x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Pompey's lousy luck gets worse

Portsmouth end a farcical North American pre-season tour with a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Major League Soccer's DC United.

Portsmouth goalkeeper Jon Stewart is carried off after being injured in Edmonton.
Portsmouth goalkeeper Jon Stewart is carried off after being injured in Edmonton.

WASHINGTON // With scarcely any sleep, in sweltering heat and after losing their kit, Portsmouth ended a farcical North American pre-season tour with a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Major League Soccer's DC United. Relegated from the English Premier League, in administration and placed under a transfer embargo by England's football authorities, Portsmouth could scarcely field a team during their week-long tour of the United States and Canada, relying heavily on youngsters with little or no first-team experience.

But if anyone thought things could not get any worse for the embattled club, they were wrong. Stranded in Chicago by a lightning storm en route from their last game in Edmonton, Canada, the players had just four hours' sleep the night before Saturday's game with DC United and were not able to train for three days. As if that was not bad enough, 14 bags went missing during the journey, including the one containing their kit, meaning they had to play in a strip borrowed from their hosts.

They probably wished they had never arrived at all, after a thrashing at the hands of the MLS strugglers, which included a hat-trick by Danny Allsopp, the Australian striker "Probably that result summed up the tour for us really - it has been extremely tough," said Steve Cotterill, the Portsmouth manager. The journey from Edmonton had taken 27 hours. The trip from England to their first game in San Diego took 42.

"The time it took us to get here, we could have flown to Australia," an angry and frustrated Cotterill said after the game. The newly installed Pompey manager has made no secret of his frustration with the gruelling tour, organised before he took over. He would have preferred to have remained in England to try to assemble a squad for the approaching season. Two players went home injured after the Edmonton game, one with a broken leg.

Then, to add to Cotterill's woes, Jamie Ashdown, the goalkeeper who is trying to earn a new contract after the departure of David James, went off injured after colliding with a teammate during the Washington game. Pompey's weary players soon ran out of steam on the hottest day of the year in the US capital, with the temperature reaching 38C in the RFK Stadium. As if that was not bad enough, three players were sent off, including Portsmouth's Hayden Mullins, whose only offence was to get into an argument with DC United's Santino Quaranta, which Mullins admitted included "some swearing".

Quaranta then seemed to spit at Mullins and both men were shown straight red cards. Cotterill called the refereeing "ridiculous" and "appalling". "I can't believe he's been allowed to officiate a game," he said. "I've never seen anything like it in my life." It has been an astonishing fall from grace since Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 2008. After Saturday's defeat, the players were just relieved to be going home.

* Reuters