The Winning Hand – Joe’s Blog

Published: 08/04/2024
By Joe Wood 

Just over a year ago, Pompey were languishing in mid table obscurity, again, for the 6th season, with absolutely no end in sight.

The players had stagnated, the atmosphere had turned and everyone had, to be quite frank, had a tit-full of League 1. The football was largely uninspiring from both Pompey and their weekly opposition, the away days are to such footballing luminaries as Forest Green Rovers and Gillingham, and for some bizarre reason it seems like most of the opponents are north of the Watford gap.

The decorators/pizza/tradies/car sales cup that plagued midweeks and punctuated many of our appearances on Express FM’s Football Hour, have grown incredibly taxing, as you try desperately to find a modicum of excitement for Fulham U21’s on a historically cold November evening.

Then came the announcement, Portsmouth FC have appointed current Oxford United centre back, John Mousinho, as their new manager. 

Sorry, what? Who? Are you having a laugh? He’s still a player?

Many of these things were said, and a great deal more, that were a great deal less publishable to boot.

At the time, I wrote an article that likened the appointment of Mousinho by the Eisner’s, to the decision of a gambler going all in at the poker table on a pair of twos, and for what it’s worth, I still don’t think I was far off the mark with that assertion. It was a huge risk.

They’ve been on the end of some really quite acerbic criticism, some of it justified, plenty of it not so. There have been vocal minorities, vocal majorities, and planes with banners in between. However, they stuck the course and believed in their man, backed him, and he’s repaying them handsomely.

7 years in League 1 is, barring a slide of catastrophic proportions, about to come to a very satisfying close. One that, if you’d have conducted a poll at the beginning of the season, most fans would have been happy with if we would have made the playoffs.

It cannot be overstated how good of a job Mousinho has done this season. From the unfathomable length of the injury list, to the regularly atrocious refereeing at this level, Pompey are sitting on the cusp of not just promotion, but winning the whole thing!

The question marks around Mousinhos appointment were banished months ago, and the questions now aren’t “is he good enough?”, but “is he too good? Can we keep him?”. The job he’s done with Portsmouth is monumental, and the footballing landscape will have taken note, with Pompey in the Championship and if we get a fast start before Christmas that sees us in a playoff spot, don’t be surprised that when the first Premier League sacking comes around that we don’t start hearing his name mentioned in conversations.

He’s the real deal. His mid match tactical switches, as slight as they have been, have been crucial in this winning team and it feels like we’re looking at someone who’s possibly got the ability, and age profile to go all the way to the top table.

Of course it’s not just Mous that has got Pompey to this point, credit must also go to the players and their mentality, Rich Hughes and his team for superb talent indentification and acquisition.

Bolton and Derby have both had lengthy injury lists, whilst Bolton’s manager has done nothing but moan about it and inject negativity into his squad, describing one of his players as a “Water pistol”, Derby and specifically Paul Warne, have done no such thing, and have just got on with it.

Pompey, though, had an injury list that would probably achieve promotion if it were a League 1 side on its own. Yet, throughout it all, like Warne, Mous has been positive and confident. Probably because this squad is incredibly deep, and the guy assembling it, seems to be bloody good at what he does.

Just remember, Regan Poole got injured, and so Hughes went and got McIntyre. He got injured, yet we still had Sean Raggett, who has been a colossus for us since the Poole and McItyre injuries. Alex Robertson got injured, and we went and got Myles Peart-Harris, who whilst not making the same impact, has still been a handy player. Joe Morrell goes down, no problems, I’ll go and get you a slightly used Owen Moxon.

The ability of Pompey to continue performing to the high level set during the beginning of the season has been nothing short of outstanding.

We raged at the length of time it took to find a Director of Football, we grew incredibly frustrated with the slow nature that our January 2023 search for a manger progressed. The money spent in the January window this season wasn’t huge. Yet in all these instances, the Eisner’s proved that they were right and we were wrong.

Football is a results based business, and the results that they’ve got with their recent decisions have been excellent.

So it looks like, they weren’t sat at the table with a pair of two’s after all, they were on a royal flush and we just didn’t believe them.