The Monday Column

Last updated : 26 September 2005 By Keith Allman

1. Weekly Rant
This might seem to be quite a random place to start this week's column, but I didn't do very well on Challenge Lawro this week. I suppose the fact that I didn't do very well answers the critics who are saying that the Premiership is becoming predictable and boring. I'm not going to address the boring accusation today, because I can't be bothered and I don't think the Premiership IS boring anyway, but the Premiership being predictable? Nope! I don't think it is.

For those of you that don't know, Challenge Lawro is a website game where you, well, challenge Lawro. Mark Lawrenson that is. The man with the camp gait and dodgy moustache (currently shaved).

I hope the site-editor doesn't decide to get me to rewrite this for fear of promoting another website. If he doesn't, check it out. It's actually a lot of fun and fully tests your knowledge of football and your predictive powers.

Let's have a look at some of the results I got right. Well, I got one right. Yep, I predicted Pompey would lose 1-0 to Bolton. As long as we were playing 4-5-1 there was only ever going to be one goal in it, wasn't there? One goal for them, that is. We might have scraped a 0-0 given a linesman with an understanding of the offside rule. We might even have got a 1-1 had Perrin given Todorov more than a paltry seven minutes to get on the scoresheet.

Oh, I also predicted a home win for Chelsea, but I never assumed Aston Villa would score. I don't think anyone did.

The rest of the results I got way wrong. Way, way, way wrong! For instance, who would have predicted Blackburn's triumph at Old Trafford? I had that as a banker 3-0 home win! Or Sunderland's victory at neighbours Middlesbrough? The Yak could have done us a favour there, couldn't he… and I was fully expecting him to, putting that one down for a 2-0 home win. Birmingham's draw with Liverpool, given the Brummies' shocking home record this season, was also unexpected.

My other predictions included a first home win of the season for Everton (they lost 1-0 to Wigan), a draw at St James Park between the Toon Army and Man City (the Geordies won 1-0), a draw between West Brom and Charlton (can anything stop Charlton?) and a win for Aresnal (the Hammers held them to a draw).

So you would be right to assume that I am not winning any prizes at the moment on the Challenge Lawro game. What was that I said about it being a good, fun game? I've changed my mind. It's actually a load of bollocks.

I do wish, though, that I had put some money on Pompey at the bookies recently - on the correct score of games. That's three games in recent matches where I have correctly predicted the exact score for us. I got the 1-1 draws with Villa and Brum right, and the 1-0 defeat at the weekend spot-on, too. I even fancied a 1-0 win for us at Everton but didn't have the courage to see my prediction through on Challenge Lawro.

I hope I'm wrong this weekend, but I do think that we're going to struggle against a rejuvenated Newcastle. I just don't see us ever scoring more than one goal a match at the moment. The cutting, physical edge supplied in the last two seasons by Yakubu just seems to have gone.

Silva played a valiant game up front by himself against Bolton, never giving up, but what chance does a 5ft 8in forward have by himself against Ben Haim and the enormous Bruno N'Gotty? Especially given the lack of service he had. The poor bloke was onto a loser from the start.

You only need to look at the goal scored by Luke Moore for Villa against Chelsea to see the type of play we're missing out on up front with the lack of any decent replacement for the Yak. The way Moore muscled his way between two defenders to beat Petr Cech from a tight angle was just the sort of muscular approach defenders hate - and the sort of approach the Yak, when he was up for it, was so good at.

Remember Yak's goal against Man Utd at Fratton a year ago? Can you see any of our current forward line muscling between Silvestre and Ferdinand to get a goal like that this season? Thought not. People might have been quick to get on the Yak's back when he wasn't trying hard - I admit I was one of them - but Pompey without him are a team with no cutting edge and no physical presence up front. A shark with no teeth. Sandpaper with no sand. And so on.

The strange thing as I see it is that Perrin keeps persisting with players up front that just don't seem to be good enough. And the one forward we have who CAN be good enough, Lualua, has possibly fallen out with the boss. His lack of any sort of appearance at Bolton was probably due to injury or illness… Probably.

Which brings me nicely onto my favourite player in terms of this column, Mbesuma. The Zambian legend! I can't believe he STILL isn't match fit. His lack of even an appearance on the subs' bench since the Spurs game leads me to believe that Perrin just doesn't rate him.

Even if this is the case. SURELY he's GOT to be worth a go in place of Karadas (no, I am not tempted to cash in on the obvious amalgamation of the words 'crap' and 'Karadas'. That would be nasty).

Instead, the 'Mbesuma Watch' I started last week (see below) carries on aimlessly. From what I have seen of him, he is a big lad with a low centre of gravity that would add precisely the physical presence we are lacking.

Silva and Lualua are two very similar types of striker. Combine them with someone more muscular, a target man if you will, and maybe you'll be onto something. Or maybe you won't. With my track record at Challenge Lawro, what the f*** do I know about football anyway?

2. Let's All Clap Sarcastically
If someone told me a couple of weeks back that it was possible to clap 'sarcastically' I wouldn't have believed them. But it's true! And our boss has taken the art one step beyond Wayne Rooney, to new levels!

I must admit to being in hysterics when I saw Monsieur Perrin sarcastically clapping the fourth official after our throw-in was somewhat mystifyingly deemed foul and awarded to Bolton. It was pure genius! And it wasn't once, not twice, but three times he did it! At last we have on our staff someone who's better than Wayne Rooney at something. Shame it's not scoring goals.

On a serious nature, I think you can read a number of things into Perrin's actions.

Firstly, the guy is obviously under a lot of stress at the moment. Pompey are playing some reasonable stuff up to the opposition penalty area, but after that it's all going wrong. No matter what he says, I think Perrin looks like a man who is worried for his future in the game. A few more results like this and I can see Milan getting rid of him. As much as we'd love to give him the time to work everything out, if a new manager is going to come in this season, it will have to be before the January transfer window.

The bookies reckon that Perrin is odds-on to be the first Premier League manager to get the bullet. The bookies are rarely wrong. We need to get some results in October - November brings a nasty run of fixtures at a time of year traditionally when we get nothing. I think Alain is on borrowed time, and unless we pick up maximums from our home games against a rejuvenated Newcastle and a rampant Charlton, I think we're in trouble.

3. Luck
We have had some bad luck this season, though, haven't we? I'm not talking about decisions that have gone against us, more about the timing of playing teams when we've played them (or will play them).

Firstly, Spurs. What a great start to the season they had. And when did we have to play them?

Secondly, Bolton. Why couldn't we play them after a UEFA tie? And why couldn't we play them in the middle of a slump, like we did last year?

Thirdly, Newcastle. Yes, they've suddenly found form and have won two in a row. My mate Big Tim who sits next to me is delighted he'll get to see Owen at Fratton Park. Me? I just wish we'd played them a month ago when they were crapper than us. Maybe we would have won. On Saturday, I think we'll get beat 2-1. Sorry for being a pessimist but I can't help it at the moment.

And Charlton. Last season was great. At home we played them in the middle of their worst slump for a long time and we won 4-2. This year we're playing them in the middle of their best-ever start to a Premiership season.

Even Birmingham. We played them on the back of their great start to the season away from St Andrew's. Perhaps we should be grateful they had a man sent off and got a draw.

4. Mbesuma Watch
It's now M-minus 16 days since he was supposed to make his full bow for us against Everton. September 10th was the date he was supposed to start taking the Premiership by storm. Now he doesn't even make the bench alongside Karadas (note again that I failed to be tempted to combine the words 'crap' and Karadas).

The longer this goes on, the longer I will assume we have wasted £750,000 on a dud signing. But it would be nice to see the pie-eating, beer-swilling Zambian given a run in the side. We can't do much worse, can we?

5. Keith Allman
How's this for bizarre? I was round at my mum and dad's for Sunday dinner this weekend and we were discussing Pompey. We are all season ticket holders and mum knows Dejan quite well, as she teaches his children. So imagine my surprise when she blurted out that she also taught a certain Mr Keith Allman when he was in short trousers! Yes, the very same Keith that is editor of this esteemed site!

She said he was a very naughty boy and was constantly getting into mischief. So, in an attempt to give Keith some credit, I said his writing was very good (which it is) and that he was doing well for himself. "Well of course he's doing well for himself," said mum. "He's still at school!"

Images of a 12-year-old editor went through my mind before my mum explained herself. Apparently Keith is way past school leaving age but is doing a bit of work at the school where he was educated and where mum works now. The same place where I went to school. It's a small world, isn't it? (Editor's note - bizarrely, I had no idea about these strange inter-family links until speaking with Jim after he started his column. It gets even odder that I also used to work with his cousin as well but, again, had no idea they were related although I suppose the same surname should've given it away - and who says Portsmouth is inbred)

6. The Weekly Interview
We don't have any Bolton fans in the office. But we do have a mad-keen Geordie here, so I have started the first of a two-part interview with him which we shall continue next week, after the game.

His name is Derek Mooney and he's our reproductions manager. He's a big lad, bigger than Collins Mbe-sumo, and he likes his pies. But he's also a diamond geezer and knows a bit about the Toon…

Jim Foster (JF): Derek, how did you get into being a Newcastle supporter?

Derek Mooney (DM): Born and bred Geordie, man. Me dad first took me doon St James' when I were four years old. I'm nah glory hunter, me! I've suffered a lot.

JF: What do you mean, suffered?

DM: We haven't won anything man. Not since 1969.

JF: Diddums. We haven't won anything significant since 1950 when we last won the old Division One title. The 50s equivalent of the Premiership. When was the last time you visited St James' Park?

DM: When we drew 1-1 with Fulham, for Michael Owen's debut.

JF: Yes, you've suffered terribly being a fan of a team that can spend £16million on a striker! You didn't play well that day did you?

DM: No. Fulham passed us off the park, man.

JF: That won't happen this Saturday.

DM: Aye! I've got it down for a 2-0 win to us. At least Robert isn't playing. We learned our lesson a couple of seasons ago when Lualua scored against the team that was paying his wages, man.

JF: What do you think of Amdy Faye?

DM: Crap. Voted the worst signing ever in one poll, man.

JF: You reckon you'll win 2-0 this weekend. Ummm. I think you could be right, but I'll offer you a £5 bet that says we'll win! I'm an optimist you know!

DM: No man. I never bet on my own team. Besides you never know what could happen at Fratton Park as your fans are among the most vocal and loyal in the country.

JF: Aw, thanks! You'll not get a pay rise giving me compliments, though it will help.

DM: It's true. I once went to see Pompey when they played Bradford at Valley Parade, when I used to live in Bradford, man. Your fans took up a whole end. You got stuffed but they never stopped singing. Awesome support.

JF: Which chairman would you rather have? Manderic or Shephard?

DM: Are you serious? Why has your chairman got rid of one of the best managers in the country, who was well liked and respected, to replace him with Zajec and then Perrin? It's a mystery to other fans. And why have you sold all your best players?

JF: You said Faye was crap!

DM: Ummmm…

JF: Prediction for this weekend prior to our chat this time next week?

DM: 2-0 to the lads! A'way the lads!

JF: Be off with you. Play up Pompey!