Season Review 05/06: Part VI: December
By Jim Bonner
Updated Monday, 15th May 2006
Redknapp ReturnsDecember often proves to be a crucial time in the season for all clubs. For Pompey this would be the case in a month that presented fixtures on opposite ends of the spectrum; those that were almost impossible and those that were dubbed "must win". December would also see one of the most suprising and shocking returns in football history.
Before our next game more names were being thrown in the air for the vacant Pompey job as Neil Warnock decided to stay put at Sheffield United. Lawrie Sanchez and Brian Kerr were at the top of the list however the Redknapp rumours were becoming increasingly stronger, even more so when he quit Southampton on the day we were to play Manchester United.
03/12/05: Matchday #15: Manchester United 3 Pompey 0
The nightmare run continued as Joe Jordans' Portsmouth side went to Old Trafford sporting the new third kit. Predictably we were soundly beaten on a day that would be remembered for the memorial of the sad passing away of United legend and Pompey fan George Best. Paul Scholes predictably broke his goal drought against us as Rooney (again) and Ruud van Nistelrooy also scored to heap more misery on the Fratton Faithful.
A few days later "the return" would be confirmed. Harry Redknapp had returned to his "spiritual home" just days after leaving our friends down the road. This appointment sparked a mixed reaction from Pompey fans, some claiming he was welcome back to get us out of our current mess whilst others claimed he should never set foot in Fratton Park again after his ultimate betrayal almost a year to the day he joined Southampton. Either way, this was the way it was going to be for the rest of the season whether we liked it or not.
12/12/05: Matchday #16: Tottenham Hotspur 3 Pompey 1
Harry's first game back in charge came at White Hart Lane in a reverse of the opening day fixture. Harry would play some of his old favourites like Vincent Pericard and Linvoy Primus and things looked up as Lomana Lua Lua scored a goal out of nothing to put Pompey ahead going into the break. The lead was lost in the second half though as Ledley King equalised with a header from a set piece but Pompey kept fighting and looked like they were going to hold on for a precious point. That was until referee Uriah Rennie gave a very harsh handball decision to Spurs after a free kick had brushed the arm of Gary O'Neil. Mido converted the spot kick, heads dropped and Jermaine Defoe would once again wrap up a win for Tottenham leaving Pompey fans angry at what was, once again, more points dropped.
17/12/05: Matchday #17: Pompey 1 West Bromwich Albion 0
Harry's first game in charge would be one that had "must win" all over it as fellow strugglers West Brom visited Fratton Park for your typical bottom of the table clash. This game was as scrappy as it got with rarely any chances being created all game though with the "new manager effect" around Fratton Park there was a sense of inevitability that we would emerge victorious from this battle in a match dubbed as "Do or Die". Svetoslav Todorov scored his first Premiership goal for Portsmouth with a lob over the Baggies' 'keeper in the box in which wild celebrations followed not just for the gaol but for Toddy too who everyone was glad to see get on the scoresheet once again. Pompey managed to hold on to the lead to get a scrappy but vital first home win of the season as finally the Pompey fans left Fratton Park with a smile on their faces.
26/12/05: Matchday #18: Pompey 1 West Ham United 1
Three points on Boxing Day would have made a great late Christmas present against Harry's old club who had taken to Premiership very well sitting comfortably in the top half of the table. Pompey took a deserved lead when Gary O'Neil struck from inside the box and that lead was preserved at half time. Three points weren't to be however as James Collins equalised for West Ham in the second half after West Ham began to pile on the pressure. Any hopes of a home win were diminished when Laurent Robert got sent off late on and West Ham could have nicked it in the dying seconds when Dailly headed just wide from a corner. Disappointment but at least this team were showing a lot more character than when they played against Wigan. It's just a shame our next game was at Highbury.
28/12/05: Matchday #19: Arsenal 4 Pompey 0
The halfway point of the season provided us with our final trip to Highbury although many probably wished they hadn't bothered as Pompey were duly thrashed at the hands of Theirry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Jose Antonio Reyes and it could have easily been 7 or 8-0 by half time. To be fair though, Harry played a reserve side in a game he thought we were never going to win so he could evaluate the likes of Vukic, Priske, Cisse and Vignal as the main players were kept fresh for the game against Fulham on New Years Eve. Pompey didn't play too badly in the second half but Arsenals' class shone and on a freezing cold night this was a game better best forgotten.
31/12/05: Matchday #20: Pompey 1 Fulham 0
The year would end with a home clash against Fulham and once again the "must win" cliches were out in full force because Fulham were also down there with us. Pompey would deservedly win even if the goal had an element of handball to it as Gary O'Neil was shown to have used his arm to control the ball before firing home the winner. Fulham looked jaded and never looked like scoring as once again Pompey showed plenty of fight in them to prove that they were capable of staying in the Premiership as 2005 was seen off with a win.
It would be the end of a year that contained four managers, some terrible results, a thrashing of local rivals that eventually sent them down, Pompey cheering on the opposition, the end of the old Pompey team, the end of the newer Pompey team and whatsmore, there would be huge news on the horizon for Portsmouth Football Club.
Premiership Table After Matchday #20
15th: Fulham: 20pts
16th: Everton: 20pts
17th: West Brom: 19pts
18th: Portsmouth: 17pts
19th: Birmingham: 13pts
20th: Sunderland: 6pts