Could there be a final twist in chaotic campaign?

Dave Kitson gets the goal at Doncaster which sparked Pompey's late surge
Dave Kitson gets the goal at Doncaster which sparked Pompey's late surge
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Maybe we were wrong about Gazza.

‘I don’t make predictions and I never will,’ the Geordie once famously uttered.

So just a bit of vintage Paul Gascoigne there from back in the day about the folly of trying to guess what the future holds.

The former England midfielder may have diluted his point somewhat in contradicting himself in the second half of his sentence but you get the gist of what he was attempting to say.

Gazza may not be football’s version of a deep thinker and he would probably admit himself that he was not blessed with super intelligence, unless he was on the pitch, of course, when he was so often three steps ahead of opponents.

But perhaps he had a valid point and showed wisdom above and beyond what we credited him.

It’s fair to assume that he wasn’t talking about Pompey’s 2010-11 campaign when he made his comment but despite Gascoigne’s warning, plenty of the Fratton Park faithful are gazing into their crystal balls in an attempt to unravel exactly how this bizarre season will pan out.

Considering the way the campaign started – Pompey rock bottom after seven games with just two points to their name – the target was considerably lower than challenging for the play-offs back in September. In fact, after a 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United, few supporters would have complained if a final position of fourth from bottom had been agreed and taken on that journey home.

But expectations can change – seemingly in the blink of an eye where Pompey are concerned.

Six wins out of the next seven games propelled Steve Cotterill’s side towards the top six as they hit a season-high position of 10th at the end of October.

All of a sudden, relegation talk was forgotten and promotion was back on the agenda.

Even in mid-December, Pompey were handily-placed to mount a sustained challenge over the second half of the season following successive wins at promotion-hopefuls Swansea and Norwich City.

But hopes were dealt a major blow when both Michael Brown and Richard Hughes were ruled out over their contractual clauses.

And while some quality loan signings arrived during the January transfer window, the sale of John Utaka ensured Cotterill was forced to work with a squad desperately short of numbers.

A sequence of nine games without a win – 10 if you include the FA Cup defeat at Brighton – saw the Blues plummet down the table again to 20th and only last month, a relegation battle appeared to be on the cards again.

But a vital 2-0 win at Doncaster Rovers kick-started another fine run of form with six straight wins and despite a blip at Bristol City, last weekend’s win at Leicester City has given Pompey an outside chance of making a late run for the play-offs with just eight games of the season remaining.

So what now?

Is there really any hope Pompey will find themselves in the shake-up at full-time on May 7?

Or should we simply be thankful there will be no potential relegation decider at Scunthorpe on the final day of the season?

What is clear is that Pompey will require another sensational run of form to stand any chance of muscling themselves into the top six.

And the final eight fixtures are far from easy.

They face five teams who are chasing promotion themselves with trips to Reading, Cardiff and Burnley on the horizon and home fixtures against Swansea and Norwich.

Home games against Preston and Coventry would appear to be as close to home bankers as you could hope for but everyone knows even home bankers in the Championship are anything but.

Meanwhile, a last-day trip to Scunthorpe could be against a side who are already relegated.

Alternatively, the Iron may just need that victory to save themselves from the drop.

So perhaps foolishly, I’ve gone through the rest of the Championship fixtures – yes, I really should have more hobbies – to see if there is any hope of another trip to Wembley in May.

The BBC Sport website has an excellent predictor section where you can go through all of the games in the division and see how the final table would pan out.

So after scanning through each of the results, I waited for a few moments with baited breath – had Pompey done enough over the course of those final few games to get in the mix?

The truthful answer? No, they hadn’t.

In predicting four wins, three draws and one defeat in the final eight games, chances are that won’t be enough for the Blues.

Wins over Preston, Coventry, Norwich and Scunthrope; draws with Reading, Swansea and Burnley and just one defeat – at Cardiff – left Cotterill’s men on 69 points in 10th place in the final Championship table and six points behind the final play-off place.

It’s also worth noting that in nine of the past 10 seasons, 73 points has been the minimum requirement for a place in the top six – except for Blackpool last term who snuck in there with 70.

But in three of those campaigns, the teams in sixth place have ended the regular season on 75 points.

No doubt there will be plenty who will disagree and have their own versions on what may yet transpire over the final six weeks of an absorbing season.

Should Pompey win six of their remaining eight matches and draw two, they might just make it with a final tally of 74 points.

Then again, the final twist in the season could throw us all another curveball.

Either way, predicting anything to do with Pompey has become something of a mug’s game in recent times.

Maybe that Gazza character knew what he was talking about after all.

After all, if I’m right, I’ll be as surprised as anyone.