Portsmouth team of the decade: Jordan Cross reveals why he opts for likes of Ricardo Rocha, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Ben Thompson and Frederic Piquionne in his XI
Come up with your team of the decade, they said, as they eyed another blank weekend of action and hole in The News' Pompey coverage.
Easy, I thought, in a period which began in the Premier League and with two trips to the home of football in the FA Cup.
The Blues’ rapid descent after becoming the first top-flight club to go into administration meant, in terms of status and quality, the levels are loaded towards the start of the past 10 years.
But what about the seasons in the Championship and some impressive talent still within the club's ranks?
What about the beacons of light amid the darkness as Pompey fell and then rose again under Paul Cook?
So maybe not as straightforward as you’d first think. In fact definitely not, as the agonising over this team selection will testify.
In the final reckoning, ability was the ultimate criteria for selection over any misty-eyed romanticism.
Some players were given the nod over those who racked up greater appearances in the time frame, but they needed to have a seismic impact to do so.
And the judging was on how they did in a royal-blue shirt rather than away from Fratton, taking the likes of Adam Webster and Matt Ritchie away from being automatic starters.
Jordan Cross’ Pompey team of the decade
Ward Rocha Clarke Stevens
Lowe Wallace Boateng
Has a powerful case to not just be the keeper in this team of the decade, but also be seen as the best Pompey keeper of all time. James made 17 appearances between the sticks after the turn of the decade, making him eligible and therefore a mandatory goalkeeping choice.
Wednesday, April 10, 2010 will be a date etched in Joel Ward’s memory. It was a foggy night in Wigan when the Emsworth lad was given his Premier League debut. Ward went on to make a total of 96 appearances at right-back and centre-half for his hometown club, before arriving in the Premier League at Crystal Palace in 2013.
A five-goal defeat at Manchester United in February 2010 was followed by two red cards on the bounce in a nightmare start to his Pompey career. That offered little insight into what was to follow amid 97 classy Blues appearances and a place in the heart of fans, as he stayed put through a desperate period. Nips in just in front of Greg Halford who made defending look easy with his quality on the ball.
A real tough call this one for the role as the left-sided centre-half. Jason Pearce and Hermann Hreidarsson were also in contention but Clarke just gets the nod with the defender head and shoulders his side’s best player over two seasons. To watch Clarke in action was to view with certainty a player destined to go to the top.
What a find the Irishman was by Paul Cook. Plucked from the stiffs at Aston Villa, Stevens missed two league games in two seasons - one as he was rested for the play-offs - and showed defensive solidity and attacking intent which made his departure for the Championship and Sheffield United inevitable.
There was no better midfielder in League One last season than the little midfielder, who arrived on loan from Millwall. Thompson delivered one of the best debuts in recent years against Oxford United and establish himself as a key man as Pompey flew to the top of League One. No doubt his January recall by his parent club massively hurt promotion ambitions.
You’d go a long way to find a Pompey player with a better range of passing than O’Hara over the last decade. The class act of the Blues’ final campaign in the Premier League which led to him gaining deserved player-of-the-year honours. Playing in the FA Cup final with a fractured spine just cements the Fratton love for him.
A meteoric rise from non-league talent to promotion-sealing star made Jamal Lowe a hero in quick time. Lowe then established himself as a key part of Kenny Jackett’s set-up with his lightning attacking quality married with potency, scoring 17 goals last term - including THAT goal at Wembley - to finish as the side’s top scorer
An attacking player with maturity beyond his years, underlined by the fact he’d clocked up 121 Pompey appearances by the time he left a club a couple of months after turning 21. A return of 17 goals arrived as the Blues recorded their lowest-ever league finish is testament to the manner in which he often carried the side on his own.
Has there been a more talented player to wear the star and crescent over the past decade? Made just 11 appearances after January 2010, but one of those games is etched in folklore as Boateng took centre-stage with a penalty and breathless display as Spurs were dumped out of the FA Cup at Wembley.
The top scorer in Pompey’s final Premier League season with 11 finishes. The ones which really mattered in 2010, though, as Piquionne fired his side to Wembley with two goals against Birmingham and then sent Avram Grant’s side on their way at the home of football against Spurs. In terms of quality, there hasn’t been a Blues striker at his level over the past decade.
Some tough decisions had to be made, first as the subs were left out of the starting XI and then they took the place of decent Pompey talent on the bench. Jamie Ashdown deserves his spot with his 636 minutes without conceding in 2011 a post-war record.
Nadir Belhadj on ability and his goal in the 4-1 win over Southampton alone is recognised, while a surprisingly-high 45 of Hermann Hreidarsson’s 123 Pompey appearances came in this decade, making him worthy of a spot.
Jason Pearce missed out on a starting spot by a whisker while Michael Doyle was the heartbeat of Paul Cook’s 2017 title winners in an ever-present campaign and epitomised that team’s spirit.
David Nugent’s 14 goals was a more than creditable return in the Championship in the 2010-11 season while David Norris produced eight second-tier goals in 42 games the following campaign. One of those finishes seems to be fresh in the memory, too…
There should be honorary mentions for the likes of Greg Halford, Gary Roberts, Stephen Henderson, Ben Davies, Hayden Mullins, Aruna Dindane, Adam Webster and Nathan Thompson, who delivered at Wembley and is currently being missed.