Pompey’s six-year wait is over – now onto real glory

Pompey beat Stoke City 2-1 in October 2008 and went on an unbeaten run for the rest of the month. Peter Crouch scored the opener with a spectacular overhead kick
Pompey beat Stoke City 2-1 in October 2008 and went on an unbeaten run for the rest of the month. Peter Crouch scored the opener with a spectacular overhead kick

To those who have not endured the pain it may seem entirely trivial.

Peering over the fence for the occasional gawp, how they must shake their heads at such incomprehensible antics.

The reality is, many football supporters will never truly fathom how seemingly incurable agonies can be wonderfully eclipsed by the merest hint of progress.

A glimmer of hope, an atom of advancement, anything to grasp in the darkness which suggests gloriously green pastures lie ahead.

Of course, others have more pressing concerns at present, such as how the Premier League’s most expensive player will fit in, or the potential behaviour of Mario Balotelli.

Not forgetting sitting in judgement on the effectiveness of various summer managerial appointments following a mere few league games.

Still, at Fratton Park the fans are smiling having risen into second spot in League Two ahead of today’s match.

Small steps bringing with them immense joy to the long-suffering Fratton faithful.

Such has been the club’s well-documented plight, it is clearly an unfamiliar experience amid terrain long since previously explored.

Alarmingly, the last time Pompey occupied a top 10 position in a table for more than a week occurred in December 2008.

Since then relegation has been a frequent companion, while there have also been finishes of 13th and 16th.

Yet successive wins over Cambridge, Northampton and Oxford over a period of eight days have seen the Blues hammer in the tent pegs and set up camp in these pleasant surrounds.

Irrespective of today’s visit of Newport County, Andy Awford’s men will remain in the top 10 courtesy of the make-up of the table at present.

And for Pompey fans that is progress enough to begin the chatter of brighter times ahead.

The omens are good four matches into the campaign – no matter how ridiculous that very sentence may sound to non-followers.

It was not always like this, of course. Take the aforementioned December 2008 for instance.

During the 2008-09 season, from September 28 to December 26 Pompey were never outside the Premier League’s top 10.

Even the departure of Harry Redknapp for Spurs and a maiden Uefa Cup campaign failed to topple the club from their hard-earned and hard-spent perch.

For the entire month of October they actually sat comfortably in seventh place, a sole defeat over that period being a 1-0 loss at Liverpool.

Then came the visit of West Ham on Boxing Day and a 4-1 home loss which nudged the hosts down to 11th.

Pompey never rose again that campaign as Tony Adams was subsequently replaced as boss by Paul Hart and they settled for 14th at the final whistle.

Since then the top 10 has proven comfortably out of reach no matter the division, manager, owner or playing squad.

It’s a failure lasting almost six years which has represented the brutal demise and shattered aspirations of a football club which became accustomed to losing.

Until now, that is.

Admittedly, looking back, under Steve Cotterill in 2011-12 there was a brief basking in 10th spot.

On October 30, 2011, Ibrahima Sonko and Liam Lawrence netted in a 2-1 Fratton Park triumph over Nottingham Forest.

That inspired a leap from 13th and into the top 10 as they strived to bounce back from relegation into the Championship at the very first attempt.

Unfortunately, the following weekend, Cotterill’s troops suffered a 2-0 defeat at Derby to drop back into 13th, never to return. They finished the campaign in 16th.

The Blues also dipped their toes into the inviting waters of 10th spot last season when the exciting new dawn under Guy Whittingham was still in full flow.

Jed Wallace, Patrick Agyemang and David Connolly all scored in a comfortable 3-0 victory against 10-man Morecambe at Fratton Park during the third league match of the campaign.

That was enough to lift them from 21st and into 10th and enforce hopes that Whittingham could lead this recently-created community club out of the bottom division.

That was until the following Saturday, when Phil Smith inexplicably dropped the ball to gift Lindon Meikle a 72nd-minute equaliser for Mansfield.

The fixture ended 2-2, with Smith making just one more appearance for the Blues while the team slipped to 11th.

The much-trumpeted campaign descended into a long relegation struggle, with only Awford’s intervention with seven matches remaining keeping them in the Football League.

Although, had Conor Hourihane not snatched a 3-3 draw for Plymouth in the final minute of the last game of the season, the Blues would have finished ninth. As it was, they had to settle for 13th.

Today, though, Awford’s side have occupied the top 10 since August 16, reflecting more than just a fluke.

The last time that happened Jack Whatmough was aged 12, Craig Westcarr was involved in non-league football with Kettering and Awford was studying at university to become a PE teacher.

Pompey are back – the length of such a lofty presence will depend on a squad of talented players who have been so impressively galvanised by their manager and his team.

But, in truth, finishing the season placed in the top 10 should be no cause for celebration – finding themselves among the four promoted clubs can only warrant that reaction.