FA Cup 3rd Round time then. Jon Punt spoke to Pompey Newsnow’s Hugh Bunce to get the lowdown on the League One runaway leaders, the ‘magic’ of the cup and how they’re turning things around under Kenny Jackett.
Jon: Clearly your recent success in the competition (and Premier League to an extent) came at a high price. For a few years your club was in ruin. Was it all worth it?
Hugh: That is a very difficult question, which I have mixed feelings about. While watching us lift the FA Cup is my greatest Pompey memory, it is not worth risking the future of the club for. Hypothetically, with a time machine I would go back and do it differently. We are now building the club in a sustainable way with zero debt, fantastic facilities and developing a successful youth academy. I trust the process the club is going through and we can hopefully get some success in the long term, this time the right way.
Forgive me, as I haven't really been paying close attention to League One since we were there in 2009-10. However, a cursory glance leads us to the conclusion that you're absolutely flying.
So what's been the secret to your success this term, and should you be promoted, is this squad ready for the rigours of the Championship?
Very smart recruitment. Kenny Jackett has had his first full summer of recruitment and it has paid off. The team has been built with one decent player to cover each position. Bringing in Ronan Curtis from Derry in Ireland has been a revelation. It has been reported Curtis cost just £100,000 and already has 9 goals and 8 assists. That is just one example of a fantastic summer for the Pompey scouting staff.
If we are promoted, we will need to have another inspired summer of recruitment. While the backbone of the team is ready for the Championship, Pompey will need to add to this to have the depth needed for a very competitive season.
Pompey have 7-8 players who are ready to play in the Championship and a few more that have the potential to develop into good Championship players.
So recruitment aside, what's been the secret of Pompey's success this season? What is Jackett's preferred playing style? During his stints at other sides it's been pretty variable, and not exactly easy on the eye at times.
Kenny has implemented a defence first system and all the players in the squad know what he expects them to do. The centre-back partnership of Matt Clarke and Jack Whatmough is as good as most Championship sides. However, that does not mean we are not dangerous going forward. Tom Naylor and Ben Thompson in holding midfield both have Championship experience and protect the back-line while getting the ball forward quickly.
Pompey play a 4-2-3-1 formation and the attacking trio of Curtis, Evans and Lowe are all very dangerous with the ball. Norwich will need to close these three down quickly as if given time and space they have the potential to punish you. So far the trio have 28-goals in all competitions. If Oliver Hawkins starts up front he is a threat in the air from crosses and a handful to mark. His primary role is to create space for Lowe, Evans and Curtis.
I expect Pompey to try and hit Norwich on the counter-attack.
Are there any indications how seriously Jackett will be taking the tie? City have been ravaged with injuries of late, as such it's likely we'll try and rest key personnel and give some of the players on the fringes a chance to impress and get somewhere near fully match sharp. How about you guys?
Pompey fans hoping to get a win will be pinning their hopes on Norwich playing a severely depleted side. I would be surprised if Kenny Jackett rests any key players for this game, barring injury. He clearly highly values the competition, demonstrated by playing the best possible team against Maidenhead and Rochdale in the previous rounds.
However, Pompey does have some selection issues of their own. Influential right-back Lee Brown is injured as well as battling right-back Nathan Thompson. Both have adequate cover but will be missed, especially defensively. Ben Thompson is being recalled by Millwall after an outstanding first half to the season. Losing him will be a massive blow in the heart of the team. It is currently unknown if he will start. Thompson's natural replacement Ben Close is also injured so it will be interesting to see who plays with Tom Naylor in the midfield if Ben Thompson does not play.
Interesting, I think you'll have a very good chance, our eleven is highly unlikely to have played together previously.
Pompey took their full allocation and we're presuming they'll come to make plenty of noise (as usual). I'll avoid mentioning the bell for fear of an argument though.
Strangely enough, Pompey fans seemed to take quite a bit of delight in mocking the Norwich singing section which has been organised for the game. While there's a myriad of reasons behind it, what's your take on it?
John Westwood with the bell can be a divisive topic, even with Pompey fans. Probably a good idea to give that topic a miss.
The idea of a singing section for Pompey fans is a bit alien. We have the Fratton End, which typically leads the singing in the ground and other stands that join in from there. I would not want a singing section at Fratton Park, as I would think it could encourage the other sections of the stadium to not join in. However, every club is different and if it works for you then it can only be a positive thing.
That’s a very diplomatic answer – thanks for being nice. It's a strange one. We shouldn't need a singing section - the Barclay End at Norwich was always that place. But as fans have become older, or perhaps mellowed, they haven't gravitated to other parts of the ground so others can take their place. It's a challenge, but cup games are always a nice chance to break the mould.
Specific prediction time for the match then.... I'm going for a 2-1 victory for your lot, which will come courtesy of a last minute free kick winner. We won't be too unhappy though, we have a league to concentrate on. You?
I think it will be a very tough game. However, with Norwich resting so many players for the game I fancy our chances.
I am going for a 2-1 Pompey win. Matt Clarke with a header from a corner and Jamal Lowe to get the winner late.
Wow, we agree, that’s never happened in one of these before. Best of luck for the rest of the season (after Saturday, obvs)