Welcome to my 19th Npower Championship preview for the upcoming season, in this feature I turn my attentions to Portsmouth. Pompey are a club that I have a lot of respect for, after off field troubles affected them for the past couple of season’s; however it now seems that the depressing times of administration and possible liquidation is slowly defusing at Fratton Park, can Cotterill and his boys put up a promotion challenge this season, or will they settle for another mid-table finish…
Portsmouth’s 2010/2011 campaign was nothing more than a stable task, with financial problems still arising Pompey sometimes failed to name a team of 18 before a start of a match. With the bench thread bear and with only a couple of young prodigy’s occupying it, Portsmouth last season had to rely on loan signings. Fratton Park in 2011/2012 could be a more blissful place to be however; with one of the most eccentric fan bases in English football the fans of Portsmouth have seen the club relegated, put into administration and threatened with liquidation. More delightful times could be in store for the Portsmouth faithful though, as despite still having an undersized squad manager Steve Cotterill has been able to keep hold of talented players such as Liam Lawrence, Hayden Mullins and Nwankwo Kanu. Cotterill has also added David Norris as an out to out replacement for Michael Brown, Luke Varney has also made a move to Fratton Park after a successful campaign with Blackpool, while finally journeyman Greg Halford has turned last season’s loan switch into a permanent basis. Things are looking up for Portsmouth but a lot of development still needs to be sorted, a top half finish is potentially achievable.
Due to financial problems Portsmouth like last season still have a thread bare squad, for the start of the campaign they could well struggle to name 18 players on a teamsheet again, but despite all these worrying events they still have players that are proficient at this level. Experienced players such as Hermann Hreidarsson and Hayden Mullins are consistent performers, while the younger generation of players peaking through such as Joel Ward and new signing Jason Pearce could also have decent seasons. Two players in particular hold the cards for Pompey this season, of whether they challenge for the top six or fail in the bottom half of the table. Firstly new signing David Norris signed from Ipswich Town is an ideal replacement for the departing Michael Brown, a talented footballer by right Norris can tackle, he can pass, he can defend and attack basically everything you need to be a solid midfield competitor, he will be a key player for Portsmouth this season. While winger Liam Lawrence despite finding the first few months difficult, eventually gelled into the highly rated player that he is, the main source for assists and goals the midfielder has a deadly cross aswell as deadly set piece plays, he is also capable of scoring some top class goals. Noted for his acute range of attacking abilities Liam Lawrence is one of the major players to watch in the Championship this season. Finally also keep an eye on new signing Luke Varney, with a point to prove after his move from Derby the striker made an impact while on loan at Blackpool in 2010/2011, like Norris the 28 year old is a key signing for Portsmouth.
Manager – Steve Cotterill
Steve Cotterill is currently a manager that most people should admire, the 46 year old was thrown in at the deep end when he decided to take charge of Portsmouth in June 2010. With the club in financial ruin and heading for the downward spiral, Cotterill could have walked away from Fratton Park and leave what was becoming an ever increasing black hole behind him. The former Burnley manager though decided to stick with Pompey, as he believed that he could well guide the club to a commendable Championship finish, in his first season in charge he eventually guided Portsmouth to a mid-table 16th placed finish. In 2011/2012 Cotterill will be hoping that he can put the dejected times at Portsmouth to rest, and hopefully guide them towards the play-offs. He still has a difficult task to contend with, but expect fight and perseverance to pay off for Cotterill in the near future.
Ins and Outs
Ins – David Norris(Ipswich), Jason Pearce(Bournemouth), Luke Varney(Derby), Stephen Henderson(Bristol City), Greg Halford(Wolves)
Outs – Michael Brown(Leeds), Daryl Flahavan(Bournemouth), Marlon Pack(Cheltenham), Nadir Ciftci(Kayserispor), David Nugent(Leicester), Peter Gregory(Released), Richard Hughes(Released), Tom Kilbey(Released), Danny Webber(Released)
The demise of Portsmouth Football club is thankfully all but over; Pompey can now hopefully concentrate on a consistent season in the Championship. With the squad lacking depth i’m not suspecting Portsmouth to reach the heights of the play-offs, but they will be a dangerous opponent for any team this season. David Nugent will be missed but hopefully the signing of Luke Varney will supply the majority of the goals in 11/12. Things are looking up for Portsmouth but they still have progression to make, a top half finish is likely but if that doesn’t prove to be the case a mediocre mid-table finish will be more than pleasing. Prediction – 12th