2008/09 Pompey in review - August
We went into the season with expectations from some sky high, the FA cup win only added to that - maybe I was as guilty as many with what I hoped for, the difference for me being it was more 'hope' than 'expectation' as in all honesty signs of a 'decline' were self evident as far back as January 2008, if not before. The departures of some vital components of the Pompey side, let alone squad, despite some further arrivals added to this - and we would find out just how much during the season...
Sulley Muntari was sold to Inter for around £12.5m in July and on the eve of the seasons kick-off Pedro Mendes was finally 'sacrificed' when he was sold to Rangers for a measly £2.5m-£3m. Players that came in were the returning Peter Crouch for anything between £8m and £12m, figures vary and Younes Kaboul for around £5m.
Ben Sahar - what a waste that was! I maintain my thoughts that had we waited we would have still got Crouch but I also think that we could, arguably would, have been able to have brought Shawn Wright-Phillips in on loan too? But hey ho, the Chelski youngster was joined by Armand Traore and Jerome Thomas in loan deals, the latter soon saw this loan cancelled and a 'minimal' fee paid to Charlton for him.
All in all though, despite the departures of two key midfielders, not a bad summer really and keeping Lassana Diarra was a major bonus - although in all honesty he was always destined to be sold in January, so that was going to leave us even shorter in midfield quality, if not quite numbers, but hindsight is a wonderful thing I guess...
Of course before the season proper got underway we had another return to Wembley - maybe this could prove our last visit for a long time, if ever, which - for me anyway - made it all the more disappointing that the clamber for tickets was far lesser this time round... Ok, I know it costs money, but this was the national stadium and this was Pompey!
I think it is fair to say that the charity shield, oops sorry, 'community shield' on Sunday 10th August was not the greatest game ever witnessed but I think it is also fair to say that we gave Manyoo a decent game. After a 90 minutes that ended in a 0-0 stalemate a penalty shootout was needed to decide this and some woeful spot kicks, which I seem to recall saw Glen Johnson miss - maybe hitting the post - and without a doubt Diarra blazing very high into an upper tier we lost out 3-1 in the end, Jermain Defoe converted his penalty - that was when it mattered to him...
We did have another pre-season friendly between Manyoo and Chelski on the opening weekend of the season, a short trip to Gosport where a new star was born as Matty Ritchie helped himself to a hat-trick in a 4-1 win - the trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday 17th August was a game best forgotten though!
Funnily enough in front of the sky sports cameras we started fairly brightly, before we capitulated and were eventually mauled 4-0 - which in itself was not too bad really considering we went in 3-0 down at the break! We were poor, but for as poor as we were Chelski's new look side under 'Big Phil' were fantastic that day, unfortunately for him this did not last...
The first home game of the season saw Manyoo the opponents again on Monday 25th August, again with the TV cameras, this time from setanta, in attendance.
To be honest I still think that it was a decent enough game and a game that we more than deserved something from - even though I know people disagree with me, well at least on the 'decent enough game' part... Manyoo beat us thanks to a Darren Fletcher goal after around 30 minutes, but we again held our own - I seem to recall that this gave us our first glimpse of the on loan Armand Traore and Thomas also had a decent cameo outing as a 2nd half sub, having made his debut, also as a sub, against Chelski the week before.
A 'mixed' month ended with us still in search of our first goal of the season, let alone first win, with the tough looking trip to Everton on Saturday 30th August.
I think it was fair to say that expectations were not too high, and not just due to our 'indifferent' start to the season but due to the fact we did not often travel well to the blue side of Merseyside... But travel well we did, a good performance using a 3-5-2 formation mostly - although Everton were also poor it must be said - saw us secure a comprehensive 3-0 win.
The dream team England pairing of Defoe and Crouch both finally opened their accounts for the season, as did their England colleague Johnson. It could have all been different had Yakubu not had a penalty saved by the fourth England star in our ranks David James though!
Of course the end of August also meant the closing of the summer transfer window - despite constant 'rumour', 'speculation' and 'claims' no further departures were seen and in fact an arrival happened at Fratton as Nadir Belhadj arrived on a season loan from Lens...
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