Tag Archives: portsmouth

Lambs to the Slaughter

Preston fans watch Saturday's match against Portsmouth...

If football is religion, then it is a faith — like so many faiths — that loves its miracles.  For those who want to believe, even the smallest scrap of conjecture can turn into hard evidence, like being born again after seeing Jesus in a tortilla.  So you can forgive me if I got a little over-excited about Preston North End’s recent run.

After an extended run of bad results left them at the foot of the Championship table for most of the season, their new-found winning ways had a whiff of near-impossible.  They beat struggling Coventry City and Scunthorpe United, and then put a dent in Swansea City’s promotion hopes.  Was it the sign that Lilywhite fans were hoping for?  Could they overcome a massive deficit and pull themselves out of the relegation zone?  Might they find redemption that would wash away the sins of this season?

Old Nick, er, Phil...

Sadly, the answer looks a likely “No”.   A 2-1 loss to Reading, followed by a draw to Portsmouth has them seven points from safety with only six games left.  If you take Lanthier’s Law (sort of like Coughlin’s Law, only without Elisabeth Shue and the cool boat) that any club seven points or more above the relegation zone is safe, the only team that PNE could hope to catch is Crystal Palace.   But the Lancashire side is not known for having divine intervention on their side. 

Preston is not a clutch club.   They’ve made the promotion playoffs four times in the last ten seasons, but each time they have been denied entry. They remain in second-tier Purgatory… and now they may pay for their transgressions by being cast down into the depths below.  Yet still, Preston fans seek salvation, looking for someone to answer their prayers.

Brent P. Lanthier

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Sing when you’re… well, just sing.

That's right, lads. Put on a brave face...

Derby fans are a bit special, you have to admit it. I know a couple of kids from the East Midlands who might not agree, but the Derby supporters stick with their team through thick and thin. Lately though, it’s been as thin as gruel.

County’s 1-0 victory over Sheffield United on Saturday was its first in 10 matches. That includes their humiliating away defeat to non-league Crawley Town in the FA Cup. But even gaffer Nigel Clough admitted that it was not an inspiring perfomance for the 2,300 fans who made the trip to Yorkshire. Cloughie told a post-game press conference that it was the worst passing he had seen from his team all year.

What’s worse is that the Rams have not won at home since their  3-0 victory over lowly Scunthorpe United on November 20th… the last of six straight victories at Pride Park. 

It’s a bitter pill to swallow for fans who pack the place week in, week out.  Derby averages just over 26,000 fans per game, good enough for 2nd in the Championship… and better than about 40 percent of clubs in the Premier League.  Remember too that these fans were voted the best in English football after an infamous season, when the Rams were relegated with the worst-ever record in the Premier League: just one win and only 11 points.

What has two thumbs and got the hell out of Derby? This guy...

The Rams’ main problem seems to be finding the back of the net, having failed to score in six of their last 10 games.  Perhaps they are rueing the sale of local hero Kris Commons to Celtic last month.  But they boast a solid backline of John Brayford, vice-captain Shaun Barker, Liverpool import Daniel Ayala, and even central midfielder-cum-emergency right-back Paul Green.

Derby County are in that nebulous area of the Championship table, where they are probably safely above the relegation zone — unless their string of bad runs continues.  Their goal difference suggests they are a mid-table team that could go either way. 

That makes Derby not so different from Ipswich, Portsmouth, Coventry City, Bristol City or Barnsley.  It’s great if you are a die-hard supporter of one of these clubs, but really, where’s the fun in it?

Brent Lanthier

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Best of the Prem: Liverpool to Stoke City

Brent Lanthier

Here is the next installment of the series. I know, I know, the League ended almost a month ago. But at least four of these next five gents will be front and centre over the next month.

Liverpool: Dirk Kuyt (NED)
One of the few positives in Liverpool’s disastrous season, Kuyt gets mention for sheer effort… and lack of injury.  With Alonso out the door and Torres and Gerrard spending too much time on the physio’s table, it was left to the Iain Dowie look-a-like to show some guts. Kuyt gave his all, game in and game out.

Future: The Dutchman is beloved by the Anfield faithful but he could join the potential exodus from Merseyside this summer.

World Cup-bound? Yes. Kuyt is competing with some superstars (Robben, Sneijder, Van Persie) for playing time on the Oranje. But he has a habit of scoring big goals for Holland.  Watch for him this tourney.

Manchester City: Carlos Tevez (ARG)
The first player to move between Manchester teams since Terry Cooke in 1999, Tevez must have had it in his heart to prove his old boss wrong for letting him go. The Argentine scored more goals this season than he did in his previous two with United, leaving his fellow City strikers in the dust. Welcome to Manchester, indeed.

Future: The future looks bright for City… and Tevez should be their leading light.

World Cup-bound? Yes. But the striker now admits he may end up on the bench for a team that boasts an impressive front line, including Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, and Diego Milito.

Manchester United:
Wayne Rooney (ENG)
With the departure of his team-mate and “friend” Cristiano Ronaldo, it was up to Rooney to step into the breach for United. Rooney did it as a serious contender for this season’s Golden Boot, laying waste to defenders and scoring some lovely goals. He looked on pace to snap Denis Law’s record for most goals in a single season by a United player, but an ankle injury at the beginning of April forced him out for two weeks, and he finished out the campaign without scoring again.

Future: Rooney no longer has to play feeder for the flamboyant Portuguese and that’s been reflected in his goal tally. At 24, he is already a United legend.

World Cup-bound? Yes, yes and yes again. Get in, son. (Sorry for the unbridled favouritism).

Portsmouth: Aruna Dindane (IVO)
Dindane was brought to Pompey as one of several hired guns,  but he was never going to get that much action. His contract stipulated that if he played more than 21 games, the cash-strapped Pompey would have to pay Lens an extra 4 million pounds. But Dindane has made a career of doing a lot with a little, and scored nine times in all competitions. One wonders what he could have done, if he’d been allowed to play the entire season.

Future: Dindane has signed for a team in Qatar, which is where all football elephants go to die.

World Cup-bound? Yes, and with Ivorian superstar Didier Drogba out of the team, Dindane might get a chance to shine on the world stage.

Stoke City: Matthew Etherington (ENG)
Let’s face it: Stoke are boring to watch. They played to not lose and had the worst goal scoring record away from home in the league. But reformed gambler — and Hammer — Matthew Etherington had a good season. He led his team in both goals and assists (in the league‘s Top Ten, actually), which earned him the Potters’ Player of the Year.

Future: Etherington is frustrated he isn’t earning as much as some of his team mates. But after his rebirth at the Britannia, Stoke fans are praying he stays.

World Cup-bound? No. While he may have had an outside chance, the odds were that an England appearance was never in the cards for this left winger.

Up Next: Part IV, Sunderland to Wolverhampton — and then Part V: my Starting XI.  That’s a lot of Roman numerals…

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You Rannnnnng?


”Transylvania is not England, Mr. Harker…”

Avram Grant has resigned as manager of Portsmouth and is expected to sign for West Ham United shortly. This will likely postpone his plans to attend the Adams Family Reunion.

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Love For Sale: Portsmouth

With three weeks left in the season, the relegation battle is a little clearer. Portsmouth are gone, Hull City and Burnley are on their way (thanks for visiting!) and big teams like either West Ham and Wolves could lose their spot to Newcastle and West Brom (Welcome back! We hardly missed ya!).

The teams that drop can’t expect to keep all of their players. At The Rails will look at the teams that have been relegated — or are in danger of the drop — and who we think could jump ship.

Portsmouth

Poor old Pompey. Never really had a shot, did they? Their revolving door of owners and managers finally caught up with them.  From their FA Cup-winning season on, the debts mounted — they even owe money to the milkman — and the League imposed administration, effectively relegating the last bastion of South Coast football from the Premier League.

Most of Portsmouth’s highest paid players were shed at the beginning of the season, with the boardroom electing to bring others in on loan.  That means Freddie Piquoinne and Aruna Dindane will almost certainly return to France (Lyon and Lens, respectively) in May and Jamie O’Hara will resume his role as Tottenham’s Young Player of the Year.

But others will be sold off: some will leave to drop the wage bill, some will go to a team that actually pays the players… and some will leave because the FA Cup finalists will be a shadow of what they once were and players won’t relish another relegation battle.  Let’s have a look at possible pickups for the other Prem outfits:

Kevin-Prince Boateng: This Ghanian international will have to be on the block this summer, as Portsmouth still owe 3 million pounds to Spurs for the hard central midfielder.  Boateng will showcase his stuff for the Black Stars in South Africa this summer, where he will face off against brother Jerome (who plays for ze Germans). Jerome has been linked with Manchester City but Kevin-Prince may have to look a little lower down the table.  The elder Boateng would be a good fit for Steve Bruce’s Sunderland.

Steve Finnan: The ultimate journeyman, the Irish RB is the only player to play in the World Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup, all four levels of English football, as well as the Conference. Although a bit long in the tooth, he recently came out of retirement to join Giovanni Trappatoni’s Ireland squad and may have another Euro left in him. Reliable and experienced, Finnan is out of contract come July.

Aaron Mokoena: The captain of South Africa’s squad, Mokoena’s fate may depend on how well the Bafana Bafana does in front of the home crowd. The hard-tackling midfielder (his nickname is ‘The Ax’) is nursing a lingering groin injury.  But after his sterling performance in the FA Cup semi, Prem teams will likely not care that his mum used to dress him up as a girl.

Nadir Belhadj: Another one of Pompey’s better-than-average players currently on the injured list, Belhadj was brought over from Ligue One for 4.4 million pounds. A Dubai-based law firm said they are still owed fees for helping that transfer along.  Belhadj is in a race to get fit in time for Algeria’s World Cup debut against Slovenia.  But games against England and the U.S. may give the defender a chance to shine.

David James: He’s old, he’s a bit of a tw@t…. and he’s prone to huge lapses in concentration.  But even after Portsmouth sink further and further, Calamity James will still call the Premiership home. Why? Because England’s national team can’t afford to lose him to the lower leagues.  He’s 40 years old but he’s still best goalkeeper in all of Albion — on his day. His record of most Premier League clean sheets is more a testament to his longevity.  But there are teams that could do worse than the man from Welwyn.  Besides, who else will set Glen Johnson’s corn rows?

Up Next: Burnley

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