The three year switch...

Posted by Chris Rann

Portsmouth Nadir Belhadj celebGettyImagesPortsmouth beat Southampton 4-1 in the FA Cup in 2010

Three years ago on Wednesday, League One Southampton were involved in that season's FA Cup fifth round. Their opponents, Premier League and bitter rivals Portsmouth.

You would think it might be painful to write about this game, seeing as Saints were to walk off the pitch 1-4 losers, and the experience of being sat in St. Mary's that day certainly wasn't pleasurable, but now I look upon it as the exact point when the tables of each respective club's fortunes were turned.

I vividly remember being sat in my car on the M3, stuck in traffic, surrounded by cars full of jubilant Pompey fans, their smiles and laughter cut through me like a knife, but now I conjure that image up in mind and I am the one with the wry smile.

Of course, at the time, they fully deserved the bragging rights, they beat Saints fair and square, and on paper, and in the echelons of history, it was a comprehensive victory. It actually doesn't reflect the game at all, Saints were much the better side for three quarters of the game. David James (not for the first time, with me sat behind him) had an absolute blinder, making several miraculous saves. When it came down to it though, the pace in the Pompey side ripped through a tiring Saints defence and it there was a flourish of goals from the visitors to end the tie.

Sadly, the players that won the game for Portsmouth were killing the already financially-stricken club in the background (the club later lobbied for pay cuts and player sales http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/p/portsmouth/8439545.stm). The players who were tasting derby defeat for Saints, were at the start of a long and promising journey. Kelvin Davis, Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert all played in the game, and our still involved with Saints now. Unsurprisingly not one of the Pompey heroes is left at the club.

What happened next is history, and as the FA Cup fifth round rolls around again this weekend neither club is involved. In the three following years, Portsmouth have learnt none of the lessons of its previous regimes, continuously gambling with its future and signing quick-fix players on high wages (outmuscling their financially prudent opponents) and sit 21st in League One, having not won in 20 games, still in financial no man's land, with yet another court date being adjourned and staring relegation to League two in the face. Saints are 15th in the Premier League, having just resoundingly beaten the champions of England 3-1 and are pushing on for survival and consolidation.

Football has a habit of turning things on its head, and this is no exception, the victory smiles of Pompey in 2010 are long gone and Saints are in control of the current bragging contest, but where will both clubs be in another three years? Who knows? It'll be an interesting time finding out though. Am I taking the moral high ground? Absolutely not, Saints have their fair share of poor financial history, and nobody can foresee what is round the corner for any club, but Pompey had their time in the sun and then some, Saints won't be made to feel guilty for enjoying theirs.

He who laughs last, laughs longest.

Keep the faith.

Chris

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