Football ceased as usual for its summer hiatus after a memorable day at Wembley in May 2010, however the exception for Portsmouth Football Club was the lingering notion that it may never return. 56 days had passed between the valiant attempt to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup Final and the return to action at West Leigh Park for our traditional pre-season friendly against The Hawks, and many things had changed.
Firstly, the preparation for the upcoming season was for the Championship, after administration the season previous ensured relegation from the top flight. Secondly, the club had seen some massive changes in personnel, with Uncle Avram departing for West Ham, and being eventually replaced by former Burnley and Notts County manager Steve Cotterill.
The squad had predictably seen a major overhaul as well, with bigger names such as David James, Papa Bouba Diop, Kevin Prince Boateng and Nadir Belhadj moving on as well as loaned players such as Jamie O'Hara, Aruna Dindane, Frederic Piquionne returning to whence they came, and with a transfer embargo still handcuffing the Blues from spending, a concoction of loans and freebies were sought as replacements.
Of the 14 players that featured in the Cup Final, Michael Brown was the only one named in the inaugural pre-season game against Havant & Waterlooville, and fittingly he scored the winning goal just before the hour after Mustafa Tiryaki cancelled out David Nugent's early strike. Portsmouth named and used 10 youth-filled substitutes, something we shouldn't get used to.
Following the Hawks game, Portsmouth set off to America to play a string of 4 friendlies in 10 days, in what in hindsight was a disastrous and damaging pre-season arrangement. With barely time to find a postcard stall Portsmouth had to take on Mexican giants Club America in the rather impressive, yet unsurprisingly sparsely populated Qualcomm Stadium.
Again, the Blues named a youthful line-up, with names like Tommy Smith, Richard Hughes and Hayden Mullins used to bolster up the spine of the team. Despite a couple of decent chances for Pompey, the Mexicans went in 2-0 up at the break. Tom Kilbey showed that he may have an input to the season by scoring early in the second half, but Club America comfortably held on in an uncharacteristically heated friendly, with the match finishing 2-1.
Pompey next took on American 4th tier opposition in Ventura County Fusion as Nugent and Hughes were the only senior players in the starting line up. It was a tight game, which Pompey won thanks to a sweet strike from Nugent, after Marlon Pack's goal was followed by a stunning equalizer from Armenian Hagop Avesyan in front of a crowd consisting of a few picnic tables.
Next up was a clash for the coveted(?) Edmonton cup, which saw Portsmouth take on the newly founded FC Edmonton. The game was played in front of over 8,000 fans, albeit in a 60,000 capacity stadium and started horribly. The Canadians scored in the first few minutes through local boy Chris Lemire, and to add to our woes, the promising Jon Stewart and Tom Kilbey were sidelined through injuries in the first 10 minutes, the former with a suspected broken leg, which would rule him out for most of the upcoming season.
Portsmouth responded magnificently as they poured on the pressure, and shortly after the break, Nadir Ciftci prodded home the equaliser which saw the game go to penalties, which Pompey won 5-4 with Ciftci scoring the wining kick and Liam O'Brien the hero at the other end.
The final leg of the American tour pitted Pompey against MLS side DC United, after a nightmare of a journey which included cancelled flights, thunder storms and lost luggage. Playing in DC United's spare kit, a shattered Pompey got battered in the sweltering heat as the hosts dominated. A hat-trick from familiar face Danny Allsopp, and a Pablo Hernandez sitter saw the side from Washington rack up a 4-0 win, despite finishing the match with 9 men. Hayden Mullins and the wonderfully named Santino Quaranta saw red after a scuffle, and Julius James also was given his marching orders late on after bullying Michael Brown.
The nightmare was over, and it was time to return home and perhaps use this time to sign some players, as this trip had taken it's toll on the team, who returned fatigued, less confident and with many injuries. An awful idea to participate in this façade was the general consensus of fans and players alike, and one that arguably had a bearing on the start of the league campaign.
Before the league could start, another trip, this time to Bournemouth was on the cards. A strong Portsmouth side came out on top after the soon to be departed Marc Wilson stroked home a penalty with 20 minutes to go in what was a tight encounter.
Pompey returned to Fratton Park a week before the season started to take on Fulham in the final friendly, a testimonial for the legend Linvoy Primus (a much more worth while cause than the Community Shield, I think you'll agree). The man himself started in a blue shirt, and was manically cheered every time he touched the ball by the rather disappointing 6,000 in attendance. He made way after just 10 minutes to be replaced by the returning Kanu, back from World Cup duties with John Utaka as the side started to resemble one that may be named in the upcoming League season.
Pompey won the match 1-0 thanks to a Marc Wilson header and played an impressive match, which gave the fans some optimism going into the start of the season. Pompey also lifted the "Kappa Cup" following the victory, which meant we were 2 trophies to the good, despite a nightmare of a pre-season. This winning lark is quite easy really.
Pompey now seemed ready for the season to start, but one more victory was to come before the opening bout at the Ricoh, as the ongoing battle with HMRC was finally resolved just 48 hours before the season was set to begin, and it was another victory for PFC. There was no trophy for this one, just the quelling of any immanent fears of liquidation, for now.Written by PompeyFrippy
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