Remember the heady days of February 2010? The Tories were yet to plunge us into austerity/drag us out of Europe, people were still using iPods and Sunderland & Portsmouth were plying their trade in the Premier League.
Yes, 9th February 2010 was the last time we travelled to Fratton Park. We had players like Darren Bent, Steed Malbranque and Bolo Zenden, while Pompey had Kanu, David James and erm, Marc Wilson(?!) in their ranks. Oh, how so much has changed.
If you think our last few years have been rocky, spare a thought for the lads and lasses down at Portsmouth. We may have had an absentee owner but at least we were never suffering administration and points deductions. Such turbulence eventually prompted the Pompey faithful to mobilise though and in 2012, the Portsmouth Supporters Trust took ownership of the club.
Amazingly, in 2014 they were able to declare themselves debt free and in 2017 Portsmouth finally managed to climb out of League Two. Now they’re challenging for promotion back to the Championship under Kenny Jackett, so it’s fair to assume the supporters must be feeling optimistic and hopeful once again.
To find out just what the mood is like down at Fratton Park and what the fans are thinking ahead of our table topping clash, we caught up with Hugh Bunce of PompeyNewsNow.
RR: Like Sunderland, Portsmouth are enjoying a very strong start to the season. Given the size of the club and having a manager with a good record at this level, is this what you expected going into the campaign?
HB: Kenny Jackett did a great job in Portsmouth’s first season in League One, finishing just short of the play-offs. The fans expected progression this season, aided by a full summer of recruitment for Jackett.
Play-offs were an absolute minimum, with challenging for automatic promotion the aim.
I predicted a third-place finish this season and clearly being top of the league has exceeded expectations.
RR: The last time both sides met was in the Premier League, of course, and it’s been a tumultuous time for both clubs since then. Is there a feeling that things are beginning to turn around at Pompey now though? From the outside looking in, it seems as if the fans have fallen back in love with the club over the more recent seasons.
HB: We completely turned things around and that started with the foundations of the club. The fans played a pivotal part in this buying the club and crowdfunding our new academy training ground.
Now we’re clear of debt, have a great manager, new stable ownership and great squad depth - the only way is up.
I would not say the fans fell out of love with Pompey. However, this season they have faith in the direction the club is heading, both on and off the pitch.
RR: Given that we’re both going to be gunning for promotion this season, I’m looking for any potential weaknesses that may give us the upper hand on Portsmouth over the course of the season. If you had to pick one thing that might hinder you over the next few months, what would it be?
HB: Being clinical and finishing off teams when ahead is the main weakness in the team right now. In some games, such as Accrington away, we dominated the start of the game and failed to make this most of a host of opportunities.
Pompey ended up drawing the game, which was two-points lost.
Brett Pitman has not looked the same player this season and Oliver Hawkins is a fantastic target man, but Pompey could do with a quick natural goalscorer to finish teams off.
RR: Gareth Evans and Jamal Lowe have decent goalscoring records though! Would you say they are the main danger men for Sunderland fans to keep an eye on? Anyone else you would single out?
HB: Ronan Curtis has been a revelation this season on the left of the attacking midfield.
His performances at Portsmouth earned him a call-up to the Ireland squad, making his debut against Denmark in November.
Pompey play a 4-2-3-1 formation and the attacking trio of Curtis, Evans and Lowe are all very dangerous with the ball. Sunderland will need to close these three down quickly as if given time and space they will score.
Oliver Hawkins is a threat in the air from crosses and is a handful to mark.
RR: How about the Sunderland squad - are there any of our lads who you think could make it a difficult afternoon for you?
HB: I am a big fan of Lynden Gooch who can create and score goals for you. I watched the game against Walsall and was very impressed with his creativity.
He would fit in nicely to the Pompey team!
Josh Maja looks very clinical in front of goal. Both players are young and I imagine will be very good players for Sunderland for many years to come.
RR: How do you expect Kenny Jackett to approach this game and would do you expect his starting line up to be?
HB: Kenny Jackett will most likely stick with the same 4-2-3-1 line-up as vs Barnsley.
Craig MacGillivray (GK) Lee Brown (LB), Matt Clarke (CB), Jack Whatmough (CB), Nathan Thompson (RB) Ben Thompson (DM) Tom Naylor (DM) Ronan Curtis (LAM) Gareth Evans (CAM) Jamal Lowe (RAM) Oliver Hawkins (CF).
Andre Green who is on-loan from Aston Villa is making a push for a start in place of either Lowe, Curtis or Evans.
However, I expect Green to start on the bench and come on if it is not working.
RR: Finally, can you give us a score prediction please?
HB: A very close game with Pompey edging it 2-1.