Best Of The Rest

Last updated : 22 November 2006 By Jim Bonner
So... who would have thought it? After virtually a third of the season Pompey are lying in third place in the Premiership table! Manchester United and Chelsea are running away at the top but there's not much to seperate the others below them.

I was watching Celtic take on Manchester United in the Champions League and my mind wandered for a while as I began to think. "Could it really be possible that Pompey end up playing Champions League football next season?" After glancing at the league table I couldn't help but dream that maybe, just maybe the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid or AC Milan could walk out of the tunnel at Fratton Park next season.

I know you're probably thinking "This doesn't sound right coming from a man who is constantly asking us to keep our feet on the ground." And you'd be right. However I'm not neccessarily saying that we will finish in the top four or even the top six. But after three months of staying in the top half-dozen of the Premiership there is a possibility, however slight, that we could finish in the top four come the end of the season.

I see the media beginning to refer to Portsmouth as a club that can challenge for Europe this season. As much as I hope to see us play in one of the UEFA Competitions I refuse to label Pompey the way the media do until halfway through the season. Looking at our fixtures from now until halfway through the campaign, this is what we have coming up:

Newcastle (A)
Liverpool (A)
Aston Villa (H)
Everton (H)
Arsenal (A)
Sheffield United (H)

Looking at them we have two games against relegation strugglers, both we should be looking to win (especially the Blades at home) and the other four games are against opposition who I believe will be up there challenging for the European places in the Premiership.

Now, for the purpose of this article I am going to assume that Arsenal are going to overtake us eventually. They have a game in hand on us and United and Chelsea aside, Arsenal look like the best team in the league. Saying that, there's no reason why we can't take a point at the Emirates Stadium. After all, Middlesbrough and Newcastle managed it. If Arsenal are taking third place then that still leaves fourth place up for grabs and Liverpool, with their awful away form are no certainties for that place.

If we are serious about challenging for Europe then we need to do whatever we can to keep the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Villa behind us. If we could beat Villa and Everton at home then that will put us in a very strong position to build on for the rest of the season. I would gladly take a point from Anfield if offered as that would keep the scousers behind us regardless of what happens at St. James' Park on Sunday.

I would be delighted if we could have over 30 points at the halfway stage of the season. Winning our next three home games will put us on 32 and on a good day we can get points in our three away fixtures in between them. Even then to finish in the top four, or the top six would be a huge achievement as being in the top 3 with 13 games gone doesn't mean we're going to achieve a UEFA Cup place.

Just look at past seasons for example. Below is a list of who the top 6 were after round 13 of that season, and on the right is the position they finished that season in.


1. Chelsea - 1st
2. Arsenal - 4th
3. Wigan - 9th
4. Manchester United - 3rd
5. Tottenham - 5th
6. Bolton - 8th


1. Chelsea - 1st
2. Arsenal - 2nd
3. Everton - 4th
4. Bolton - 6th
5. Aston Villa - 10th
6. Liverpool - 5th


1. Arsenal - 1st
2. Chelsea - 2nd
3. Manchester United - 3rd
4. Charlton - 7th
5. Newcastle - 5th
6. Fulham - 9th

Make of those stats as you will, but looking at them it shows we have a lot of work to do if we are to consider ourselves challengers for a UEFA Cup spot or even better. It's possible though and who knows? Maybe the dream really will become a reality come May.