least get a draw, especially with West Brown going down in flames. Still, with 12 games to go, 8 points up on Forest with a game in hand, and 9 points ahead of West Brom, the Mags are in pretty good shape for a return to the EPL. Not that a Newcastle supporter should EVER count chickens, but the schedule is about to get very favorable- the only match left against current top 6 is Forest at home, and 2 of the remaining away fixtures are the bottom clubs Peterborough and Plymouth.

    • AtlantaPompey says:

      Portsmouth, along with West Ham, were not issued UEFA licenses at the beginning of the season. That means that even if they win the FA Cup, they will not participate in the Europa League. That spot will go to the runner up, or to the next available spot in the league. Chelsea will be in the Champions League, and it’s highly likely that both Aston Villa and Spurs will qualify for the Europa League by league position. Should Fulham beat Spurs, they will have a chance to qualify, although they could qualify automatically by winning that cup.

  8. xplus says:

    Meh. It’ll be fun to see half the team jump ship when they fall the to the Championship and struggle to get in the top 10 by the end of the year. Just because a club is stupid and runs out of money does not make them a Cinderella story. Next they’ll have to beat the Tottenham-Fulham winner and my hope is that Fulham and Villa can make it to the final. Down with Chelski!

    • AtlantaPompey says:

      Half? Try all. Every single player will be sold for whatever we can get for them in an effort to pay off the enormous debt. Couple that with the expected 20 point deduction to start the season, and you should expect to see us in League One in 2011. That is dependent, of course, on still existing at that time, which is still a litle iffy.

  9. TT says:

    Gaffer, Guy ‘joy of football’ Mowbray was accompanied by Matt Jackson I believe.

  10. PhillySpur says:

    Nice article Gaffer. I too have found myself watching more Portsmouth games than usual and hoping that they would find some luck to brighten up their very difficult year.

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