The Opposition View: Doncaster
By Jim Bonner
Updated Thursday, 12th April 2012
Adam Stubbings talks about Donny and the upcoming relegation party.
It seems inevitable that Donny are going down and Pompey are coming with you. Just what has gone wrong this season?
I think for us it is a combination of several things - the first being that several key mistakes from the previous management regime have caught up to us, as well as a failed gamble by the chairman this season.
Sean O'Driscoll was a fantastic coach for us and he did a superb job, but he wasn't flawless and his failure to adequately replace certain players (Matt Mills, Richie Wellens, Jason Shackell) led us to having a weakened squad and in the second half of last season that all came to a head.
We won three games in the second half of last season and were very lucky to survive, and unfortunately O'Driscoll paid the price for that bad run early in this season when he was sacked in rather unceremonious fashion.
It is my belief that our chairman John Ryan pushed the panic button, removing O'Driscoll just before he had a chance to get the team going again with injury returns - the likes of Billy Sharp, Ryan Mason and James Hayter - and replacing him bizarrely with a Conference manager lacking any form of true credentials, along with this "McKay Plan" that everyone was talking about for a time.
It hasn't worked, the manager has proven to be ineffective and by and large the "superstar" names brought in by McKay have not lived up to their reputations.
From what I can see at Portsmouth the financial situation has once again caught up with the club, there has been a mass exodus of all the high earners and they've either been replaced by thin air or unproven youngsters which can only get you so far.
I feel for the fans because it's a terrible situation, and I feel for Michael Appleton and his coaching staff because they've given it a good go this season and it's worth bearing in mind that were it not for that points deduction you would currently be just a shade ahead of the bottom three.
Do you think Dean Saunders deserves a crack at earning promotion from League One next year?
Opinion on this issue is split among the Rovers fans and it must be the most hotly debated topic for us all at the minute. I remain somewhat torn, but leaning on the side of saying "No".
If he does stay, I won't mind and will give him a shot at League One but that is only providing that Willie McKay leaves, the players he has brought in leave and Saunders is allowed to form his own squad over the summer with no interference from any outside party.
Saunders still has potential as a manager I feel, at least in the lower leagues, and I wouldn't mind seeing what he can do with a crop of his own players, because he inherited a very poor squad that is used to losing week in, week out.
We've been doing it for the last 16 months. At the same time though, Saunders has been in charge for most of the season and he has not shown much in the way of talent.
He doesn't appear to be very astute tactically, he doesn't appear to have any motivational skills, and if some of the rumblings around the club are to be believed, the man can't even excercise true authority over his own players.
Talk of disobedience from the likes of El-Hadji Diouf, talks of mysterious unnamed players taking over team talks for him and more rumours akin to that are very worrying. His communication in interviews leaves a lot to be desired as well.
If I were in charge of the club and had the money available, I would cut short his contract and tell him thanks for the attempt this season but we don't want to move forward with you. However he was appointed on a three year deal and the club is not swimming in cash so we may be stuck with him anyway.
What do you make of the situation at Pompey? Do you think there is a future for us?
I certainly hope there is a future for you. Portsmouth are a great club with a terrific fanbase and they deserve a future. I hate what's happening down there and what has been for the past several years, how the authorities allowed a football club to be so badly run time after time I don't know, and it needs to change.
Some have said that maybe going out of business and starting again in the Evo-Stik League would be a good thing, or that it needs a top level club going to the wall to finally make football wake up to the financial plight it finds itself in, but I think if you can steer the ship away from the iceberg, find competent new owners (a tough task in itself) and survive with maybe just another points deduction next season, then a chance to rebuild and rejuvenate as a football league club would work very well.
I'm sure it isn't the example you want to hear but the likes of Southampton have managed to benefit greatly from the drop into League One.
They were tens of millions in debt, went into League One took points deductions, got new owners and now find themselves on the verge of a return to the Premier League. It could be the same for Pompey if something is handled right for once.
You have some relatively big name players at your club, so who have been the top performers during such a poor season?
It is honestly difficult to pick out the top performers, I'm not sure we have one player who you could say we have had playing consistently well all season. We've gone through more than 40 players and never had a settled side which doesn't help, nor do all of these imports coming in week after week.
If I was picking a Player of the Season right now I would probably hand my vote to left back Tommy Spurr, even though he was out injured for 3 months. He has played very well when he has been fit and is good both going forward and defending at the back.
Unfortunately you won't be seeing him this weekend though as he has a broken hand and I fear we have seen him play his last game for the club. He deserves to stay in this division even if the majority of his team mates do not.
The goals of Billy Sharp and El-Hadji Diouf cannot be ignored either. Without those two we would have been down in February. Between them they've scored nearly 50% of our measly goals in the league this season.
You would think that the big name players you alluded to would have been the stand-outs for us but unfortunately not - Chris Kirkland came in for one came, had a shocker and left injured again three days later. Habib Beye has been woefully inconsistent despite touches of brilliance, and the likes of Herita Ilunga and Portsmouth old boy Frederic Piquionne will do well to earn contracts in the fourth tier if anybody has been watching their performances.
And who have been the underperformers that have been key in Rovers' relegation this campaign?
Where do I start? I suppose I'll start with these "big names" that were supposed to be the master stroke to turn our season around. With the exception of El-Hadji Diouf, I don't think any of them have managed to live up to their famous reputations, and even Diouf has brought with him the inevitable attitude and behavioural problems.
Too many crucial mistakes have been made by the likes of Habib Beye, Herita Ilunga, Carl Ikeme, Frederic Piquionne and Pascal Chimbonda to merit this "experiment". We can only deem it a failure. That said it would be unfair to place the blame solely on McKay and his players, and perhaps Diouf, and ever so briefly Marc-Antoine Fortune and Mamadou Bagayoko made up for the pitfalls of this plan.
Our existing crop of players even when Saunders first arrived have struggled. Injuries have caught up to Brian Stock and Martin Woods, which has made a big difference. Woods has made only 3 appearance sin the last 18 months and that has been a blow.
Age and god knows what else has lessened the impact of James Hayter, John Oster, James Coppinger, Adam Lockwood and James O'Connor to name a few and when our formerly better players are even faultering then we really leave ourselves with very little chance of survival.
One special mention for one of O'Driscoll's last signings as well - Giles Barnes. The man is not a central midfielder, which unfortunately is where we have deployed him all season. His abilities with the ball at his feet running at defences are unquestioned, but he cannot put in a shift running box-to-box, he is poor off the ball and the space he has left in the middle of the park time after time has cost us dearly this season.
We need almost a total clear-out of the squad this summer and I would honestly be saying goodbye to all but about 10 of the players if I had my way, including the majority of the players I've just named.
What sort of match are you expecting? Will it be a relegation party or will it be a drab affair?
My optimistic side says I hope for a good party this weekend and a nice, exciting game of football between two sides with nothing to lose but experience this season tells me otherwise.
It is drab, dreary and depressing to go to the Keepmoat these days and the matches don't lift anybody off the floor. We have meekly surrendered points with toothless defeats against Burnley, Birmingham, Millwall and Derby in our last four home games.
We have not won at home since beating Barnsley on the 2nd of January and I can't see that changing any time soon. Pompey have scored some cracking goals in the last couple of weeks but I'll be surprised if they bring enough to make this a good game based off what I've seen.
Predict the outcome of the game.
I am struggling to see where the next point is going to come for us, if we finish on the 32 points we have now I won't be surprised at all.
To somehow prove how good he is Dean Saunders has kept dragging up the stat that Sean O'Driscoll won only 1 in 19 games before his dismissal and if he fails to mastermind a victory in this game he will have equalled that tally, and the performances don't seem to suggest that he can mastermind anything.
The players have given up in recent weeks, thrown in the towel and I think we all just want this season to end as soon as possible. Anything but a win relegates Portsmouth and even a win will probably see us relegated.
For the sake of solidarity in the face of falling into the abyss I'm going to go for a 2-2 draw that sees us both earn the big red "R" next to our name by 5pm on Saturday.
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