The Monday Column
So we’re the latest club to get ‘Wiganed’, then. And fair play to them too – their fans should enjoy it while it lasts, because it won’t last for ever! So speaks a hardened Premiership fan!
And imagine my surprise when I saw two Latics in my favourite Chinese restaurant down Osbourne Road on Saturday night. Shouldn’t they have been in Ken’s Kebab’s House ordering a pie? Mind you, they probably went in there first only to find that we don’t do gravy on our chips ‘daaaan saaath’.
You know, two things really stood out for me on Saturday evening. The first was that there is a really fine line between doing well in the Premiership and doing badly. I mean, were Wigan really THAT good? Of course they weren’t. In terms of quality, I think we have about the same amount as they do – it’s just that they have a manager who knows how to build a solid unit, a team with spirit and balls that will fight all the way to the end.
What they have in abundance is grit, determination and footballers not blessed with fancy skills – but also footballers that will not shirk their responsibilities. Those Wigan players refuse to look defeat in the face. Instead they say, “we don’t want defeat, we will fight until the very end for the cause and come out proud that we will have done the best we can.”
To sum up – they fight and play for their shirt. Name more than three Pompey players that did on Saturday. It’s a struggle, isn’t it? Silva tried gamely up front on his own. O’Neill had one of his worse games, but still tried. Matty Taylor will run all day for you, but it wasn’t his day either.
Oh how we could do with some Wigan-like players that demonstrate that same attitude. But hold on a second… didn’t we have one of them until recently?
Dare I say it, but oh how we could have done with Arjan de Zeeuw. Much has been written in the tabloids in the last week about de Zeeuw’s return to Fratton. About his impending (and then successful) revenge. Many commentators have called his transfer to Wigan the ‘best bit of business done in the summer transfer window’.
Looking at it from our perspective, if Paul Jewell can be given that accolade, surely you have to give the ‘worst bit of transfer business done in the summer’ award to Alain Perrin. Allowing de Zeeuw to go and replacing him with an able, but hardly inspiring, Andy O’Brien was tantamount to ripping the heart out of your side and replacing it with a bottomless void.
I am sure that, if we still had Arjan, we would have won a couple at home. Not necessarily because he would have inspired better defensive performances. But because players played for him. On the pitch he upped the stakes – “play for me, your captain, or you’ll get a f*ckin’ good rollicking.”
Who is there in our team now to give that rollicking? Our talisman at the back has gone. Long live King Arjan. Our talisman up front has gone too. Long live Queen Yak (sorry Yak – you can’t have two kings in one team though! I’m sure you’re not a queen in real life. Ahem).
Interesting too that Arjan states quite publicly that he didn’t get on with Perrin. I wonder how many of our players do. We get fed the PFC-approved drivel of, ‘we’re playing for the manager and are all behind him’, but I just wonder if they are. Certainly from the display against Wigan, which I can honestly say was the worst Pompey performance I have seen since the days of Graham Rix, I doubt if the players either respect or want to play for Perrin.
I said in my column last week that, following the 4-1 victory over a team that has won only once in 30-odd Premiership encounters, we should not be assuming that our bad run was over. Yet still I read in the press from various fans’ letters that Alain Perrin needs to be given more time. More time to do what exactly? How long is it going to take before we can celebrate a first win of the season at Fratton? Are we going to see a victory here before 2006? Looking at the fixture list, I have my doubts!
I also said, in light of that victory at the Stadium of Light, that one swallow doesn’t make a summer. And how we’ve been brought back down to earth this week. But like I said, Wigan were hardly awe-inspiring, and we should take heart from that. If they can win six games on the spin, so can we – although I would argue that this is not going to happen while the hapless, luckless and tactically naïve Perrin remains in charge. He’s had his time. Now it’s time for him to go.
Anyway, I want to talk briefly about Laurent Robert. What an interesting reaction when he came on! I think the row of seats around me summed up what fans think. To my right, two big, burly fellas got up and gave him a standing ovation. I wanted to remonstrated with them but thought they might beat me up if I did. Behind me, three or four fans booed loudly. Me? I just shut up and watched in awe as some dipstick on the Fratton End waved a Tricolour as Robert marched proudly onto the pitch. Why why why!!!
So what camp are you in? The ‘give him another chance’ camp? Or the ‘boot him out the arrogant idiot’ camp? I have one foot in the latter and the other also in the latter. Robert isn’t the kind of player you need to drag you out of a hole. He’s the kind of player who sparks when the team is winning, not when it’s losing, which is kind of a dilemma, really. If we should ever start winning regularly without Robert, who would we drop so he can go into the team? Or am I talking complete nonsense?
Where in the Wigan team is a player like Robert? I guess Henri Camera is the nearest they have. And he was given a proper rollicking from Paul Jewell when he strayed out of line earlier in the season. Where was Perrin’s strength to give Robert a rollicking at Sunderland last week? And herein lies the problem of Perrin. And thus the problem of Pompey at the moment.
Before I go this week, I have a friend who is a mad Wigan fan and has been for a long time. We had a textual relationship during the match which cost my mobile phone bill dear, but I think was quite amusing, so I shall fill you in on it. You’ll have to excuse his northern dialect – I didn’t have a clue what he was on about at times. Anyway, here we go.
5.10pm. Jim Foster texts Neil Smith: “U’re gonna get beat. Ure winning run is over!’
5.12pm. Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “Heard that 1 a few timez. We will be 6 points off Chelsea come Monday. Watch 4 de Zeeuw at set pieces!”
5.40pm. Jim Foster texts Neil Smith: “Well, u r better team so far.”
5.43pm. Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “Been lke this all season. Along with last 3 seasons.”
(Cheeky f*cker I thought. I was paying him a compliment too! COME ON THE BLUES!!)
5.45pm. Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “Come on de Zeeuw.”
5.46pm. Jim Foster texts Neil Smith: “F*ck off de Zeeuw.”
(By this stage you can probably imagine how exciting the game was if you weren’t there).
6pm and half time. Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “We’re happy. Comfortable. Could av sneaked a goal. Seven corners.”
6.06pm. Jim Foster texts Neil Smith: “U don’t need to tell me the stats. I’m at the ground u twt. Can only hope for a better next half.”
6.08pm. Jim Foster texts Neil Smith again: “That was the worst half of football I’ve seen here in four years. Bring on the hit the bar competition. I’m off for a pie.”
6.10pm. Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “Ey oop I’ve just had a pie. Ooh ah ooh ah to be a Wiganar.”
(At this point I suspect Neil is opening his 10th can of lager of the afternoon/evening).
6.25pm (and prophetically before they score) Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “Do do do Pascal Chimbonda.”
6.28pm approx. Jim Foster texts Neil Smith: “1-0 to you. Chumbawumba header. F’in ref. Couldn’t see why was corner. All 22 players thought GK. Are u watchin on TV?”
6.29pm. Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “Eye, from my mudhut oop north.”
(He wouldn’t tell me if it was a corner or not).
6.31pm. Jim Foster texts Neil Smith: “Glory hunter!”
(F*ck that was a poor excuse for an insult).
6.48pm. Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “Can we play you every week.”
6.49pm and reverting to more direct insults, Jim Foster texts Neil Smith: “Wanker!”
6.50pm. Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “Correct. Who needs Mourinho, we’ve got Paul Jewlio.”
(WIGAN GO 2-0 UP)
7pm. Jim Foster texts Neil Smith: “We just brought on a defensive midfielder. G8.”
7.01pm. Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “Along with the two tw*ts before him.”
(I felt this was a bit harsh on poor old Lualua).
7.04pm. Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “Little Wigan takin the piss.”
7.05pm. Jim Foster texts Neil Smith: “I’m off. Had enough. Hopefully you’ve done us a favour and now we’ll get rid of our tosser of a manager.”
7.07pm. Neil Smith texts Jim Foster: “I can c u sneaking out.”
And so ended one of the worst days at Fratton I can remember in the last four years. If not the worst. I saw Pompey play Wigan the last time the two sides met (was it 1983? I can’t remember I would only have been 10). Anyway my dad took me and said that their defenders had ‘tree trunks for legs’ and were all coal miners.
How times have changed for Wigan. Now they have a doctor as a central defender and a bloke who wears gloves in September at right back.
One thing doesn’t change, though. Pompey always used to struggle to break down dour northern teams in those days. They still do today…
Bring back Frank Burrows!