Fixtures countdown: Money to spend but Pompey quality can be found for free

The wait is nearly over for Pompey fans desperate to know the route they'll have to take for a potential return to the Championship next season.

Monday, 18th June 2018, 2:26 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 4:55 pm
Kanu celebrates his opener with Benjani

Thursday sees the League One fixtures released, with Blues supporters no doubt keen to see where and when their side will be in action over the forthcoming campaign.

The fixtures can be obtained by visiting from 9am.

And among those games fans will be looking out for will be the Blues' opponents on the opening day of the season (August 4).

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Svetoslav Todorov opened the scoring against Blackburn after 26 minutes

Last term saw Kenny Jackett kick-start his Blues managerial reign with a 2-0 win over Rochdale at Fratton Park.

That handed Pompey a memorable return to League One.

And to help ease the wait until Thursday's announcement, we've dipped into our archives to bring you more unforgettable opening day moments in Pompey's history.

We kick-start our new feature with the Blues' 3-0 victory over Blackburn on the first day of the 2006-07 Premier League season.

Here's how our former chief sports writer Mark Storey described that day's events...

Kanu stood on an industrial estate behind Fratton Park asking for directions to London.

He may have struggled locating the A3 out of Portsmouth. But finding the back of Blackburn’s net was no trouble.

Kanu’s radar-like headers twice beat Brad Friedel to sweep Pompey to the top of the Premiership, albeit for only a day.

It was a fitting place for a club who now feel they belong at the head of the top-flight table rather than begging beneath for scraps.

Funny, then, that despite the millions Harry Redknapp has been trying to spend, it was a striker signed on a free transfer from West Brom who got Russian owner Sacha Gaydamak’s new era off to the perfect start.

Kanu’s Pompey debut would have been even more remarkable if he had put away his injury-time penalty for a hat-trick.

But a goal with his first touch after coming off the bench and another near the end will do Pompey for now.

And his trickery got Blackburn centre-halves Lucas Neill and Andy Todd sent off.

West Brom boss Bryan Robson wanted to give Kanu a new contract even though he scored only seven Premiership goals in two seasons at The Hawthorns.

And the Nigerian’s amazing impact after replacing goalscorer Svetoslav Todorov with half an hour left explained why.

The thing most people remember about Kanu’s time at West Brom was a miss from two yards out.

But his two far-post headers from Sean Davis crosses – the first to Friedel’s right, the second his left – suggest he knows where the net is.

Kanu left the pitch looking miserable after he headed the rebound wide once Blackburn’s keeper had saved his spot kick.

But his performance left Redknapp chuffed about his strikers again.

Pompey’s boss was worried he was light up front after missing out on everyone from Jermain Defoe to Yakubu Ayegbeni in the summer.

Kanu had hardly trained, Benjani Mwarwari was injured most of pre-season and Lomana Lualua had torn ankle ligaments.

But everything went smoothly from the moment Todorov rolled in Benjani’s cross midway through the first half.

Pompey outclassed Blackburn right around the pitch in a sizzling blend of old and new.

David James, Sol Campbell and Glen Johnson all had great debuts in a defence that looks like it won’t concede too many.

But as impressive as any of them at the back was Linvoy Primus.

Entering his seventh season at Pompey, Primus slotted in next to Campbell at the centre of defence like the pair had been playing together all their life.

They did play together as east London teenagers – but Primus was a winger and Campbell a striker.

Now they pack about 30 stone of raw muscle between them that strikers are going to struggle to get through.

Primus put his stamp on the game by winning the first 10 or so headers, before his 60-yard pass out of defence sent Benjani clear for Todorov’s opener.

One-time Pompey target Benni McCarthy and former Fratton striker Jason Roberts hardly got a sniff.

When Roberts did sneak through, it just gave Campbell the chance to showcase a perfectly-timed tackle.

If anyone had told Pompey fans a few years ago that a player would make his debut for the club the game after scoring in the Champions’ League final for Arsenal, they would have been carted off to the loony bin.

But that’s what Campbell is: a player who not only makes Pompey tougher at the back, but also scores from set-pieces.

Only a save from Friedel stopped the England defender getting off the mark after he had lost his man and bulleted in a header from a Davis free-kick in the first half.

Redknapp reckons Pompey have nabbed the best goalkeeper in England from Manchester City.

And David James’ debut did nothing to make him change his mind.

Supporters who moan about keepers not coming for crosses are in heaven with James, who punched clear or caught everything that came near him.

The nearest Blackburn got to a goal were free-kicks James saved.

Johnson’s polished debut added weight to Redknapp’s argument he can be England’s right-back after Gary Neville.

And at left-back Dejan Stefanovic filled in strongly, giving Matt Taylor the freedom to burst forward menacingly in front of him.

Taylor is a better player the further up the left side he gets.

His shot from Kanu’s cross demanded a Friedel save, while a free-kick curled just wide.

Benjani tormented Michael Gray all game and should have scored rather than blaze over late on, but he still left the pitch to a standing ovation.

Blackburn didn’t look a side who finished sixth last season. They are going to miss Craig Bellamy – badly.

They had Ryan Nelsen and Tugay absent, but man-for-man, Mark Hughes’ side are weaker than Pompey.

And Redknapp still has some massive spending to do.

The 700 empty seats suggest not all Pompey fans think they are in for a special season.

But they should fill up with those keen to watch Kanu & Co – as long as the striker can find his way back to Fratton Park again.