Rocha still gets his kicks playing for Pompey

Ricardo Rocha gets a kick to the head from Middlesbrough's Marvin Emnes
Ricardo Rocha gets a kick to the head from Middlesbrough's Marvin Emnes
Jamal Lowe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey 3 Fulham under-21s 3: Neil Allen’s match report

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As years in football go, there won’t have been too many more eventful than the one Ricardo Rocha has just seen.

Drafted into the Premier League’s bottom club just weeks before their descent into administration, the Portuguese defender then experienced the highs of FA Cup semi-final success over Spurs and took his place in a Wembley showpiece again in the final defeat to Chelsea.

While relegation became a foregone conclusion after the nine-point deduction brought on by the Blues’ money problems, the threat of liquidation still hung over the club’s head when Rocha decided he hadn’t quite had enough of the Fratton Park rollercoaster and ended protracted contract negotiations to re-join.

He may not come across as an adrenaline junkie who doesn’t know when to stop, but Rocha clearly enjoys the unique buzz that surrounds Portsmouth Football Club.

Yet the centre-back, who was named man of the match after another assured display in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough, believes Steve Cotterill’s Pompey is a different club these days to the one he joined under Avram Grant back in February 2010.

He said: ‘I joined in February and it has been one heck of a year for me and for everyone connected to the club.

‘Of course, it’s been difficult. But it’s been great at the same time.

‘When things are difficult, you can really achieve something.

‘We’ve been achieving so much in this past year – us, the fans and the club. I’ve enjoyed it a lot.

‘I couldn’t have imagined what would happen when I first joined.

‘Not even when I came back and saw what has happened this season.

‘At the time I came back, there was a chance that the club could finish.

‘Everybody was worried – not about ourselves – but for the club, the city and the fans.

‘But it feels like a different club to the one I joined now. Everybody thinks the same.

‘If you perform well on the pitch, it helps everybody forget about what has happened.’

It’s been a tough healing process for the club but there is definitely a more positive outlook these days.

While it will take time to fully recover from the financial meltdown that so nearly saw the doors to Fratton Park closed permanently, it’s fitting that a year on from the trauma of last spring there are a few green shoots starting to pop into view.

And although a 0-0 draw at home to Middlesbrough may not necessarily be the perfect way to celebrate the next step in the club’s lengthy recovery programme, Rocha is still hopeful the club can make a late surge towards the play-off positions, even though there is a hefty gap to make up on the sides above them.

He said: ‘This league is unbelievable and anything can happen.

‘We have to look at each game we play and then you never know what can happen.’

While the former Spurs defender admitted he was disappointed Pompey had failed to record a victory that now leaves them nine points adrift of the top six, he felt Boro boss Tony Mowbray’s smothering tactics had played its part.

He said: ‘We played very well in the first half and had a good few chances to score, but we didn’t.

‘You could see they were playing for the point and just kicking the ball up front.

‘We should have been in the lead at half-time. In this type of game, we have to start strongly and score as quickly as possible.

‘We created enough chances to do that but, when you don’t score, the other team gets confidence and it makes things difficult for us.

‘But the pitch was not too good for the kind of football that we like to play.

‘I think we deserved the win but it’s still a point.’