August saw the release of the eponymous debut album by burgeoning stadium rockers Ivyrise, formerly a support act to both Bon Jovi and Kula Shaker, so Football Burp caught up with their front man Ben Falinski to discuss his beloved Portsmouth…
So, we gather you’re a Portsmouth fan…
Yeah, I’m a massive Portsmouth fan. Which is quite sad at the moment because I watched us win the FA Cup a few years ago but now we don’t really have the chance to win anything anymore. It’s been quite a turbulent five years for us.
Did you watch the 4-3 defeat at West Ham United game over the weekend?
I was travelling down to London to do some promo so I was following it on the BBC text on my BlackBerry. A friend of mine put a load of money on Portsmouth to win and sent me this really excited text after about seven minutes when we went 1-0 ahead. He sent me a text about two minutes later saying, “Ah, damn it, they’ve equalised.” It was an amazing game. We always seem to have good matches against West Ham.
I lived in Canning Town for a little while when the band first started out so I went to a couple of West Ham games then. But I’ve been a massive Portsmouth fan my whole life – my dad worked at Fratton Park as a copper for around fifteen years so he used to bring me back all the programmes from matches from our Division One and Division Two games. When I got older, I started going down there with mates from school. I went quite a lot while I was living in Portsmouth.
Were you disappointed that Matt Taylor celebrated when he scored?
When we used to go to games, Matt Taylor was one of the most popular players at Portsmouth – everybody loved him and he was probably one of the most important players we had when we were getting promoted from the Championship into the Premier League. I don’t have anything against players who leave and then get behind their new team. It’s one of those things where you’ve got to remember the good times. I don’t think you can hold it against him – he’s probably got a family to pay for so he needs a goal! (Laughs)
Overall, are you in favour of Steve Cotterill as your manager?
Harry Redknapp is probably the manager that we look back on with the most fondness, because we achieved so much when he was our manager. Even though he went to Southampton, we still as fans forgave him, so he’s got an incredible legacy. Steve Cotterill, I don’t know – he’s taken over at a difficult time. We’ve not had a great start to the season but what can you do? We don’t have any money, we don’t have the ability to go and buy Jermaine Defoe or Peter Crouch, to compete with the teams at the top of the table.
Shockingly, we can’t even compete with Southampton at the moment. You’ve got Southampton and Brighton both flying high – and, you know, we were the team on the south coast who’d been doing well for the last five or six years. Now we’re kind of floundering towards the bottom of the Championship, which is quite a sad state of affairs, unless you support an equally depressing team at the moment! One of the guys who produced our album is an Arsenal fan, so he’s been having a bad spell of wondering whether his team will ever recover. But, if you support a team for your whole life, you have to expect that they’ll be rubbish sometimes.
It’s surreal to remember going down to Fratton Park to see us play AC Milan in the UEFA Cup! That was an amazing game. Having spent years watching us play Cambridge United and Brentford, suddenly we had two England strikers, the England goalkeeper, what we considered to be one of the best managers in the world and we were playing AC Milan at Fratton Park. Then everything was taken away from us in the space of two years.
We had players like Sylvain Distin, Matt Taylor and Gary O’Neil who were brilliant. Lassana Diarra was there for a period – all sorts. It was amazing to watch a team that could compete with anybody. I remember watching us play Chelsea off the field at Fratton Park. We lost, but we played them off the field. And now we get beaten in the first round of the Carling Cup.
Have you been impressed by any of the new boys?
It’s nice to have Benjani back because he was a great purchase for us years ago, but it’s kind of a sign of the times that he’s a star player for us at the moment. He’s about as good as it gets at the moment. A lot of the players that have made it back into the squad now are players that couldn’t get anywhere near the first team three or four seasons ago. It’s kind of weird to see these players coming into the first team now having spent so much time either on the bench or in the reserves. We don’t have the ability to go out and buy anyone amazing so we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got at the moment.
How old do you think Kanu really is?
I think he’s about 68 this year! He’s been at Portsmouth forever, one of those players you can call upon in times of need. He’s been with us for around six or seven seasons now – he’s just always there and, when we lose our strikers, Kanu will come in and score a dodgy header in the 89th minute to get a draw!
Prior to the busy schedule of being in a band, how often were you able to go the game?
When I lived in Portsmouth, I used to go to most home games. I used to sit in the Fratton End with a couple of mates from school. It was quite a shabby affair – when I used to go, there was no roof over the away supporters so the away fans used to get caught in rain and horrible winds coming in from the coast! You know the guy who rings the bell, Johnny Westwood? He wears a massive Portsmouth hat. We used to sit about four rows in front of him.
Could you name the first match, the best match and the worst match you ever went to?
The best match by an absolute mile was when we absolutely stuffed Southampton 4-1 at Fratton Park. I think Lomana LuaLua scored two and, after the second, he went off and did a back flip, injured himself when he landed and had to get taken off about a minute later.
There was another amazing match from our first season in the Premier League – everyone had written us off completely and at Christmas time we bought this little chap from Argentina called Andrés D’Alessandro. We ended up winning four out of five games towards the end of the season. I went to Craven Cottage with my best mate and we saw D’Alessandro score the most amazing goal from the edge of the box – he just turned on it, without a run up, without even seeing the goal, and put it straight over the ‘keeper into the top left-hand corner. That was the start of the revival that kept us in the Premier League. We drew with Wigan on the last day of the season to keep ourselves up.
The worst game I’ve ever been to, apart from any of the games when we were relegated, was when I travelled all the way to Goodison Park from Portsmouth in 2007. The trains were a complete mess. Me and a couple of mates spent tons of money getting up to Goodison Park for the second last game of the season. We had to beat Everton to make sure we had a chance of getting into the UEFA Cup. The away stand at Goodison Park is sh*t and my ticket was behind one of the pillars so I couldn’t see anything, and we were right next to the Everton fans, and we got stuffed 3-0. Then we had to get this scabby bus back to the train station and then get the train back to Portsmouth. I reckon it was around a sixteen-hour round trip that day and I don’t think we even touched the ball for ninety minutes.
The first game I went to was against QPR in 1994.
If you had to select a five-a-side team from all the Pompey players you’ve seen in your time as a fan who would you pick?
David James in goal. Best goalkeeper we’ve ever had. It really annoys me when people slag him off because he was amazing for us. I’ll put LuaLua up front, just because he’s hilarious. On the left side of midfield, I’m going to put Robert Prosinečki. He was the fattest guy – we used to see him at this Italian restaurant and he used to eat like five pizzas in one sitting, smoke like a train and drink loads of wine. But he was absolutely epic for us!
I’m going to put D’Alessandro on the right, so that’s my midfield covered. In defence, I’m going to have Linvoy Primus because he was amazing, a proper servant of Portsmouth Football Club, and Hermann Hreiðarsson as my second defender.
Ben, thank you.
The self-titled debut album by Ivyrise is out now on My Major Company. For more information, please visit discover.mymajorcompany.co.uk/ivyrise