Ah, to be a supporter of an EFL club. A life of ups, downs and every possible emotion in between.
Portsmouth’s story since their relegation from the Premier League 11 years ago has been exactly that. From the brink of heartbreak and non-existence to the moving community-based revival of the club, Pompey are firmly back in the game and looking to progress from the oh so charming doldrums of the Football League.
Portsmouth Thrash Sunderland Offering a Sign of Hope for Danny Cowley’s Long-Term Vision
The Need for a New Identity
That progress had looked to be in full motion just four years ago when Paul Cook earned promotion to the third tier in 2017. However, leaving the club for a new chapter at Wigan, the now-Ipswich manager was replaced by the more pragmatic-minded Kenny Jackett.
A side that had based their success on fast-moving, attacking football would go on to play a more defensive and rigid style. The subsequent few years did not inspire the Fratton faithful. The need for a new identity following four years of seeming stagnancy was apparent last campaign, resulting in the introduction of Danny Cowley at the helm.
Since taking over at Fratton Park, the current Pompey boss has had a busy summer in which he has been backed by his superiors at the club. A squad overhaul to suit his vision and style has risen the odd eyebrow, but also caused much excitement and anticipation among Portsmouth supporters.
It’s been a tough start to the campaign, however. After three wins to kick things off, the Blues had gone on a run of seven fixtures without victory. That was until Saturday afternoon when Pompey blitzed League One-toppers Sunderland 4-0 at Fratton Park.
It was a performance that took the very best elements of Portsmouth’s recently encouraging outings, moulded them all together and deployed them in a collectively stunning way.
Signs of Hope under Danny Cowley
In the couple of weeks leading up to Saturday’s much-needed result, Pompey fans had seen their side pick up consecutive 2-2 draws against Plymouth and Charlton, before severely disappointing in a 2-1 loss at Burton.
An increase in intensity, thrust and attacking fluidity in the draws was noticeable. A change of system to a three at the back was the catalyst for a seemingly reinvigorated Pompey, and it would appear to have carried on.
With the visit of Sunderland came the toughest test Cowley could face, particularly while aiming to bounce back from a despondent showing in midweek. However, the Blues proved unplayable on the day.
The Black Cats were outfought and outplayed in a first-half mauling that saw the hosts go into the interval 3-0 up. Two beautifully worked goals from Marcus Harness and Lee Brown respectively epitomised the change in attacking impetus with Cowley’s shift in shape. An added confidence, inventiveness and imagination in the final third has proved prolific in recent weeks and proved unplayable for a shellshocked Sunderland.
A subsequent brace from John Marquis sealed the game around the hour mark, earning Portsmouth a momentous 4-0 win over a bitter rival over recent seasons.
As well as providing the home fans with bragging rights and a spectacular day out in horrendously heavy rain, Saturday’s performance will have instilled the Fratton faithful with hope, belief and the willingness to be patient with the current process.
His project may be a work in progress, but Cowley is visibly knitting together an unfamiliar squad and creating a collectively dynamic, powerful and fluid machine in the process. It’s a first win in eight for the Blues but, should these encouraging performances now go on to gather more glorious victories and momentum, Cowley will have the fans well on side.