New Gent Or Old Head - They Both Brought More Than Mr. Mediocrity

Last updated : 11 May 2011 By Jim Bonner

Neville Dalton is a journalist and a Portsmouth fan of more than 40 years.

And Pompey's player of the year is...

Depending on which supporters' club branch you give most credence to - or whether you rely on the traditional competition organised by The News, it will have been Jamie Ashdown, Joel Ward, Ricardo Rocha or Hayden Mullins.

They each picked up at least one of the awards given out before Pompey's final home game of the season against Norwich City (not that you would have known if you rely on the North Stand tannoy).

It was one of the more open player-of-the-year awards, not, unfortunately, because of the quality of candidate, but because of the dearth of them.

Sure, one had to be chosen, to be recognised for his efforts in a season of occasional highs and numerous lows.

But I'll tell you now - and I know there will be plenty queuing to shoot me down - if mediocre Mullins is your player of the season, it's not been a very good season.

Don't get me wrong: like many of Pompey's playing contingent, he plays wholeheartedly and appears to offer maximum effort every game.

He did last year, too, in the Premier League, where he was largely out of his depth.

Mullins has not been Pompey's worst performer this time round by any means, and he has shown a degree of consistency.

But that level of consistency is far from one that should be earning him such exalted honours.

Likewise, Ashdown has rightly been recognised for some vital saves and decent goalkeeping performances this season.

He's also been responsible - directly or otherwise - for the sort of comedic goals that professional football teams should not be conceding.

The Fratton opening-game mix-up with Sonko - a communication error repeated several times in the first half of the season - and the howler at Loftus Road spring to mind.

But there were plenty in-between. And more to the point, apart from one period during Pompey's six-game clean-sheet run, there were few reassuring signs of confidence between 'keeper and back four.

Star performer

That was certainly not wholly down to Ashdown, who has had to play behind a succession of inadequate defenders for much of the season.

And he certainly saved the club precious points before and after the defence finally did get its act together.

But player of the year? Sixty-plus league goals conceded? Wasn't a very good season, was it?

So who would I have chosen as Pompey's star performer?

My selections are as capable of being shot down as any of the above. It really wasn't the sort of stable year for stars to shine at Fratton Park.

Trusting my memory alone (and best part of 30 games watched), I gave the award to David Nugent.

He's had a disappointing finish to the campaign, and also put in one of the worst shifts I have seen at the Park - against Cardiff City, way back in August.

And he certainly divides Pompey supporters.

But as well as chipping in with a few goals, he provided inspiration and the get-out-of-jail cards for so many of his Pompey colleagues.

He never stopped running; he harried goalkeepers and defenders into rushed clearances and poor distribution, and his movement on and off the ball was at a different level from anything we'd seen from him previously.

Of course, he was playing against largely lesser players than in his previous seasons at Fratton (as were the rest of the team).

And maybe he is at his right level.

But that level is pretty decent. I imagine he is the Pompey player that opponents most feared encountering this season.

Close behind would undoubtedly be Ritchie De Laet, who I think has been a revelation, and the assured, accomplished Ricardo Rocha, whose value to the side was seen both during his inexplicable absence and then at the heart of the defence that broke the club's post-war record for minutes without conceding a goal.

It is clear what the Portuguese brings to the team - not only strong tackling, generally excellent timing and intelligent reading of the game, but also a calm organisation to a headless-chicken of a defence.

Unfortunately, he also brings a rash of red cards. And that's something that such a small squad can ill afford.

Like I said, not a vintage season, but as I made clear in my previous article, we fans could expect no more, given the plight that we continue to suffer.