Date: 29th December 2009 at 11:13am
Written by:

With Wednesday’s match at Fratton Park pivotal to both sides for very differing reasons, Pompey Rug from Vital Portsmouth sat down with a mug of tea and some custard creams to answer a few burning questions.

1) What on earth is going on behind the scenes at Pompey? Shady owners, botched takeovers, players not getting played, transfer embargos. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

Mate you know as much as we do, which is frightening that rival fans could be as clued up, if not more so than us, yet we – Pompey fans – are the mugs that keep putting our hard earned money into a club that, speaking for myself of course, I do not have much faith in. I have not ‘completely’ lost confidence in those ‘running us’ but the next 3-4-weeks will determine if this is lost, by which time it could be too late to change anything? Years of wild overspending and owners ‘fleecing’ the club for all they could, making sure their ‘investment’ saw them come out of thing sitting pretty has pushed the club to the edge.

Is there any light at the end of this tunnel?

Hand on heart I could not say…Although of course this hand on a heart that loves Pompey clearly hopes so!

2) Pompey had to bring in a lot of players in a big hurry back in August. Which of the new boys has settled in the best?

A lot of players, and a number of players that not many other clubs wanted – and that includes clubs outside of the premier league – were patched together in a side of strays and others put out to graze!

To be fair I think that the majority play with pride and passion for the club and shirt but do they have the overall quality? I think on the whole I would say yes to be honest. I think they all took some time to settle in but Tal Ben-Haim is starting to look a decent footballer again and, although it is a shame it took him so long though, Freddy P is starting to look the part.

3) How do you feel watching the likes of Defoe, Crouch and Johnson playing well at other clubs and forming part of the England picture? Pride at seeing some of your own do well? Or sourness towards the players and regret?

Of course here has to be some sourness and a touch of resentment towards some of these, although I guess players come and go all the time so you deal with this – I would also say, to be fair, the majority HAD to be sold as we had no option, that does not make the actions of some to get these moves, such as Defoe, Crouch and Distin anymore easy to swallow.

Lassana Diarra and Glen Johnson both acted with dignity and respect during their moves away, so I have a lot of pride in seeing these guys play, although Johnson seems to be reverting to type a little with the bin dippers, getting into ‘off the filed scraps’ and perhaps the ‘I am bigger and better than you’ way of thinking is returning now that he is at a ‘bigger club’…

4) What did you make of the sacking of Paul Hart? I for one, felt incredibly sorry for him.

I have fielded this question repeatedly so basically will just re-used the same answers I have given others in the past to save time and effort 🙂

The guy was screwed over wasn’t he. You show me another manager that WOULD have worked under the conditions that Hart did and I would be surprised. Inexperienced managers would have cracked, I suspect they would be in the nut house by now – and experience guys would have walked almost instantly, one of our previous managers twitched all the way to London at the first sign of trouble! Then again I doubt they, experienced managers, would have taken the job anyway! In many way Hart had ‘nothing to lose’, but I do not think we can underplay the gratitude that we owe him for stepping in, it is just a real shame that a ‘fairy tale’ ending could not have come about…

The minute Grant walked through the door it was only a matter if ‘when’ and not ‘if’ he took over. Hart had a lot of tactical shortcomings that is for sure, but he got a team together, he got them playing for the club, the shirt and the fans – and despite defeat after defeat we played bloody well, and in spite of these defeats I did ‘enjoy it!’ It was just frustrating as hell to keep seeing us spurn chances.

So, all in all I did feel sorry for him but I guess it is a ‘results based business’ at the end of the day, and I am not sure he would have got them – then again, who would have?

5) And what about Avram Grant? I thought he did a good job at Chelsea and has a very good pedigree, but does he have what it takes in a relegation scrap?

Under Grant, to begin with, we were playing bloody awful yet we got a few results, and as said it is a results based business at the end of the day, right?

I would have loved Hart and Grant work together, but that was never going to happen – I just hope that this latest ‘gamble’ pays off, and have always retained hope that Grant took the job as thing ‘will improve’ off the pitch, as I cannot see why he would have otherwise, but time will tell I guess…

Against West Ham he seemed to ‘bottle it’ a little, this was the first game – even if we have not always played well – that I thought his tinkering, and incorrect tactical moves really cost us. ‘If’ this keeps happening against the ‘lesser sides’ that we need to get points from then he will not have what it takes, again time will tell.

‘If’ we stay up then Hart will ALSO get plenty of thanks from me, it will not be all about Grant – mostly perhaps, but NOT all!

6) When not singing incendiary songs about Adebayor and Cashley, us Gooners have a few derogatory songs about Mr. Redknapp in our repetoire. What is the consensus of feeling from Pompey fans towards Harry? I was aware that when he joined Southampton (or ‘Scumpton’ as my Gosport born best friend is fond of referring to them) there was some rather unpleasant graffiti about him behind the Milton End which has since disappeared. Are Pompey fans likely to join in with a rendition of ‘Harry Redknapp has got a twitch’ or are you indifferent with him?

I still feel betrayed by the guy and feel stupid for putting him on a ‘God like’ pedestal when a close friend of mine ALWAYS warned me against this – so, in all honesty he is far from my most favourite of people but I have ‘moved on’ to bigger, and more important things – my ‘final closure’ came when Judas came to Fratton this season, it was just a bugger that Spurs won!

I would ‘think’ you will get plenty of support for anti-Redknapp songs though.

7) How do you rate your chances of survival? Will Pedro Mendes style intervention be necessary, can you grind it out or are you doomed?

We need to keep the togetherness and unity that the squad has, if we do this we can do it – this wavered a little after Hart went but seemed to return, I guess a lot depends on how we react to the West Ham defeat. We can either let the heads drop and throw in the towel, or keep them high and keep fighting. That is down to the players, although ‘if’ they go unpaid again I think that will be that, once was poor, twice embarrassing but three times would be unacceptable and I think players would say enough is enough, even though they are not short of a bob or two!

I actually said a couple of weeks back that when we beat Burnley 2-0, and we were as poor as I have seen us all season, that a couple of saves from Asmir Begovic ‘could’ prove our ‘Pedro Mendes moment’ for this season – what we have to remember was those goals against Citeh, got something in motion although the immediate aftermath of that did not see us kick on, we continued to stutter a bit but that saw belief grow. We need a couple of back-to-back wins and I think we could see a decent run develop.

8) If you could take one current Arsenal player for your team, who would it be?

Can I ONLY have one!

You have so many quality players, young and older. Arshavin would be fantastic but we cannot afford to ‘carry’ anyone, and he would be a luxury that we could not afford to wait to burst into life. Fabregas is exceptional but we NEED goals so a fully fit Robin Van Persie would be the one for me – he WOULD stay fit between now and May if we had him in this fantasy world…

At this point, I should interject and point out that in most Arsenal fans’ fantasy worlds, van Persie is fit until May!- LD.

9) Finally, which Pompey player would you release into the woods before driving off very quickly?

Quality question! I am not the biggest of Hayden Mullins fans but think he still suffers from his ‘quality’ issues compared to players we ‘once had’ – he can never live up to them so he is always on a hiding to nothing, although Aaron Mokoena brings little to the table for me, so it would have to be ‘The Axe’ that I would leave to fend for himself and HOPE that he could not find his way home…

Many thanks to Pompey Rug for taking the time out to answer my questions. The Rug put me under the spotlight over at Vital Pompey, you can read my answers here/a>