Date:Thursday December 24 2009
This time tomorrow all the kids will be running around the house looking to see if Santa has been and waking their parents still suffering with their Xmas Eve hangovers. Those days have passed for me now but if you are affected you have my sympathy.
Firstly can I send my best wishes for the Christmas season and 2010 to all the members of the Toast team they include - Simon, Tony, John, Steve, Tina, Mike, Jim and many, many, more. Without their input, some of it unknowing, you would not have the mixed bag that Toast proves to be (I hope!) I listen to what they have to say and occasionally I get an idea which spawns an article. Thanks to them all. I am working on some special articles for the New Year with their help. No clues yet except one will include a unique view on the problem affecting the game from a man with inside knowledge.
Secondly by thanks and best wishes to my colleagues on the Editorial team Rug, Paul and Chix. It has been a tough year for us with the problems the club have been having but he have worked well as a team and even met up for a pint a couple of times. Great stuff lads you make Vital Pompey what it is.
Lastly and not least Seasons greetings to you the fans who read this column every week. Without you there would be no Toast and your positive and complimentary comments help me keep going when the copy is a bit thin. I read all your comments and try to answer all your questions.
One such enquiry came recently from pentonpompey and the answer was - the average gate in 1979/80 was 16,340! Not bad for the fourth division. On top of that sixteen of the other twenty three clubs had their highest gate for the visit of Pompey.
Team of the noughties (Part 2)
Part one published on Sunday looked at the goalkeeper and the back four and can be read here.
The team in full is - with squad numbers
GK David James 1
RB Glen Johnson 5
CB Sol Campbell 23
CB Linvoy Primus 2
LB Matthew Taylor 14
RM Steve Stone 8
CM Paul Merson 10
CM Lassana Diarra 6
LM Andres D`Alessandro 4
CF Peter Crouch 9
CF Yakubu 20
Steve Stone - Wide right has been a position that Pompey have struggled to fill effectively during their Premier league stay and Steve Stone certainly stands head and shoulders above the rest. The long term Forest and England wide man joined Pompey from Villa in 2002 and was a key piece of the promotion jigsaw. He had experience, skill and plenty of effort in his game. He could deliver a good cross and despite being in his early 30s still had pace.
Steve slotted a reasonable number of goals for a winger scoring about one goal every nine games for Pompey including a famous winner against Manchester United in April 2004.
Paul Merson - the captain and inspiration of the promotion side. The led by example on the pitch if not on the training ground and it was a shame he could not be persuaded to give it one more try in the Premier League. His driving runs from midfield and his vision were much missed after what most thought was premature exit.
Paul is now a regular in the Sky Sports studio on Soccer Saturday and his attempted pronunciation of some player's names is always sure to raise a chuckle.
Lassana Diarra - After seven successive Englishmen we have our first of just three overseas players. Lass as he is now known to Real Madrid fans could possibly be the finest player ever to wear the Blue shirt. His ability to win the ball and run with it made him the hot property that enticed the Spanish giants to splash £20m on him last summer.
Pompey fans knew that he was only really on loan from one of the worlds top clubs when we signed him and he gave u such great memories including a man of the match performance at Wembley. In fact in English football he never lost a cup match, whether at Chelsea, Arsenal or Pompey - that is some record.
Andres D'Alessandro - Ada played the fewest games of all those in this elite eleven, making just thirteen appearances on loan from Wolfsburg in 2006. The tiny Argentinian playmaker rolled up his sleeves and played no little part in the 'Great Escape' run at the end of that season. Who will ever forget his only goal at Charlton - in the only game we lost in that run strangely. It was his enthusiasm and goal celebrations in a strange environment that I will remember most.
The unanswered question is why he did not go on to greater heights. He wanted to play in Spain and joined Real Zaragoza but they struggled and he is now back playing in South America. Should he have done better? Could he have been a real superstar?
Peter Crouch - two spells at Pompey for two metre Peter and both times sold to help the club`s finances. The first time it funded the promotion push and the second? We will never know. Pompey fans loved Crouchie and he certainly knocked in the goals in both spells and worked hard for the team too.
Yakubu - one of Pompey`s many transfer coups of the decade, the Yak was stolen from under the nose of United manager Alex Ferguson. He admitted to the then Pompey manager at the cup tie in 2003 that he had the Yak file on his desk. Yak had strength, skill, pace and a good finish and of course a very good goals per game ratio. His major problem was his attitude to the game where if unhappy with something like the colour of his socks he would trudge around the pitch totally disinterested in the goings on around him.
Favourite moment must be his thrice taken penalty against Robert Green and ten man Norwich back on New Years Day 2005. Phil Dowd, the referee, twice ruled out the Yak`s efforts for encroachment but it was third time lucky on an awful afternoon weather-wise. Strange but I wrote that days before Frank Lampard has to do the same thing against the same Robert Green!!
Now the Sky Sports team of the decade is -
Brad Freidel, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Cristiano Ronaldo, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ryan Giggs, Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer.
No Pompey players there but a game between the two sides at their peaks would be well worth a watch!!
A little while back a couple of VP members were trying to update their records of Pompey squad numbers over the years and we were trying to help them. Well the other day in researching something or other I stumbled across a website that has them all going back to 1999/2000.
Believe it or not it is a German site and the records appear to be complete. This site is well worth a visit for any Pompey nut, just click here to have a look.
Here we have our Christmas birthdays - they include one face familiar to football fans young and old.
Neil Barrett is 28 Dennis Hall is 79
Chris Kamara is 52 Fred Smith is 30
James Keene is 24 Aleksandar Rodic is 30 Billy Hindmarsh born 1919
Mark Stimson is 42 Bobby Doyle is 56 Derek Weddle 74 Jimmy McAlinden born 1917
Danny Webber is 28 Lomana LuaLua is 29 Andy Perry 47
Billy Rafferty is 59
Call me Nadir
You all know that the Toast team have given some of the Pompey players their own nicknames such as Janice Kaboul. Recently we have been asked to call Billy Belhadj by his correct first name, Nadir. There is a reason for that and it is that the dictionary meaning of nadir is - 'the lowest possible point', and that is not where we would like Billy or Pompey to be.
Liverpool can testify to that for after Nadir`s goal and performance against them last week the Reds have certainly fallen to their lowest ebb of a very disappointing season. When you consider that a Lancashire club sacked their manager at the weekend after a record of just two wins from their last eleven games and Benitez and Liverpool have three in eleven you begin to wonder. You wonder whether Liverpool might for the first time in the club`s history sack their boss during the season!
Sorry but we stick will with Billy.
Right I'm off to the Toast party - Enjoy yourselves whatever you do. See you in 2010 with the the stats of the decade goneby and lots more!!
Date:Thursday December 24 2009
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