The greatest mystery known to man
Complex and challenging issues that have tested the very height of mankind's understanding of the universe we live in. But surely, none is a match for the Jekyll and Hyde nightmare that is Portsmouth FC's away form. The defeat at Southampton, to a team without a win in ten games and off the back of a 5-2 thrashing by lower league opposition, just hammers home the issue. Why are we so bad on the road?
Historically, we've been dreadful away from Fratton Park. As recently as season 00/01 we won only one game away from Fratton, a statistic echoed from 98/99 where a three point haul on our travels was the joint worst record in the division with, er, Bury. I guess it was the promotion season which got our hopes up, when we romped to twelve away wins and lost only three times.
But let's be honest, it's not so much the statistics that cause the issues with our matches up and down the country. Obviously, at the end of the day, if you play fantastic and lose 3-0, then that's not ideal - but it's the sheer difference in class of our performances that has really got us lot scratching our heads. Allow me, if I may, to give you my personal "Top Five"; five away games which followed on from home games, illustrating the bizarre difference in our level of performance.
5) The Home Game: Portsmouth 1 Liverpool 0, 18th October
The Next Game: Newcastle 3 Portsmouth 0, 25th October
This was still early doors in the Premiership, so we knew it would be tough to go to places like St James'. Even so, the first time we were outplayed heavily after a famous and convincing win.
4) The Home Game: Portsmouth 4 Manchester City 2, 10th January
The Next Game: Bolton 1 Portsmouth 0, 17th January
Following on from a classic flowing feast of attacking football against Man City, we rolled over and died a week later in one of the worst games of the season. Goal-hero of the week before, Stefanovic, got himself sent off to compound a miserable afternoon.
3) The Home Game: Portsmouth 6 Leeds United 1, 8th November
The Next Game: Fulham 2 Portsmouth 0, 24th November
We tore Leeds apart that day, and it could've been seven or eight. But from inflicting a record defeat on a team admittedly in decline, on a Monday night a little over a week later we rolled over and died in a dour affair.
2) The Home Game: Portsmouth 1 Arsenal 1, 4th May
The Next Game: Leicester 3 Portsmouth 1, 8th May
We held the champions to a draw. Then we played a game that an associate of mine who has seen us home and away for thirty years called "the worst Pompey performance ever".
1) The Home Game: Portsmouth 2 Manchester United 0, 30th October
The Next Game: Aston Villa 3 Portsmouth 0, 6th November
It could've been two different football clubs. The energy, effort, desire, communciation, attacking prowess and defensive stability from the home game was nowhere to be seen in the away neighbour, as Villa romped to a win by half time.
To be honest, I don't even know where to begin to explain the problem. As far as I'm concerned, it's all in the minds of the players. Whenever we leave Fratton now, the players automatically seem to think "Shit, we're away - we might as well not bother." But there's another factor too - cup competition.
Since promotion two years ago, we've travelled to Nottingham Forest, Tranmere and Cardiff and come back with a win - and even gone to Liverpool, where we met a 3-0 league defeat, and drawn 1-1. Of course, this was only in the League Cup or FA Cup; but as soon as it comes to the Premiership, only Blackburn and Leeds have felt our wrath.
If I could provide answers, I'd be a top level football manager. As it is, you get me writing rubbish on here instead. Leeds managed to avoid relegation in the 92/93 season without winning once away from home, and I pray this isn't a fate we have to suffer. But having travelled to Blackburn, Norwich and Southampton and come back with only one point, where do we go from here?