It has been a varied period at Fratton Park, with changes being made both on and off the field. Firstly, I should update you all with the departure of Guy Whittingham who, after a string of poor displays, was let go by the Portsmouth hierarchy. After days of speculations and rumours, Richie Barker, formerly of Crawley Town, was appointed manager, alongside Steve Coppell, now Director of Football at Fratton Park.
It’s been a strange turn of events, but one that myself and many other Pompey fans felt was necessary. With Barker installed at the helm of the good ship Pompey, it was time for change on the pitch, something Barker expressed openly after defeat on his debut Pompey game.
Many players haven’t performed in a Pompey shirt this season, most notably last year’s ‘Player of the Season’ Johnny Ertl, who was immediately dropped from the team after being included in the starting XI of Barker’s first game in charge. This prompted the re-introduction of Simon Ferry in the midfield, taking the captaincy from Ertl, leading to a notably improved display in Barkers’ second game as boss. It became evident in December that the former Crawley Town manager needed to bolster the squad, but the question of everyone’s lips was who, and why would they come to Pompey?
With most free transfers being made in the summer, Barker and Coppell had their work cut out when it came to adding bodies to the blues squad that currently consisted of underperformers and youngsters. Although Barker is all for blooding the youngsters, especially at this level, it is ultimately down to him who has been deemed worthy to pull on a Portsmouth shirt and play in front of 15,000+ fans on a Saturday afternoon.
In my opinion, the culmination of Barker and Coppell has been working superbly, considering Coppell is on no wage whatsoever. Coppell’s contacts in the game have been invaluable, having already signed former Reading left back Nicky Shorey to the Pompey squad, alongside his former Bristol City teammate, striker Ryan Taylor, who scored Pompey’s 78th minute equaliser against Mansfield on Saturday. Adding to the striker force at Pompey has been the long-awaited signing of Jake Jervis, who has been waiting for international clearance to re-join Pompey from his previous Turkish club.
Jervis, an ex-Pompey loanee during the Appleton era, has been linked with a move to Fratton Park since August, but the move fell through due to international clearance being rejected. His previous spell with Pompey was cut short, after parent club Birmingham City recalled him due to an injury crisis. That following season, he took the leap to Turkey, which unfortunately didn’t work out. Having being released in the summer, Jervis was destined for the South Coast, however the move had to wait until Friday, when international clearance was finally granted, with Jervis beginning his debut in the 1-1 draw with Mansfield Town.
Barker set out to improve all areas of the squad, most importantly the defence, who have conceded the most goals this season. Recent signings of Nicky Shorey and Danny Alfei have strengthened the defence, and offered more options for Barker to rotate the team when injuries and suspensions arise.
The signing of Wes Fogden from Bournemouth has also proven crucial. The former Havant & Waterlooville wide man was signed by Bournemouth in the summer of 2012, but hasn’t played a game all season. Thanks to the generosity of Eddie Howe, and the urge to play first team football from Fogden, he has been permitted to leave the Cherries and join Portsmouth on a free transfer, signing an 18-month deal.
Lastly, the strikers this season have put in very irregular performances, without having an out-and-out goal scorer, adding to the plight of the blues. Barker seems to have plugged this gap, with the signings of Taylor and Jervis, conveniently at the time David Connolly has returned to full fitness, setting up Taylor for his first Pompey goal at the weekend having come off the bench.
With the backroom staff and playing squad being altered, performances have been picking up, most notably the Boxing Day win against Dagenham & Redbridge, with out of favour Romain Padovani getting his first goal for Pompey, having not played since August under Whittingham. His goal and reintroduction to the first team has sparked Pompey’s revival, having collected a point at league leaders Oxford United, who obliterated Pompey 4-1 on the opening day of the season.
I said a few months ago that the Christmas period would be what decides Pompey’s season; and I wasn’t wrong. Having the introduction of Richie Barker and Steve Coppell has certainly improved the Pompey squad and in turn, improved results. Now we wait until the end of the transfer window to see what other coups can be made, and whether or not Pompey can push for mid-table security.
Onwards and upwards, in Pompey we Trust!
Written by Harry Davis, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth blogger
Harry tweets at @MrDavishPFC