November 22, 2007

Portsmouth Football Club.

Filed under: English Football Clubs,Hand Drawn Maps — admin @ 9:51 am


 Today is Thanksgiving in the USA, and I am giving thanks to the roof over my head, my family and their continued health and happiness, this old e-machine that can still (slowly) do the work I demand of it, and to the fact that my favorite sporting club is sitting in 6th place in one of the top leagues in the world.  That would be plucky Portsmouth FC of the English Premier League, affectionately known as “Pompey.”  Portsmouth was the traditional home base of the British Navy, all through the years of Empire, and the naval presence there is still strong.  It is a very working-class town, as opposed to the more upper-middle class Southampton, 15 miles northwest.  The two have one of the biggest rivalries in English football, and there was much glee in Portsmouth when Southampton FC were relegated in 2005.  Pompey almost were relegated the following season, but pulled off one of the greatest escapes in Premier League history, going from 9 pts. down, to safety, in the last 10 games.  They did this by virtue of two things: the return of much-loved manager Harry Redknapp earlier that season, and a cash-infusion from new ownership that allowed the wheeler-dealer Redknapp to make some crucial player acquisitions during the January transfer window. I decided on Portsmouth as my club because I love their passionate fans, and I am drawn to teams that have to struggle to keep their heads above water.  Portsmouth, in their dilapidated stadium, with their working class fan base, punching above their weight, really reminded me of the soccer club I lived and died for as a youth…the Rochester Lancers of the old North American Soccer League.  I later found out that Harry Redknapp had played, and coached, in the NASL, with the Seattle Sounders from 1976 to 1979.  Here he met Milan Mandaric, then owner of the original San Jose Earthquakes.  Harry had come up through the West Ham United system, playing midfield for the East London club from 1965-72, with 147 appearances and 7 goals.  He ended his English career at Bournemouth in 1976, and then went to the US .   Years later, when Mandaric decided to buy (and basically rescue and revive) Portsmouth FC (he loved how devoted the Pompey faithful were), he appointed Redknapp (who had just managed West Ham for 6 seasons) as Director of Football.  Redknapp eventually became manager in 2002, guiding Pompey back to the top flight for the first time in 15 years, in 2003.  So that NASL vibe I felt with Portsmouth was real. 

Portsmouth FC has less cash-flow worries since Alexandre Gaydamak bought the club in 2005.  Since avoiding relegation in 2005, they have been steadily improving.  They finished 9th last season, just missing out on qualifying for Europe, in the UEFA Cup.  Under Harry, Pompey has always played a brand attacking football, and the team has been fun to watch these last 5 seasons.  Redknapp is much loved by his players, and has an avuncular style that has endeared him to the public.  His acumen in the transfer market is legendary.  He’s kind of like a used car salesman, but with footballers.  Now with more cash at his disposal, Redknapp has been acquiring (and attracting) a higher caliber of player.  Portsmouth’s defense (never a strength) has improved considerably, and they recently won an unprecedented 4 straight games on the road.  The club is also improving infrastructure like it’s training facillities, and they finally put a roof over the re-built away stands.  Fratton Park is still the smallest venue in the Premier League, but the club plans to build a new, state of the art stadium/commercial complex/luxury co-op development, on land reclaimed from the English Channel.  Last time I checked, it was slated for a 2010 completion, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  Whatever the outcome of the perpetually delayed new stadium, Portsmouth FC”s future looks bright.

Special thanks to these websites: FootballGroundGuide[dot]com[dot]uk, and Stadium Guide[dot]com for the photos, and Colours-Of-Football[dot]com for the kits. 

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