The Insight: How Portsmouth went from despair to repair under John Mousinho

 | December 21 | 

6 mins read


In 2008, Portsmouth Football Club won the FA Cup. The following season, they drew with Ronaldinho’s AC Milan at Fratton Park. Then from 2009 to 2013, the club that had tussled with Europe’s best suffered three relegations in four years and were on the brink of collapse. 

Amid a whole host of financial issues, they were on their way down to League Two when the Pompey Supporters Trust finally completed the takeover that saved their club. They were in the bottom tier of English football, but the heart was still beating. Just. 

Fast forward a decade and Pompey are climbing back through the English league system. After four tortuous seasons in League Two they won the league, and they’ve been knocking on the door of the Championship ever since. They’ve had two failed play-off attempts in the third tier and not finished below 10th in the past six seasons. 

They are inevitably going to make it back to the second tier, and John Mousinho looks like the man to take them there. Halfway through the season, Pompey are top of the tree at Christmas, with a healthy gap between them and the chasing pack. It’s been a remarkable run of form for Mousinho, in his first senior role in the dugout. 

At just 37, he has hit the ground running with Pompey - a club who have been desperate for a young and ambitious manager to take them back to the Championship. They seem to have found their man. Mousinho’s style of play is slightly less direct than his predecessor Danny Cowley’s - and while the managerial brothers failed to harness the ambition of Portsmouth FC, Mousinho has embraced it. 

Portsmouth Betting Tips

  • Portsmouth to win League One @ 10/11
  • Colby Bishop to be League One top scorer @ 14/1

Portsmouth finished eighth last term in the highest quality League One season we have ever seen. Having the promoted trio, Plymouth Argyle, Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday, all exceeding 95 points is unlikely to happen ever again. With those three out of the division, the door has been left ajar for Portsmouth to finally escape this third tier.

Mousinho’s character has helped Pompey out a huge amount this season. His footballing tactics have been excellent, but his people skills and handling of the media have also played a huge part in their success. He’s a positive psychologist who has been able to unify a relatively new squad in a short amount of time. 

@PompeyData told me his thoughts as to why this season has so far been more profitable for Portsmouth than previous seasons. “I think the summer recruitment from Mousinho and Rich Hughes was the main reason for the upturn in form, bringing in players like Regan Poole, Will Norris, Kusini Yengi and Conor Shaughnessy. 

“We brought in something like 13 new players but the team bond is unbelievable and it’s shown on the pitch, with fighting from one or two goals down to winning those games. It definitely can be our year but we’ll need to have a good January transfer window (something we never have bar last season) and not have our annual winter drop-off.”

Pompey have lost just one league match so far this season and are unbeaten away from home. Mousinho has got the entire club moving in the right direction, and his pressing style has worked wonders, but as PompeyData stated, it is built upon a summer of excellent recruitment. 

It’s given Portsmouth, for the first time in several years, a talented and tight-knit squad ready to fight at the top end of the division. With legs around him in midfield, Marlon Pack is the perfect man to sit deep and dictate the tempo of games. They’ve also found a perfect combination down the left-hand side, as attacking left-back Jack Sparkes and winger Paddy Lane provide huge threat down that side. 

Lane has been seriously impressive this term, scoring five goals and assisting four times in the 4-2-3-1 system. It’s a formation that does rely on the lone striker to score goals, but fortunately Mousinho has been able to rely on both Colby Bishop and Kusini Yengi this term. 

Bishop is the big-name number nine, and a player who probably deserves a shot at the Championship at this point in his career. He’s known as a physical striker, but his link play with the attacking midfielders supporting him is underrated. Importantly, however, he is a reliable goalscorer, having netted 11 in 19 so far this term, but a recent injury could have knocked Pompey’s title tilt off course. Instead, Yengi came into the team and has been excellent, taking his goal total up to five this season. 

Pacy winger Abu Kamara, on loan from Norwich City, scored twice last time out and is improving as the season progresses, while Joe Rafferty has done a solid job at right-back. There’s the potential need for an additional centre-back in January given the reliable Regan Poole is out injured and the gaffer has been reluctant to give Ryley Towler much of a chance.


Success this season is playing out on the pitch and Pompey look on track to gain promotion this term, but the hard work has been done behind the scenes. They seem to have a plan to sign players in their early 20s, but not just any players. They’ve found a niche of young men who were highly-rated as teenagers but appear to have failed to have fulfilled their potential for one reason or another. 

Pompey, and Mousinho, then back themselves to find the solution and make the most of their talent. It led to the likes of Conor Shaughnessy, who broke through at Leeds United, coming in, and he has been a rock at the centre of defence this term. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Sparkes made his debut for Exeter City at the age of 16 before Portsmouth snapped him up this summer - and he has been another wonderful addition. 

These players are not only performing for Pompey right now, but should retain a decent resale value in the future. They’ve now proven they can do it at the top end of League One, which will only add to their potential value. Portsmouth fans won’t want their current stars to depart just yet though. They are on track to return to the Championship for the first time since 2012, and the scars of a decade ago are fading away. 

Check out our Football Betting Tips here. 

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