Pompey were just not good enough, it’s as simple as that
In a football season played to a backdrop of tragedy and heartbreak across the world, no hard-luck stories can be found at Fratton Park.
Pompey were not good enough to win promotion from League One. It really is as simple as that.
There’s no blaming unscrupulous owners, Ian Ormondroyd’s offside goal, Brett Pitman’s pass to Viv Solomon-Otabor, the recall of Ben Thompson, or the roulette of a semi-final penalty shoot-out.
Neither can rage be directed towards hideously incompetent match officials and their wretched intervention.
Let’s not fumble around for excuses – this Pompey team lacked the ability, the mental toughness and the winning mindset to accomplish what they were brought into this club to achieve.
There are those who have been present for three seasons, others have featured for two campaigns. In some cases for sizable transfer fees and large pay packets at League One level.
During that period, the Blues have failed to win a single play-off game, let alone secure passageway back into the Championship.
As ever, a player must be judged on the quality of his performances in a Pompey shirt, not achievements at other clubs. The excuses must stop.
Now is the time to take a chainsaw to an inadequate playing squad whose shortcomings have continued to condemn the Blues to League One.
Even after the departure of Kenny Jackett, below, this pantomime villain dastardly sucking their creativity and shackling free-flowing instincts, the players eventually reverted to type.
It appears it wasn’t all Jackett’s fault. He had long departed before Burton, Crewe, Swindon, and, most crucially of all, Accrington on the final day.
Not that Danny Cowley’s predecessor should be absolved of responsibility, far from it. He signed these players, spending almost £3m in the summer of 2019, and was then unable to mold them into a promotion team.
Jackett also oversaw four meek January transfer windows, punctuated by loan signings he never used and cut-price arrivals he struggled to find firstteam room for.
Just once did a Blues’ league position improve following their January dealings. That was 2019-20, when they climbed from ninth to fourth when the campaign was curtailed early. Recruitment at Fratton Park is another key area which must be ripped up.
The Jackett era began in
June 2017 – there has been sufficient time to make an accurate judgement on the recruitment department’s effectiveness.
Of course, this Blues side did lead the League One table at Christmas to raise hopes that this could be the year.
Yet it all began to crumble following successive defeats to promotion rivals Hull and Lincoln in January, both occurring at Fratton Park and both against better teams on the night.
From that moment,
Pompey plunged into inconsistency.
There were wins at Oxford
United and Charlton – and defeats at Northampton, Bristol Rovers and Swindon, three teams who would ultimately be relegated.
Tom Naylor’s form dipped significantly after the turn of the year, John Marquis would score seven goals in his last 31 appearances, and Charlie Daniels was as disappointing a Pompey loan signing in living memory.
Elsewhere, Jack Whatmough missed seven matches through suspension, Ellis Harrison was absent for the last 14 games with injury, Michael Jacobs was available for 16 of the Blues’ final 37 fixtures, while injury dictated Jordy Hiwula missed
10 of the last 11 games.
Matters to perhaps take into mitigation, yet should not distract from what has been the most frustrating Pompey season since leaving the Premier League. It is noticeable some supporters have criticised Cowley for failing to whip this rabble into a play-off securing side during seven weeks in charge.
They came mighty close, 90 minutes in fact, yet once more this group of players choked. The fact many of us expected it, is damning,
If a team’s not good enough, it’s not good enough. No amount of managerial changes can improve a player’s ability to control a ball, to pass it accurately, or turn up for big occasions.
A squad designed to win promotion finished eighth in League One this season. Many of them will now be long remembered for all the very wrong reasons.