Portsmouth were looking to bounce back from play-off heartbreak as they entered the 2019/20 season aiming to return to the Championship where they were last in the division in 2011/12. With 11 games to play, Pompey find themselves in 4th place, just 2 points outside of the automatic promotion places. We talk to Portsmouth fan Ben Jaycock about the season thus far.
Following the play-off defeat to Sunderland, what were your hopes and expectations going into this season?
I think for the last two seasons, the aim for every Pompey fan was to get back into the Championship, especially as it’s been so long since we’ve been in the top two divisions in the country. I think it’s fair to say that a club the size of Portsmouth, shouldn’t be in League One therefore with the quality of the squad and with manager Kenny Jackett’s experience of winning promotion in this league, automatic promotion was expected.
What did you make of the clubs transfer business before a ball was kicked? What were your thoughts on the strength of the squad overall?
It was absolutely heart-breaking to lose Matt Clarke to Brighton and Jamal Lowe to Wigan, but the club couldn’t have done anymore to keep them as they were both destined for higher divisions than League One. Signing Marcus Harness was a like for like replacement for Lowe and the former Burton winger had a great start to his Pompey career but has since struggled with injury and form. Sean Raggett and Paul Downing were brought in to fill the gaping hole at centre back that Clarke left and unfortunately neither have come close to the consistency needed but have improved as of late. There was lots of excitement when the club signed proven League One goal scorer John Marquis from Doncaster. He had a slow start but has found his feet and was scoring goals for fun before the suspension of the league.
Overall, the summer transfer window was sufficient, and most fans felt the club would have enough for promotion. The January transfer window bolstered the squad, with acquisitions such as Cameron McGeehan strengthening our promotion push.
The side got off to a pretty slow start in the league, what was going wrong at this stage?
When you lose a player of Clarke’s calibre, there was always going to be a hole in the defence and boy did that prove the case. Some of the defending was shambolic and at the start Marquis was struggling for goals, which provided a dismal combination.
The atmosphere around the club was sour, with the team often getting booed off for sub-par displays, which I can understand but it never helps the morale of a squad.
I know you haven’t always been a fan of Kenny Jackett’s style of play, what have you made of his management up to this point?
This is the third season that Jackett has been at the helm and I would describe his tenure so far as satisfactory.
His first season was all about stability after going up the season before and he provided that with a top half finish, just outside the play offs.
Last season, he of course won the Checkatrade Trophy, but most Pompey supporters would have much rather have won promotion instead. The season ended with a gutless defeat to Sunderland, in which Jackett’s defensive, ‘hoof ball’ tactics massively backfired.
This season, we got off to a horrible start but since, Jackett to his credit and my disbelief has turned things around and we are in a healthy league position and in an EFL Trophy final for the second straight season.
What have been some of the biggest highs and lows of this season for you personally?
To no surprise the biggest low of the season was in the League Cup third round defeat to arch-rivals Southampton. To lose 4-0 at home to a team you despise, was such a horrible experience and one that stuck with me for days after, especially considering the hype around the game. However, one of my proudest moments as a Portsmouth fan was how the fans stuck with the team and continued to sing their hearts out and outsing the opposition, despite the score line.
The biggest high of this season has to be Marquis’ 95th minute winner against Exeter City in the EFL Trophy semi-final to take Portsmouth to Wembley once more. Hopefully, the biggest high of the season will be promotion at the end of it.
With the club in 4th place at this point, what is it going to take for the side to kick on and achieve promotion? Are you confident it will happen?
With only 11 games to play, we are just two points outside the automatic places, therefore automatic promotion is certainly attainable.
There’s a lot of teams in and around us, as League One is so competitive this season but with a favourable run in, I fancy our chances.
What are your immediate emotions when reflecting on this season so far as a Portsmouth fan? How would you rate it out of 10?
To be honest with you, it’s hard to put a number on it because the ultimate goal as mentioned previously is promotion. If we don’t achieve that, no matter what, the season will again be defined as a failure.
I would say 7/10, if you take into account the upcoming EFL Trophy run and our fortunate position in the league. However, there is still a lot of work to be done.
What do you make of these thoughts Pompey fans? Let us know in the comments below!