If I’ve learned anything over the past 48 hours, it is that timing in this game is vital. There is very little use in me spending an hour or so analysing the administration minefield, because by the time I’ve found the time to do it, the situation will have already evolved. Even as I write, we’re hearing that in the latest round of brinkmanship the club have staged some sort of mass desk-clearing exercise at the Ricoh. Lord almighty.
Last night too was a ludicrous jumble of misinterpreted information, ambiguous statements and sheer conjecture. Even now after the High Court hearing there are myriad unknowns. What are the legalities of the company switching? Which company is actually registered with the Football League? What is the situation with the points?
So much whirring around our heads, but let’s work with the information we have. As my hero Gene Kranz once said, “Let’s work the problem people. Don’t make things worse by guessing”.
Southampton tried something similar, but without knowing the detail of what has happened or Football League rules, we really can’t make that comparison. The same goes for the Portsmouth points-deduction deferral they were able to negotiate last summer. Could that apply? We simply don’t know yet.
And of Portsmouth, we’ve somehow got to travel to Fratton Park this weekend with the cloud of this predicament looming over us. They’re a team that knows all about this, and let’s face it, it’s not something they’ve managed to balance particularly successfully with decent performances on the pitch. Footballer’s are supposedly thick-skinned, but when all is collapsing around you can we really expect a bunch of human-beings to ignore it? They have the same susceptibility to distraction and impressionable tendencies as the rest of us.
My views haven’t changed on what happened last night; I think the timing of this stinks. If there was any way this could have been deferred to the summer (which it’s becoming clear there was), I think that should have happened. 7 games before the end of the season is a colossal error in judgment, as it’s not going to end well or easily for either party while there’s still the importance of a season to protect. Things are going to come to a head, but it is only going to be magnified with the added emotion of end-of-season football.
What about the football? We’re left in this peculiar Deal or no Deal scenario whereby the 10 points will be a lingering concern until it happens, much like when they deal early and beardy Noel makes them open the rest of the boxes, with everyone praying they don’t hold the £250,000 and regret it. What are we going to do if we actually end up winning the remaining games, only for it to be rendered pointless (quite-literally)? The fans are going to be livid. I know I’ll be down the Ricoh going absolutely mental at both these organisations who think it’s fair to play these games with all of our hopes.
How are they getting on?
Pompey are bottom of the league, which is hardly surprising given the traumatic season they’ve had to endure. They’ve picked up somewhat of late, with two wins and a draw in their last four, although their previous two games were the defeat and single-pointer.
They’ve lost more games at home than any other team in League One, with 11 defeats in 19 games. They did however manage a cracking point away at Doncaster last weekend and actually haven’t suffered a defeat at Fratton Park since 2 February. So swings and roundabouts. Make of all that what you will.
Who could cause us trouble?
One of the implications of their financial troubles has been the ever-changing squad they’ve been forced to deal with. Top scorer Izael McLeod left ages ago now, and the mantel has been passed from person to person to somehow rectify the situation. The latest incumbent is veteran David Connelly, who has scored four out of their last 6 goals.
Jed Wallace is an 18 year old midfielder who grabbed the valuable equaliser against Doncaster in their last match, so keep ’em peeled for him. He only made his debut for the team on New Years Day and already has 3 goals, which considering how much of a struggle it is for our youngsters to get off the mark, is a clear sign of his promise. He was placed on standby for the recent England U19’s game against Turkey.
They’ve also got big bad Patrick Agyemang who is primed to scared the living shit out of our defence.
Sky Blues team news
Carl Baker is out, joining other key goalscorer Leon Clarke plonked in the stands (or at home resting in front of Jeff Stelling). That leaves Frank Moussa and Cody McDonald as our two highest-scoring available players, with 5 and 3 league goals, respectively. Both should find themselves in the starting line up.
The clamber for Callum Wilson to come in from the start continues, and with an open spot on the right-hand side of the team, there’s certainly a slot for him. However, David Bell, Adam Barton and John Fleck will all feel they out-rank him and will be vying for contention. Bell in particular has good memories of Fratton Park having scored a cracker in a previous FA Cup encounter between the two sides.
Fleck has been talked up more than the other two, so if I was to guess, I’d have a punt on him dropping in behind Cody and Franck dropping over to the right.
I’ve had my say on the McSheffrey incident. I know many of you are not happy with him, but having heard what Pressley had to say about it, I’m sure he’ll keep his place in the side. I don’t have a problem with that.
Finally, Jordan Stewart has had a week to recover from his previous run-out. Hopefully he’s feeling a little more spritely this time around, but one game at a time, and all that.
I don’t think I’ve wanted us to win a game more all year. I’d bloody love the players to show everyone just how mad they were to gamble with our season when we are so close to achieving something. I know that’d only enhance just how massively pissed off we’d all feel if a deduction came into play, but if there’s one thing I do love is a bit of defiance. It’d be great to prove wrong those who thought we were a lost cause.
There is a very realistic chance that if we win tomorrow we could be in 6th place, and actually within touching distance of the autos, I might add. I do wonder how the mindset will change if that happens. Will ACL have any sort of regret, or was that idea of being in the best interest of the fans really just a convenient but hollow message?
As tricky as it’s going to be, I think we can do it. But only with a scraped 1-0.