Portsmouth FC

Key player: Ronan Curtis

Ronan Curtis is one of League One’s brightest talents, and at just 24 has much more room for improvement. A mercurial winger with an eye for goal, Curtis’ tally of 11 goals and 5 assists from just 33 league appearances, demonstrates the Irishman’s ability to be a handful for any defence. Much of Portsmouth’s attacking success comes in wide areas with Curtis and fellow wide man Marcus Harness looking to isolate fullbacks in one on one situations and getting crosses into the box, particularly after quick combination play.

If Curtis can show consistency, stay fit this season and continue to create a rapport with the likes of Harness and Marquis in attacking areas, Pompey fans won’t need to worry about a shortage of goals.

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Manager: Kenny Jackett

Kenny Jackett is a ‘been there and done it’ type manager, with two previous promotions at League One with Millwall and Wolverhampton Wanderers, so it was no surprise that Portsmouth were the ones to come calling after Paul Cook left for Wigan following promotion to League One at the start of the 2017/18 season. It seemed like the perfect fit: a manager with a proven track record of success at this level, and a club that has a burning desire to reach the 2nd tier and get back to a level that is somewhat representative of a club of their size.

Truth is, as often happens with so called ‘perfect fits’, it hasn’t quite worked out for Jackett and Pompey. The first season was a decent start to life on a return to League One, with an 8th place finish and five points off the playoffs. Yet, the last two have been disappointments, both because the side missed out on automatic promotion when it was within their grasp, but also because of the meek play-off semi-final defeats that occurred in both. Add to that the fact that fans’ patience is wearing due to the style of play, which is often designed to be results based rather than built for entertainment, despite having the personnel to play that way. 

Calls for Jackett to leave have amplified already after a disastrous defensive showing against Stevenage (seriously, go watch the highlights), who should have been relegated last season on form alone, and it remains to be seen how long Jackett will last in the hot-seat as more disgruntled fans continue to voice their opinions.

Danger man: John Marquis

A marquee signing for Portsmouth at the start of 2019/20, Marquis joined Pompey after a stunning 21 goal season with Doncaster Rovers, which saw them reach the playoffs. The tally was his highest at League One level, after 14 the season before and a career best 25 goals as in League Two as Rovers were promoted in 16/17.

An instinctive striker with a strong all round game, Marquis still scored a not terrible 8 goals and 4 assists last season but was also quite wasteful when the opportunity rose in front of goal. Portsmouth paid the money for a player who was going to finish those, and had he put a few more away they’d be celebrating promotion given how tight the end of League One was. 

Whilst, last season’s numbers are likely to have disappointed Pompey fans and Marquis himself, there is no denying that he is able to recapture his form from his three seasons at Doncaster, Pompey have one of the divisions most lethal marksman on their hands. 

Last season: 5th in League One

Portsmouth’s 2019/20 season has a slight correlation to that of Argyle in their 2017/18 League One season. After just three wins in 11 league games, Portsmouth fell to as low as 19th in the table, only for a run of just four losses in 19 games which saw them propel themselves into the play offs where they lost in the semi-final over two legs to Oxford United. Their second-leg draw was all the more difficult to take because of the nature of the goal conceded that took the tie to penalties. 

Key departure: Christian Burgess

The departure of Christian Burgess at the end of last season might have gone under the noses of some fans but nonetheless, Burgess was a very good defender for Portsmouth. At his best he was considered one of the league’s best defenders and led the defence through some tough moments. Whilst his departure might not have initially been considered a serious one for Portsmouth, their recent EFL cup win against Stevenage in which they conceded three goals highlighted Burgess’s importance to the Pompey back line. 

For each of the goals conceded, the defence was crying out for a commanding voice to take control of the group of individuals who were running around like headless-chickens. If Portsmouth are unable to find a presence in defence before the transfer window shuts they might come to rue the loss of Burgess.

Target: Play-offs

Although Portsmouth have the personnel in their squad to achieve a play-off finish, the culmination of both the struggle to bring in fresh faces so far this summer and pressure from the fans on manager Kenny Jacket means that I feel it will be an underwhelming season for the Blues who continue to be desperate for success at this level. Target play-offs; reality: probably mid-table.

Opposition view

(provided by Jake Smith, host of The Football Hour on ExpressFM)

It’s difficult to predict how Portsmouth’s season is going to pan out. Kenny Jackett has a lot of work to do if he wants to win over the club’s supporters, the way to do that starts with a strong opening month in League One.

We begin our campaign with six matches we are expected to avoid defeat in, so on paper, a decent points return is on the cards. If Kenny can continue to make the most out of new full-backs Callum Johnson and Cameron Pring, who looked promising against Colchester in the EFL Trophy opener, we could be in for a good month.

One or two new signings are needed to complete the squad, which still resembles on the most part last season’s – an exciting number 10 and a centre-back would be ideal. I am, at this moment, predicting a 7th place finish, though I think we need to capitalise on the negative situations surrounding some of the other big clubs in the division


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League One Season Preview 2020/21