Appleton predicted it - but just how bad is this Pompey season?

Former Pompey boss Michael Appleton, left, and his assistant Ashley Westwood quickly left Fratton Park after their playing budget was slashed
Former Pompey boss Michael Appleton, left, and his assistant Ashley Westwood quickly left Fratton Park after their playing budget was slashed

It was Michael Appleton who first raised the thorny issue, before a ball had been kicked and at a time when club-record winless run figures remained unresearched.

Left seething from prospective owners Portpin’s dramatic playing budget U-turn on the eve of the Capital One Cup match against Plymouth, the normally publicly-restrained boss let rip.

‘It will be relegation. Without any shadow of any doubt,’ he said.

‘And that is me being probably the most optimistic person you have ever come across in recent times at Portsmouth. I am also a realist.

‘For that budget to change less than a week before the start of the season is slightly unprofessional under any circumstances.’

To recap, long-time owners-elect Portpin reduced a £4m budget agreed in May to £1.5m in August.

As it turned out, Portpin failed to buy the club anyway.

According to administrators PKF in this week’s progress report, they never ‘received all of the information it has requested of Portpin, in order to give the necessary sanction to any sale.’

Still, Appleton predicted this unholy mess.

Emotional at the time and in a clearly predetermined act to put pressure on Portpin.

Nonetheless, he has been proven correct – even with 11 matches to go.

League Two beckoning, unwanted club records, 51 players used and careering towards the worst season in Pompey’s proud 115-year existence.

Some have even declared that this is currently the poorest Blues team they have ever had the misfortune of watching.

Statistically speaking, yes. They have a point but a touch harsh considering the circumstances and the failure of all players during the campaign.

Admittedly, before today, 23 matches without victory has shattered the previous worst of 19, set in the 1975-76 campaign under Ian St John.

What’s more, this is a painful period which has reaped six draws and a staggering 17 defeats.

The club record of nine successive losses has also been matched.

Another Pompey record looming is the amount of defeats during a campaign in all competitions.

That currently stands at 29 from the 1958-59 season which, rather unsurprisingly, ended in relegation from division one.

Freddy Cox’s team lost 27 of their 42 matches, winning a mere six of them. Although there were handsome wins over Leicester (4-0), Villa (5-2) and Burnley (4-2).

The other two defeats came in the FA Cup fifth round and the Southern Floodlight Challenge Cup to Luton.

The aforementioned 1975-76 season yielded 28 losses in all competitions, including two in the cup.

More recently, when Pompey tumbled out of the Premier League in 2009-10, they did so losing 24 league games and two cup fixtures – among them the 2010 FA Cup final.

In a league season which involved 38 matches, they won only seven times and finished up with 19 points.

Granted, that is after the nine-point deduction having entered administration. Yet, effectively, it is the lowest points tally in Pompey history.

Incidentally, that abject 1958-59 campaign saw 21 points picked up, with no deduction to take into account.

Before today’s visit to Crewe, there have been 21 league defeats, with three in the cups.

That makes it 24 in total, with 11 matches left.

Back to the point about this being potentially the worst Pompey team in history.

Certainly it would be harsh to pin that tag to caretaker boss Guy Whittingham’s current line-up. After all, it has taken 51 players to get to this numbing position.

The constant defensive mistakes, the lack of quality, the failure to score, the criminal lack of effort has been in abundance from the first league match of the campaign.

And only three players remain from that squad which drew 1-1 with Bournemouth on the opening day of the League One season on August 18 – Simon Eastwood, Adam Webster and Ashley Harris.

The 28 players who have since departed have undoubtedly contributed to this scenario, despite sneaking out the back door while others attempt to put out the flames.

Let’s not spare them the shame merely because they are no longer on club premises.

Worst squad in club history may be a more realistic shout.

Incidentally, 51 is the highest amount of players used by Pompey since the First World War years, peaking in 1916-17 at 84.

When Harry Redknapp led the Blues into the Premier League in 2003, a total of 29 players were utilised. Last season the figure was 31.

There was something Appleton also uttered during his relegation speech on August 14.

He added: ‘If I was given the budget we talked about originally, I basically put my neck on the line at the time and said regardless of the 10-point deduction I would get us back into the Championship.’

Well, Appleton is back in the Championship all right – with Blackburn.

As for Pompey, they will have slipped the other way to sit two leagues below from where he had his sights trained back in the summer.