Date:Saturday July 3 2010
SEASON REVIEW:- May (Part 1)
With the season approaching its climax, the two remaining league games of the season seemed to be just milestones leading to the FA Cup Final that Pompey had no right to be in (if you were to pay any attention to Stan Collymore). Yet both games will been seen as historic moments in the season.
The first match of May was the last Premiership match to be contested at Fratton Park for the foreseeable future, and it was against Wolves, a team who finished their first season back in the top flight a couple of places above the drop zone. Pompey lined up with an attacking edge about them and this paid off just 20 minutes in, a free-kick from Michael Brown headed home by Aruna Dindane. It was nearly 2 less than a minute later as Boateng showed his class with a technically brilliant volley, for which Hahnemann had to be at his best to keep out. David James was having to keep the Wolves at bay at the other end, and after several scares, the equaliser came, when Doyle poked home after both he and Zubar saw their initial headers saved by England's Number 1. But they weren't level for long as Pompey retook the lead 5 minutes before the break when Utaka scored a fine solo goal, beating several players and drilling the ball past the keeper. Second half saw a few decent chances for both sides but it was Pompey who put the game to bed when Papa Bouba Diop crossed for Brown to poke under Hahnemann.
It was a deserved 3 points and a fantastic way to wave goodbye to the Premier League. Fratton Park, for most of our time in the Premiership, was the smallest ground in the League that had facilities on a par with most non-league grounds. But to us, it was the most magnificent stadium that brought many happy memories, and countless memorable atmospheres that couldn't be matched across the country. The 21,000 or so that packed Fratton Park on its day were in for a treat, as the best fans in the country let would get behind their team in a way they only knew how, by making a lot of noise. Visiting fans also admired Fratton Park, and it's obvious that it's not for long black wall that is labelled 'Gents', it's because it epitomises everything that English football should be; fans close to the pitch, there specifically for the football and more than everything else, being bloody loud!
At the end of our final home game Avram Grant took the microphone and gave one the most emotional speeches a football manager possibly could where he thanked the fans from the bottom of his heart, said that Fratton Park is the place to go if anyone wanted to see the definition of passion and commitment and pumped the crowd up in preparation for Wembley. This was seen by most as a goodbye speech, although some still had hope of him staying around.
Our final Premiership game was a trip to Goodison Park to take on an Everton side were destined to finish 8th regardless of the result. Pompey started the strongest possible team that looked to appear at Wembley, with only James missing out through a slight knock and Dindane ineligible. The first half was a typical end of season affair, with the home side unwilling to attack and the visitors being careful not to injure themselves ahead of the biggest game of the season. Although the Toffees had most of the possession they were unable to properly test Ashdown until early in the second half, when Yakubu forced him into making a routine save. The turning point of the match came halfway through the second half when O'Hara's shot fell for Vanden Borre who tucked the ball into the net at the far post. But, if you haven't guessed already, the goal was disallowed for offside, despite the fact that he was clearly about 3 yards onside. Another horrendous decision costs us dearly, it makes you wonder if after a season of dreadful refereeing, how many points would we have picked up if these decisions were called correctly? As the game seemed over, there was one last hoorah for the Merseysiders, when with the last kick of the game, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov struck an absolute stunner from all of 25 yards, a typically sour end to our Premiership tenure.
We were all done and dusted with the Premier League, no more having to put up with all these big clubs coming to our poxy little ground and having a giggle about our facilities, talking trash about the cuisine and turning their nose up at the old showers. To hell with all that, we had 7 fantastic years and proved we could scrap with the best that this country has to offer, but let's go back to our roots. It's been so long since we've played in Division 1 that apparently they've changed the name of it now, so let's go back there and show them who we are and what we do best. But on the way there, we just have to make a quick stop at Wembley for a little cup game.
The FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world and this season saw 762 clubs trying to win it. Only 2 remained, Chelsea, the Champions of England and current FA Cup holders, and Portsmouth, 2008 winners and £130 million in debt. It was a special day for Portsmouth fans, who invaded London by trains, cars, buses, bicycles on foot and maybe even by rickshaw. This was our day, and we weren't going to give up before we started. The match was screened across the globe and an estimated 500 million people worldwide had their eyes fixed on these 2 teams.
With the usual pre-match traditions over and done with, it was now all on the 11 players on the pitch to cause one of the biggest upsets in FA Cup Final history. However, it was the Champions who started the brightest and David James made several great stops to keep the scoreline at 0-0. At the other end Pompey came so close to taking the lead, when a Boateng volley was prodded goalwards by Piquionne, but somehow Cech reacted brilliantly to claw the ball over the bar. But the star player of the first half was without a doubt the frame of the Portsmouth goal, who was on hand, not once, not twice, but 5 times to deny Chelsea. First from a Lampard long ranger, then after a glaring miss from Kalou from 4 yards when it looked easier to score. Terry beat James soon after but his looping header came back of the bar before Drogba twice hit the frame, first concussing the crossbar from a 30 yard free-kick which got an ever so slight touch from James, and then hitting the foot of the post after sliding the ball under James from a tight angle. But amazingly the teams went in level at half time, and things were about to get interesting.
As the second half begun Pompey looked a lot more relaxed, moving the ball around well and fashioning some decent moves, and just 10 minutes after the restart Pompey were in Dreamland, when Aruna Dindane powered his way down the right and as he cut inside he was brought down by Belletti, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. With the world watching, Kevin Prince Boateng stepped up, took a few deep breaths and waited for the referee to blow his whistle. He took a short run-up and...
SEASON REVIEW:- May (Part 2 - Actual Ending)
...sidefooted a tame penalty down the centre of the goal, which Cech managed to get his legs to as the ball went behind for a corner. That was it, Pompey's big chance had came and gone and players heads (especially Boateng's) seemed to drop after this. Within a minute Chelsea had gone up the other end and won a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area. As Drogba stepped up, the outcome was inevitable. The ball smashed off the inside of the upright and into the back of the net, and for the first time in the afternoon you could hear the Chelsea fans. From here on the result was never in doubt, and as Chelsea comfortably held on. One chance of note that Pompey had was a wicked first time cross from Belhadj that saw Terry somewhat fortunately take the ball off the toes of Dindane as he looked set to equalise. Chelsea had a few more chances themselves and there was even time for Frank Lampard to put a penalty wide in the final minute of the match. Shortly after the final whistle blew and Pompey ended their season the same way in which they begun it, with a 1-0 loss. But this one would be celebrated differently.
Usually after the final whistle goes at a Cup Final the winning team's fans go mental, but not here. There was a feint noise of mild amusement from the Chelsea end, followed by a roar of Play Up Pompey from the other end. As much as I'd love to dwell on how mediocre the Chelsea fans were, I think it's more fitting to concentrate on the fact that for 90 minutes, and even after, the pride and passion that every one of the Pompey fans showed was outstanding. To be put through a season like we had and to show the world that we were still 100% behind our club was truly a sight to behold. It was always stick in my head the scenes after the final whistle where we outsung the team that had won the Cup, and to see 25,000 people still waving their flags brought tears to my eyes. A special moment to cap off an emotional season.
When we look back at our 2009/2010 campaign, we'd probably want to forget most of it. The multiple owners, the chain of skint billionaires, the bad decisions by league officials and club officials. We saw a few players come, and a lot go. We saw the inside of Wembley (twice) and the scummers leaving their own ground early because they were 4-1 down (again). We said goodbye to Hart, and hello to an Israeli with a massive heart, who thanked us from the bottom of his heart for showing how much heart and passion we showed him. We won some, drew some, and lost a hell of a load, but never did we stop fighting. We did our club proud, and our club did us proud.
And in August, we'll do it all over again.
Date:Saturday July 3 2010
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