It’s A Wonderful Life for Pompey – but not without Wallace

Jed Wallace salutes the Pompey fans after scoring against Plymouth on Monday Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace salutes the Pompey fans after scoring against Plymouth on Monday Picture: Joe Pepler
Dion Donohue. Picture: Colin Farmery

New boy’s bitter-sweet Pompey experience

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As a drunken George Bailey peers into the icy waters below from his precarious vantage point on a Bedford Falls bridge, he contemplates suicide.

Enter Clarence Odbody – an angel without his wings who swoops down to lift James Stewart’s despondent character and open his eyes in the classic It’s A Wonderful Life.

‘You’ve been given a great gift, George. A chance to see what the world would be like without you,’ Odbody utters as the journey begins.

The alternative Bailey-free existence was deeply unpleasant, with the town now parading under the name Pottersville, crawling with vice, filth and heartbreak.

Still, the ending was a happy one.

So, if you will, imagine the outcome if Pompey fans were handed the opportunity to relive the entire 2014-15 season – without Jed Wallace being present.

All hypothetical, of course, there is no definitive answer. This is admittedly a frivolous debate.

Regardless, what would have happened to Pompey if Wallace had declined to sign a new contract in the summer of 2014 and departed to a higher-division club?

At least that aspect isn’t so far-fetched. It would have been precisely the case had Andy Awford not arrived as manager and persuaded the midfielder to sign a three-year deal.

Granted, Pompey would have unearthed a replacement, albeit with Football League restrictions ensuring only a nominal fee could be paid ahead of settling of their PFA debts.

In addition, presumably this newcomer would have produced some kind of positive impact. After all, Pompey would not have lined up with 10 players every match.

Yet, he would not have been Wallace.

So in this alternative timeline, how would the Blues have fared without a player with 16 goals and eight assists during the campaign?

Well, against Exeter City alone, Wallace conjured up four points with his two goals.

Firstly, there was a second-half leveller at St James’ Park which earned Pompey a 1-1 draw on the opening day of the campaign.

Collecting substitute Nigel Atangana’s ball down the right, the youngster cut inside and curled home a left-foot finish to the delight of the 1,548 away following.

During February’s reverse fixture, Wallace twisted and turned his way into the box before striking a right-foot shot to hand the Blues a last-gasp 1-0 victory.

Of course, there was an earlier penalty miss, blazing it high into the Fratton End. Another player may have scored it, but heading down that route only complicates matters.

Worth analysing also is the trip to Cambridge United in the following match, with Wallace involved in five of the six goals during a magnificent 6-2 triumph for the visitors.

Matt Tubbs may have grabbed a hat-trick but it was Wallace who created two of them – in addition to making the run which led to Ryan Taylor’s goal, while his saved shot allowed Paul Robinson to net.

Crucially, it was also Wallace who opened the scoring, with a surge down the left, before cutting inside the area and shooting home.

Remove Wallace’s contribution and it could have been defeat – making it seven points so far courtesy of the midfielder in this shallow analysis.

Focusing entirely on the league, his two at Yeovil in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and a penalty in the first FA Cup fixture against Aldershot should not be considered.

Still, there was Carlisle United eight days ago, a fixture which would have been a loss rather than a point if Wallace had not intervened.

His stunning right-foot strike from 25 yards levelled for the Blues, then a brilliant first-time cross from the left was tapped home by Tubbs.

Ultimately, a goal five minutes and 46 seconds into stoppage-time prevented Awford’s side collecting all three points. Nonetheless, it was a point earned by their in-demand 21-year-old.

Wallace was at it again on Bank Holiday Monday, injecting life into a dull Plymouth Argyle affair with a superb left-foot strike outside the box to break the deadlock 53 seconds into the second half.

It would change the match and the hosts ran out deserved 2-1 winners.

It could be said his contribution amounted to at least a point. At least.

Rolling the clock back to January and he opened the scoring against title-chasing Burton, after Andy Barcham’s right-foot volley was saved.

The game ended in a 1-1 draw, ensuring that is now 10 points his goals and assists have earned Pompey.

Of course, not every Wallace goal has produced points. There were defeats at Shrewsbury and Tranmere during the first half of the season.

He has also netted against Northampton, Stevenage and Morecambe (twice) in fixtures decided by more than just his finishes, so they can also be discounted.

However, in Pompey’s 1-1 draw at Luton in December, Wallace turned goal-maker when he drove in a cross from the right which was bundled home by Taylor to secure a point.

Against Dagenham & Redbridge in September, he scored and also provided an assist in a 3-0 success at Fratton Park, yet take those away and the hosts still would have won.

Similarly, against Luton on home turf, his cross from the right was volleyed home by Tubbs. Nonetheless, Pompey ran out 2-0 victors.

Which brings the mighty tally of his worth to Pompey this season to 11 points – and that is on the conservative side.

In a Wallace-less world, rather than being 14th in League Two, Awford’s men would today be sitting on 42 points in 20th spot.

That is ahead of Carlisle on goal difference and three points above the relegation zone, battling to remain in the Football League with five games left.

Still, back to this dimension and Wallace is here. Well for another 21 days at least.

And as Clarence so prophetically told George Bailey: ‘Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?’.