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Portsmouth Season Review 2006/07

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Hugh Larkin

Hugh Larkin has a definite policy to support underdogs. Can be relied upon to support any team against Real Madrid and hopes one day to see Walsall as the top West Midland side....
[full biography]
15/06/2007 09:00:00.
read: 815 times.

Portsmouth fans have to be satisfied with a 9th place finish in the Premiership after the near-oblivion of life under Alan Perrin just a short time ago. Pompey even threatened to get into Europe before slipping back a little. The foundations were laid though, for a push toward that goal in 2007/08.

Harry Redknapp has a deserved reputation for his work in the transfer market and he really struck gold this season. The signature signing proved to be Sol Campbell, a player good enough to have been in the Champions League Final a few months before.

When Arsene Wenger still decided to let the England man go, the expectation was that he would reappear abroad. When his destination turned out to be the South Coast it was the sort of signing to give the whole club a lift.

On top of the Campbell coup Redknapp also brought in David James, who turned out to be the Premiership’s form keeper, plus another Arsenal man, the Nigerian striker Kanu. He also produced some of his best form for years after losing his way at West Brom.

Pompey actually got off to a flyer in the League- so much so that for much of the autumn they were challenging for a Champions League berth. Kanu hit the ground running alongside the hard working Benjani and Matthew Taylor looked one of brightest young midfielders in the country, with dynamite in his left boot.

The team won 4 out of their opening 5 in the League including two away wins and then two more after a first defeat at Bolton, including a home victory over Spurs.

Campbell and James brought stability at the back although the hugely underrated Linvoy Primus was equally impressive. It was unfortunate that Pompey lost Dejan Stefanovic for a large chunk of the campaign after November, disrupting a very effective defence.

Pompey had solid performers in midfield. Taylor caught the eye but Sean Davis, Pedro Mendes (who had his campaign upset by Ben Thatcher’s cynical intervention) and Gary O’Neil were all consistent performers. Croatian Nico Krancjar showed glimpses of why he is rated so highly without being able to establish a regular place.

Life became tougher in the New Year and there was a five game streak without a victory in January. Pompey ended that run with a win over toothless Manchester City but then embarked on another 6 game winless sequence. Though there was a rally in the last few games, Portsmouth’s modest finish took them out of the UEFA Cup running.

In the January transfer window, the manager had concentrated on shoring up his defence by bringing in Djimi Traore and another Arsenal refugee in Lauren. The club weren’t able to make the sort of signing that could really boost them toward Europe.

Missing out on Europe could be a blessing though, as many sides have over stretched themselves by getting into the UEFA Cup with a modest squad. Pompey can concentrate on domestic action and they have already been very busy in the market, acquiring defensive reinforcements in Sylvain Distin and Hermann Hreidarsson. Sulley Muntari looks a potentially exciting forward to have on board.

While people often concentrate on Harry Redknapp’s ‘Delboy’ image, the key is that he encourages sides to play good football and allows seasoned performers to operate with a certain freedom. Players always seem to enjoy being part of his teams and flair players do get opportunities.

The real trick for next year will be to keep the pre-Christmas form for the whole 9 months and it looks as though the squad will have greater depth. 2006/07 saw Fratton Park become a very difficult place for visiting teams to come again after indifferent form in 2005/06 but Pompey’s away form after the New Year was very average.

Overall, the verdict on 2006/07 has to be a positive one but expectations have been raised and the club can also compete at a higher level in the transfer market. At the very least, an improvement on 9th will be the target.

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