Throughout February this year, there was a sense of renewed optimism around Fratton Park. Portsmouth had just gone on a five match unbeaten run, keeping a clean sheet in all of those games. A sixth win in the first game of March improved that standing, and many people thought this was a late push for the playoffs and an immediate return to the Premier League was on the horizon. However, this form would not last, and only one win in their final 11 games left Pompey lingering in mid-table—not a bad result for a team which for many games failed to fill a full bench.
So will Portsmouth be able to return to the top of English football at the second time of asking? With the financial situation, it will be a big ask, but these are ways which they could soon be back with the giants of the English game.
Mokoena, proving loyalty is not completely dead
When Portsmouth were relegated in 2009/10, it was wondered whether they would be able to keep their better players. Many players left for pastures new, but some remained at the club. Aaron Mokoena, Jamie Ashdown (released and resigned), Herman Hreidarsson, David Nugent and more remained with the Championship side even though there was a chance of the ceasing to exist.
These were all players with Premier League experience, and it is one of the reasons that they over-achieved this season. Signings like Liam Lawrence and the emergence of new heroes such as Joel Ward boosted the strength of the side. The task now awaiting manager Steve Cotterill is to persuade these players to remain and convince them that Pompey can be a Premier League side again.
David Cotterill (Right) joined on loan late in the season
If there is one thing which Norwich proved this season, it is that signing players on loan from bigger sides can help push the team towards promotion. Why can't Portsmouth do the same? Admittedly, they did this last season to bolster a thin squad and helped them stay afloat. Doing the same next season could be the ultimate push they need to return to the top flight. What happens with these players afterwards is irrelevant for now, as with the financial troubles, it is unlikely that any major signings will be made for the foreseeable future. They made good use of the system last season; a repeat of this could be just what they need.
Could a big name star find himself in Portsmouth?
The worst kept secret on the South Coast is that Portsmouth FC are skint. Most of the money at the club is being spent on the players' wages, and there is very little available to be used on signing from other clubs.
Recently, I saw an article on this site about The Top 10 Bosman Transfers of the Summer. These are players who are maybe a little of the expensive side for wages, but they are not the only 10 players who will be finding themselves in the job hunting line. A few signings from players in that queue would help expand the squad and reduce the risk of burnout in the team. Who knows; maybe a coup could be made and we could all see Michael Owen running round the turf at Fratton Park next season? Wishful thinking? Maybe...but football is full of surprises.
This is not so much as what they need to do, but why they can. Steve Cotterill has turned the fortunes of the club around. Had it not been for the brilliant decision to insert him into the manager's chair, the club could have found themselves becoming the next Leeds Utd! He gave the players and the crowd confidence and has certainly found his way into the hearts of the Portsmouth fans, as can be seen from their chants of "Steve Cotterill's blue and white army!". Keeping him in the position shouldn't be a difficult task but must be kept an eye on before a bigger club thinks about poaching him away...
Fratton Park. 20,000 fans during a sell out sounds like 200,000. I have only lived here for just under a year, and this atmosphere is one of the reasons Pompey have found a place in my heart. Admittedly, I have only been to handful of games but the one time this did really strike me was during the Linvoy Primus Charity Match. Only the North Stand was open, but the fans still made themselves heard.
This is similar to the Steve Cotterill part. It's an already installed reason why they are ready to return to the Premier League, whether it's a blistering hot sunny day or during a blizzard. If they're playing one of the greatest teams in the world or just a local pub team, the fans stick by them and encourage their team to play on (pun intended). They need not worry here. They do not need to encourage the fans to turn up to support them; they are always there. A lackluster performance can be turned round with one of their many songs, and John Anthony Portsmouth Football Club Westwood will be there leading the chorus and ringing his bell. Support plays a massive part in the success of football.
Investment is needed.
Well, after forgetting to put this in the first time around, it is finally here.
Current owner Balram Chanrai has been getting a lot of grief. Does he deserve it? Depends how you look at it. If you believe he should be investing in the club and do not think he has done anything to improve the team, then yes, he does. However, he did not take over Portsmouth for that reason. I'm not too knowledgeable on the situation, as it is only recently I have taken notice of the club.
Chanrai placed the club into administration in 2009/10, which more or less put the nail in the coffin of Portsmouth's run in the Premier League. Close to liquidation, Chanrai decided to take full control of the club and saved them. He didn't do this because he wanted to; not once have i seen recently that he has stated he will turn the clubs fortunes around. He kept the club afloat and helped balance their finances through a difficult period of time. Some fans I have spoken to are annoyed that he hasn't sold already, but the priority was to keep them going.
Now that the season is over, a new owner must be found. Chanrai will make money off this, there's no doubt, and I for one can't blame him. But it must be done soon before the first game of the season. I've talked about free transfers, but there is only so much you can do from that. Money needs to be invested into the club, so they can make some serious signings and make a statement.
Aside from this there must be some caution, though; a repeat of what caused the downfall of Portsmouth must not come around. There needs to be a new owner, but they also need to be the right owner.
Thank you for reading this. Feel free to leave your comments on whether you think I'm wrong or what over reasons you believe will help Portsmouth FC return to the Premier League. I hope you have enjoyed it.
On a side note, I would appreciate your comments on how you think I have done. This is my first article and hopefully not my last. Any pointers would be gladly taken in.