Who Are These Jobbers?
Prior to the first leg of Sunderland’s League Cup semi-final against Manchester United, TalkSport dullard Adrian Durham was frantically hypothesising on the world’s dullest and most obvious question - would you rather win a cup and get relegated or stay in the Premier League?
It is a question posed to supporters of mediocre teams that reach the latter stages of a cup competition and one that is meant to reinforce the absurd notion that the Premier League is the be all and end all. While Durham continued to highlight the financial importance of top flight status he received a swift, and correct, rebuttal from a caller.
When I’m on my deathbed, I’m not going to tell my grandchildren about the year we finished 13th.
Portsmouth supporters - much like their Wigan Athletic counterparts - will have heard this question countless times and delivered the same answer. Was it worth winning the FA Cup and playing AC Milan in the UEFA Cup and being subsequently sent crashing through the leagues, teetering on the brink of liquidation? Aye, of course it was (I presume).
The 2008 cup win over Cardiff City will forever be enshrined into the hearts of Pompey fans and even make the bodyings off York City, Bury and Newport County a little less irritable. As Sunderland begin to discover the delights of the lower leagues, our opposition will be able to sit us down and tell us all about it.
They have battled their way back from the swamp of League Two and now under the stewardship of human teddy bear Kenny Jackett they are making our task of steamrolling this division a little more difficult.
A return to the Championship this campaign would be a major milestone in Pompey’s rebirth. It would make all the recent suffering feel worth it and distracts from the fact that their FA Cup winning manager is now more known for winning I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.
What’s The Ground Like?
Fratton Park falls into that bracket of “proper football grounds” that yer da goes on at you incessantly about. Akin to the likes of Selhurst Park, Goodison Park and the majority of League One, Pompey’s home since 1925 has all the hallmarks of the glory days of yesteryear. We’re talking obstructing pillars, we’re talking cramped concourses and you better believe we’re talking the seats simply bolted onto former terraces.
The one thing that the Milton End (where Sunderland supporters will be housed) has in its favour nowadays is that it has a roof so if you were looking forward to a repeat of the Accrington Stanley monsoon, you will be sorely disappointed. Although, don’t worry as you have the famous Fratton Park atmosphere to look forward to.
Yes, if you like the sound of a shirtless man ringing a bell for ninety minutes then, baby, you are going to love your trip to Portsmouth. Honestly, how these were described as something as elegant as “chimes” is beyond this esteemed columnist’s comprehension.
How Do I Get There?
It would only be fitting to end 2018 with one of the longest trips of the year, so drag your post-black eye Friday carcass out of bed and let’s go to bloody Portsmouth.
For those of you mad enough to drive down to the south coast take the A1 (M) and M1 down to junction 15A at Northampton before exiting for the A43. Follow this all the way to Winchester before joining the M3 until Eastleigh where you exit on to the M27 and follow the signs to Portsmouth. Ignore the turn off for the town centre and continue onto the A27 and turn right at the junction for the A2030 towards Southsea/Fratton and you will eventually find the ground.
In terms of parking, your best bet is to find a lovely street where you can leave your pride and joy. If you plan on getting lost punch PO4 8RA into your sat nav.
If you’re an utter legend and are taking the train for this mammoth journey, the closest railway station to the ground is Fratton. Services are running from London Waterloo but be aware that there is a strike affecting South Western Railway so double check before travelling. Here, I’ll even give you the revised timetables right here.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at 6am with return fares priced at £45. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
After an almost six-hour journey, you may want to top up your Christmas cheer around the hostelries of Portsmouth. If there is one thing I am good at (aside from penning compelling away guides), it is finding the fine people of Sunderland somewhere they can refresh their parched throats.
The Staggeringly Good Brewery on Rodney Road sits virtually opposite the ground and has tap room that opens its doors from 12pm on Saturdays. Choose from their range of independently brewed beers such as the fantastically named StaggerSaurus, the Reptile Raddler or the hefty 8.4% Prize Fighter of Antiquity.
A traditional haunt for away fans is the Good Companion on Eastern Road while the Milton Arms on Milton Road is also a decent shout and just minutes from the turnstiles. If you have a little extra time on your hands, you can venture to The Red, White & Blue on Fawcett Road which is so good at serving beer that it holds a Master Cellarman status by Fullers.
Should you decide to have a few jars in the centre of Portsmouth then you have a range of options. One of these is the cool as shit One Eyed Dog on Elm Grove which plays some class tunes to compliment your lager.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
It’s Christmas time in Portsmouth! Where better to spend a festive weekend than on this shining diamond of the south coast. If you like to feel all bloody Christmassy then this navy town has got you covered.
Soothe your soul and take a step back into yesteryear with a Victorian Christmas at Fort Nelson. Join head cook Private Dobson in the kitchen as he prepares a festive feast fit for the soldiers of the garrison. Sling some mulled wine, try one of Mrs Blenkinsopp’s mouth watering mince pies and feel bloody, bloody jolly.
Spend an hour or so falling arse over tit and leathering your body off a freezing floor at Ice Skate Portsmouth. Held outside the Guildhall Square, you can make a complete fool of yourself under the twinkling lights and spend all of Christmas Day in complete agony. On the plus side, you can enjoy a mulled wine or hot chocolate to soothe your aching bones.