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West Ham Utd v Portsmouth: match preview


Filed: Tuesday, 22nd December 2009
By: Preview Percy


Preview Percy is still struggling with his rasping cough. However, we told him Santa wouldn't come to his house unless he wrote a few words about Saturday's match against Portsmouth......

Next up we have a Boxing Day 1pm kick-off at home to Portsmouth.

There are a number of parallels between ourselves and the visitors. We’re both struggling at the wrong end of the table and we’ve both suffered from ownership/financial issues in recent times. In fact their finances are arguably worse than ours. Players were paid late at the beginning of the month and that was only following the club’s securing of an emergency loan at the last minute. They also owe shedloads in transfer fees to other clubs - so much so that the Premier League paid their last chunk of TV money direct to Watford and Arsenal in settlement of monies due. It was also rumoured that the transfer of Jermain Defoe back to Spurs owed much to the fact that Pompey hadn’t quite got round to paying Spurs for the player in the first place. Add to that the fact that they still apparently owe Chelsea for Glen Johnson and you can see the reasoning behind the transfer embargo currently imposed by the authorities.

The current owner is Ali Al-Farai who took over in October, a mere three months after Sulemain Al-Fahim had taken over. Al-Fahim suddenly found himself unable to pay the wages and Al-Farai stepped in, buying 90% of Al-Fahim’s shares in the process. Al-Farai has promised refinancing by the end of the month, which, he claims, will enable the authorities to lift the transfer embargo. Fans remain understandably sceptical however.

They have picked up seven points from their last six games. Their two wins in that period both came at home. A 2-0 win over Burnely at the start of the month was followed last weekend with another 2-0 win over as woeful a Liverpool side as you are ever likely to see. Their other point in that period came courtesy of a 93rd minute equaliser at the Stadium of Light, whilst the other three matches saw away defeats at Blackburn & Stoke, whilst a Wayne Rooney hat-trick contributed to a home 4-1 defeat to Man Utd.

Their first-choice ‘keeper is, of course, ex-Hammer David James. James has been missing with a calf injury sustained during the warm-up at Stoke. His place has been taken in recent weeks by Bosnian/Canadian Asmir Begovic. Begovic earned call-ups to the full Canadian squad without getting any playing time. He has subsequently played a World Cup qualifier for Bosnia-Herzegovina, which was the bit of what used to be Yugoslavia in which he was born. The couple of minutes of stoppage time he got in a match against Estonia was presumably enough to preclude his going back to play for Canada. James is said to be close to a return, though if it does turn out to be a week too early for him Begovic will continue.

Against Liverpool they went with a back five of Hreidarsson, Kaboul, Finnan, Belhadj and Ben-Haim. Ben-Haim should be available despite the attempted vasectomy perpetrated on him by Mascherano last weekend which, despite Benitez’s pathetic “the referee was perfect” attempt at sarcasm, was fully deserving of the red card that it got.

The midfield section of the squad includes another ex-Hammer in the form of Hayden Mullins. Mullins was a member of the squad that got promotion in 2005 and reached the Cup Final in 2006, though he missed the final thanks to a sending-off in the league match against Liverpool a few weeks earlier. Mullins left the Boleyn in last January’s window for an “undisclosed” fee, which may or may not have been paid by Pompey. In recent matches Mullins has started from the bench, most recently replacing Kevin-Prince Boateng in last weekend’s victory over the Scousers.

Up front last week they went with French striker Frederic Piquionne, whose finish for Pompey’s second was nearly as good as Belhadj’s had been for their first. Alternative options up front include the on-loan Aruna Dindane, whose season has been notable for a number of misses followed by a hat-trick against Wigan. Such is Portsmouth’s plight it took a special agreement with Lens, Dindane’s parent club, to enable him to play in the Burnley and subsequent matches, there being a clause in the original loan agreement that required Pompey to sign the player permanently once he’d played 12 or more games. Third-party influence in team selection I believe that’s called.

Other attacking options include ex-Watford striker Tommy Smith who arrived on a four-year deal in the August window. He’s only made 7 appearances this season, however and hasn’t featured at all in the 17 in recent weeks. I couldn’t find any mention of him in the usual injury list websites and one can only assume that he fell out of favour with ex-boss Paul Hart and has yet to impress new boss Avram Grant. The other striker we are likely to see is Nwankwo Kanu who has made the bulk of his appearances from the bench this season.

Moving swiftly on to us, last weekend was a pleasant surprise. The performance which, lest we forget, could have ended up in victory but for the usual scandalous performance from the disgraceful Mike Dean, left most of us scratching our heads. How could a team look so bereft of ideas and guts one week and so full of determination and spirit the next? It’s amazing what the spectre of being bottom at Christmas can do to you I suppose.

Of course no performance, good or bad, is complete these days without someone picking up a knock and Gabbidon’s hamstring will probably keep him out for a few weeks at least. Thankfully Tomkins’ confidence will have taken a boost from his fine performance against Chelsea so look to him to continue alongside Upson.

Up front we’ve obviously missed Cole and I’ve ben far from convinced that Franco is suited to playing as a lone striker. However, possibly because both Collison and Diamanti got forward to support him more than we’ve seen in recent weeks, he had a good 90minutes in the role last weekend, though he did get caught offside a few more times than I’d have liked. Assuming – and with us it’s always a big assumption – that there have been no further injury mishaps since Sunday, I’d therefore expect us to start with the eleven that finished against Chelsea, though we must be getting close to a return for Behrami in a week or two.

Prediction? Well they must have been the proverbial “over the moon” after their win last weekend. They must have been convinced that they would be off the bottom by Sunday evening so our point will have had at least a minor deflating effect on them. We can take heart from the nature of the performance against Chelsea and, if we can replicate that spirit this weekend, I can see us taking the points. Last season’s 4-1 win at Fratton Park effectively kick-started our season and, whilst a victory by such a margin would be nice, I reckon a more modest win is a bit more realistic this time round. I’ll plump therefore for a 2-1 win to help the turkey sandwiches go down a bit more easily.

Enjoy the game and have a safe & happy Christmas!

Last season: 0-0 – Awful match, the result of which was guaranteed by the visit of Maltese Hammer!

Referee: Lee Probert – last seen in the 3-2 away defeat at West Brom in which he gave them a penalty despite Rob Green clearly winning the ball. Still, at least it’s not Mike Dean.

Danger Man: Kanu – although he starts mostly from the bench these days he is still capable of something different.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







Your Comments


by Stelios J
08:50AM 24th Dec 2009
''A fabulous article, Percy. You've clearly been on the 'Night Nurse'. Ooo er..! COYI, Let's stick it up Pompey!''

by matt
11:55PM 22nd Dec 2009
''A couple of things; its ali al Faraj not Farai, Al Fahim only owned the club for 6 weeks not 3 months and in the game against Liverpool, Belhadj played left mid in a 4-5-1 not in a back 5, oh and Mullins came on in the 90th minute against them to replace Boateng so it was no more than a time eating sub :P Not that i'm being picky or anything, lol.

But either way hopefully it'll be a good game and I reckon we can get a draw cause I don't see either team having the ability to score more than 1, but really it'll depend on who's got the worse defence on the day!''

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