And so it is that Pompey will make the short trip up the M27 on February or, quite possibly, February 14, for their first meeting in five seasons, and a place in the last eight of the Cup at stake. Inevitably, it didn’t take long on websites such as Fansonline for some on either side to start talking of a St Valentine’s Day Massacre.
The game, made possible through the respective teams’ fourth-round wins over Sunderland and Ipswich, comes at what you might call an intriguing time for the south-coast rivals.
Any game between them in the past three or four years, before this season, would have seen Southampton enter into it with little hope of a positive result. Since Saints exited the Premier League in May 2005, Pompey have spent much of the time in the top half of the top flight, while also enjoying a little European experience and, of course, their FA Cup victory of 2008.
But with Pompey suffering such a dismal season and Southampton taking the first tentative steps towards recovering from the ills they have suffered themselves by stringing a few results together against the likes of Exeter and Colchester, the home side will now fancy their chances a little.
Their form in League One has been reasonable and their win over Championship side Ipswich was pretty impressive in its own way. So expect a fair bit of crowing from the red and white section of Hampshire over the next few weeks.
But strip away all the side issues and Pompey will still go into the game as favourites.
They have shown in cup meetings with Hereford, Carlisle and Coventry that, struggling in the Premier League they may be, but a struggling Premier League club is still, in most cases, going to be too strong for a team from a lower division.
What we don’t know is what Pompey’s squad will look like by then. There’s a week and a bit of the transfer window left and the Blues may yet lose more men in that time than they gain. But some reports are now suggesting an agreement has been reached with Udinese over the payment of money owed for Sulley Muntari, which would mean the Premier League lifting the transfer embargo, unless they were to find another bit of small print which allowed them to keep it in place.
The next question, then, will be: Can Pompey afford to buy anyone? But if it’s the case that we can buy if we sell, then at least as we go into another big month of the season, the month that will contain what many fans will see as the biggest game of the lot, we will have a squad no weaker than it is at the moment.
A meeting with Southampton, a team against whom we’re due a victory in the FA Cup – anyone who was around for the ties in 1984, 1996 and 2005 will testify to that – will add new life into a campaign that many fans are giving up on or even turning their back on. Watch the clamour for tickets for the away end and then try to argue Pompey fans don’t to watch Pompey any more.
And, when all is said and done, Pompey have been paired with the lowest-placed team in the competition. It would be OTT to say Avram Grant’s team have one foot in the sixth round, but they certainly have a great chance of reaching it.
Add in a splash of TV money and what’s there not to celebrate? It’s just a shame there’s a couple of minor matches against the likes of Man City and Man Utd to get out of the way first.