James Richardson, 20, Sports Journalism Student and Life-long Pompey fan previews the Good Friday trip to Carlisle.
The longest trip for south coast-dwelling Pompey fans, Carlisle away, has fallen this year on Good Friday bank holiday. But will it be a good Friday for us Pompey fans?
During Uni term-time I live in Preston, only 57 miles from Brunton Park. Despite this fact, I have never actually been to Carlisle. So, naturally, I jumped at the chance to add another ground to the 55/92 I have already been to. So I will be whizzing up to Cumbria, with my Dad as my chauffeur (and Rob Morris, as Co-Passenger) on Friday.
However, at this stage of the season, we seem to have the task of ‘just finishing off the fixture-list’ rather than the final push we usually need around April.
Last season, with only 7 games to go, we were staring relegation in the face, ‘He-who-must not-be-named’ had just been sacked, and Awfs was taking over as caretaker-boss. Then we went on an incredible 7 game unbeaten-streak (win 5 wins) to finish the season in a strong mid-table position.
This year, with 11 points needed in either direction, relegation seems very unlikely and play-off places are just out of reach. So mid-table mediocrity is what we have to settle on once again. Pompey’s season is pretty much over.
On the pitch, players are now playing for contracts and transfers, instead of points. Awfs is looking at who he thinks is ‘dead-wood’ and who he needs to keep for next year, and the board are adding up the figures, dates and events for next season. Heads have clearly turned to the 2015-16 season.
Because we don’t necessarily need results, we can afford to play around with the team a little. If I was Awford, I would be selecting players who perhaps haven’t had a chance in the first team much this season. Get Johnny Ertl some game-time and start Foggy too.
I would also be trialling some of the youngsters in the squad. For me, first-team experience is what makes a player, so getting it early and regular is so important. I would certainly be starting Connor Chaplin, who is tearing up our reserve games at the moment. I would also name a number of youngsters on the bench. Tarbuck, Close, Rwakarambwe and May, should definitely be in the 18, perhaps one or two in the starting XI. Young keeper, Alex Bass, is another who I would be getting near the first team. He has just turned 17 and would be a hell of a Birthday present.
Carlisle, on the other hand, still need wins to stay in the division, only 3 points clear of the Football League’s trap door. That means that they will probably attack Pompey, and try and get the win, leaving them open at the back. I actually think, without fielding a decent team, we can still get a draw or better because of this desperation from Carlisle. I’m going for a 3-1 win, but it doesn’t really matter.
The lack of importance to this fixture also gives us fans a rare opportunity, we can go and watch Pompey without caring too much what the scoreline is. We don’t need to criticise, we don’t need to moan and we don’t need to worry. This means that we can concentrate on what we do best as Pompey fans – Cheering our team, and having a great time doing it.
We can go up to the dreaded North of England with some mates, have a few pints of ale, have a laugh, watch some football, have some more drink and go home happy, regardless of the scoreline.
After all, that is what football is really about. Following your club through thick and thin, with a good bunch of friends, having a good time!
Play Up Pompey!
You can follow James on Twitter @JamesMRich10 and look out for his post-match blog.