Portsmouth Season Preview 2020/2021

Last updated : 11 September 2020 By Jim Bonner

Whilst Pompey's 2020/2021 season has already officially begun with two wins against League Two opposition, for many, chapter one of the campaign really starts tomorrow.

There isn't much optimism among the fan base and it's easy to see why. Jackettball is more unpopular than ever, the salary cap has crippled the club's attempts to make any big name signings and with COVID-19 cases on the rise again, it may not be until 2021 until fans can attend games again.

This is Kenny Jackett's final year on his current deal and he's under pressure to deliver promotion once again. If he fails, it's likely that he won't be offered an extension as fans' patience will have expired (if it already hasn't.)

As cliche as it sounds, the manager really does need a good start but not having fans attending could work in his favour if results go awry. What could also be a boon for him is the favourable start to the fixture list he has been handed with the first four games against opposition tipped to battle relegation. In fact, the first real "big" fixture in the calendar doesn't come until October 24th when Pompey make the long journey to Sunderland.

Despite everyone's grumbles about Jackett's style of play and his man-management skills, he still knows how to grind out results and this, coupled with League One not looking particularly strong once again, is why a top six finish should be the minimum that Pompey should aim for. 

That's with the caveat that the squad gets boosted by one or two key signings as it's currently weaker that last season's. If another centre back doesn't arrive, it's imperative Jack Whatmough finally overcomes his injury problems. It'll be interesting to see if Cameron Pring can dislodge Lee Brown from the left back position but Callum Johnson had an excellent debut against Colchester and should be backed to make the right back spot his own.

Another midfielder to sit alongside Tom Naylor would be a welcome addition to the squad. There won't be many who would back Bryn Morris to nail down a spot in the first team whilst Ben Close has regressed under Jackett's mismanagement.

Pompey still boast one of the best attacking units in the division and this could well be the season Marcus Harness truly shines and it wouldn't be surprising to see him scoop up the majority of the player of the season awards come May.

Much of Pompey's success will rest on how Ellis Harrison and John Marquis can continue to adapt to Jacketball. Neither scored the amount of goals they would have expected last season but it could be argued that they aren't being played to their strengths. On the other hand, both were guilty of missing great chances last year.

Behind them Ronan Curtis should continue to shine, Ryan Williams will provide the assists (if not goals) and Andy Cannon could be the unsung hero of the side with his pressing game.

As for the manager nothing more can be added than what hasn't already been said. He might start winning fans over if the style of football improves, if he stops alienating our best players, if his team stops conceding late goals and if they can actually perform against the top sides away from home. Those are some huge "ifs" indeed.

As for Pompey's promotion rivals; Peterborough look set to win the division. They've lost Ivan Toney but they've recruited well and should score goals for fun, even if they concede more than they'd like.

Fleetwood might rue the loss of Harry Soutar but have also made some shrewd signings and as much as everyone hates Joey Barton, he's proving many of his doubters wrong. Oxford have also lost Rob Dickie and Marcus Browne but have a settled squad and Karl Robinson knows how to win promotion from this division.

Phil Parkinson is under the same kind of pressure as Jackett. His team will play a pragmatic style of football and won't concede many goals but it's doubtful they'll score enough at the other end and their mentality has also been called into question by their expectant fanbase.

If we're looking for "hot takes" and a side that might unexpectedly challenge for promotion then perhaps AFC Wimbledon might be that side? They might well have been relegated had the season not been curtailed but they've strengthened the squad and with a return to Plough Lane in the offing, there's a buzz about the place. Blackpool are another side being tipped to surprise people.

None of the relegated sides will pose an immediate threat to the promotion challengers. Hull have had a woeful 2020 and are unlikely to pick up until Grant McCann is inevitably sacked but their squad looks excellent for League One otherwise.

Lee Bowyer can't keep working miracles amongst the chaos that is Charlton Athletic either and it wouldn't be surprising to see him finally call it quits if a takeover doesn't happen soon. As for Wigan's plight, they're going to have a season similar to Pompey's in 2012/2013 - their ex-Pompey players won't be able to haul them out of trouble.

Predictions as to who will join them? Rochdale, Northampton and Burton Albion.

As for Portsmouth, this is the season they simply must win promotion but I'm going to predict a 5th place finish and yet another play-off heartbreak.