When you need your big players to step up in a game which has so much riding on it, there is always one player that takes the game by the scruff of the neck and carries you over the line.
Matty Taylor was that man when Alain Perrin’s Portsmouth side travelled to the Stadium of Light in October 2005, looking for three points to stay clear of relegation from the Premier League. The midfielder netted two goals and two assists in the game, most memorably finding the back of Kelvin Davis’ net from 40 yards out.
“I wasn’t in the starting XI for that game originally but Laurent Robert was taken ill the night before the game, and I got a call the morning of the game to go and see the manager and he confirmed that I was starting,” recalled Taylor.
“It was a huge game in our season in terms of where we were in the league, we needed the points and we actually went 1-0 down. Thankfully, I ended up scoring two and assisting two and it turned out to be a wonderful day.
Both Clubs have endured a similar fate in recent years, the two former Premier League sides suffering relegation to the lower tiers of English Football since that game back in 2005, but Taylor is delighted to see both battling to return to the top, especially his old club Portsmouth.
“What I really like about Portsmouth Football Club is that they have seen some really dark times in the past, but what they have now is a manager who is very experienced, calm and goes about his job superbly,” he added.
“They have ownership now where they are not just throwing money at it - albeit Michael Isner is a very wealthy chap - and I like they way they are going about things in a sustainable manner.
“Because that is what the fans at that football club deserve; longevity. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks, we see the really good times return to the club.”
Portsmouth head to Sunderland on Saturday looking to come away with something to take back to Fratton Park in the return leg next week, and Taylor says he is excited to see what unfolds.
“I’m really excited for the game”, he said. “It’s 50/50, both of them have got some really good attacking players and both sets of fans are going to demand another Wembley appearance.
“It is a big game for Portsmouth because their journey has been slightly different to Sunderland’s, with the latter being relegated from the Championship last season, so it’s good to see both Clubs fighting to get back to the Championship.
“For Portsmouth it would be a hell of a story if they were to first overcome Sunderland but, from a personal point of view as someone who played for the club for such a long time and now as a supporter of the club, that is what I’d like to see.”
Kenny Jackett saw his team dispatch the Black Cats on penalties in this season’s record-breaking Checkatrade Trophy Final in an enthralling game at Wembley back in March, and the 37-year-old is expecting a reaction from Jack Ross’ outfit over the two legs.
“It is a huge game, I would argue fans-wise they are the two biggest Clubs in the league, we saw at the Checkatrade Trophy Final that they are a good match and it will be a great occasion,” Taylor added.
“What a game that was as well, it had all the drama but for Portsmouth to come away with the win was amazing for anyone who is connected with the club.
“I’d imagine that the staff and players and Sunderland would see a bit of an edge heading into this game, because they are going to feel like they owe Portsmouth one after that result.”