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Portsmouth v West Ham United Match Preview

Filed: Sunday, 24th January 2010
By: Preview Percy

The club may have new ownership but Preview Percy is still here. Sadly......

And so a new era commences with a trip down the A3 to Portsmouth for a 7:45pm kick-off this Tuesday evening.

There’s a large amount of “there but for the grace of God” about this one. Financially they are in similar schtuck to that which we found ourselves in. The good people of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs have their finger hovering over the switch to the life support machine, with a winding-up order due to be heard in the High Court early next month. Players are getting used to being paid late, an issue which may well cause the club even more problems given that standard contracts usually allow for players to give notice if they don’t get paid.

The Premier League have been using their TV money to pay off debts direct to other clubs, and, whether not the current transfer embargo gets lifted will depend upon their being able to persuade the authorities that Udinese have, despite earlier protestations to the contrary from the Italians, actually agreed a repayment schedule over the transfer of Sulley Muntari back in 2007. Just to add to the mix Sol Campbell decided that he wasn’t unpopular enough within football by commencing legal proceedings over unpaid bonuses and, hilariously, “image rights”. All in all it’s easy to see why wags have renamed Fratton “Boracic Park”.

They are, of course, bottom of the league having garnered 14 points from their 20 games thus far. Their last six league matches have brought them two wins (at home to travel-sick Burnley and a dreadful Liverpool) one draw, courtesy of a 93rd minute equaliser a Sunderland, and three defeats (home to Arsenal and away to ourselves and Chelsea). What with it having been a bit nippy of late, they have yet to play a league match this decade, their three excursions of 2010 having come in the FA Cup where they took two matches to overcome Coventry before coming from behind to beat Sunderland in front of 10,000 or so fed-up supporters in this weekend’s 4th round. They will be pleased with the draw for the next round where their share of the gate from what will be a sell-out at St Marys will pay a bill or two.

It appears that we will be unlikely to see former Hammer David James take up his position between the posts on Tuesday. The on-off talks between Pompey and Stoke over the ‘keeper’s immediate future are, at the time of writing, on, though, as ever, cash is something of a sticking point with both sides haggling over the amounts to be paid and the end-date for the contract. James will be on good wages on the south coast, or at least he would be if they were to pay him, so a departure will suit both sides, giving as it would Pompey a bit of financial respite and James the possibility of some first-team football in advance of the World Cup. Begovic will continue in goal as a result.

With the transfer window being closed to Pompey until the authorities can find the keys to the security locks, there have been no new arrivals of late. However the squad is beginning to look a little threadbare at the moment. They were only able to muster five subs for the Mackems’ visit at the weekend and both Michael Brown and Papa Bouba Diop picked up knocks at the weekend, though my deadline for this means that it’s a bit early to say whether they’ll be available for Tuesday. The main problem for boss Grant has been the African Cup of Nations which has rendered the likes of Belhadj, Dindane, Yebda and Kanu unavailable for selection. It never rains as they say.

Star man for them in the cup match was John Utaka who picked up a brace. Utaka has not always been first choice this season, with many of his appearances coming from the racing car seats. Another perennial bench-warmer has been former Hammer Haydn Mullins, who was one of the five in the dugout on Saturday.

French striker Frederic Picuionne has been starting up front of late. He showed some decent form against us in the Boxing Day fixture, though, by all accounts, he does blow hot and cold. He’s been at the head of a 4-3-2-1 formation in recent weeks with Utaka and Diop playing just behind.

Meanwhile for us things would appear to be looking up for once. After months of speculation the two Daves (shouldn’t that be Rodneys?) have finally taken over with the promise of a spot of much-needed stability on the financial side of things. First priority would appear to be a striker. Though the bid to lure Van Niestelroy to the Boleyn ultimately failed, as a statement of intent it took some beating. The stated aim was to bring in a striker prior to this game, though at the time of writing that seems to be a non-starter. I also find it unlikely that we’ll be able to rescue Robbie Keane from his “Spurs Hell” but it’s nice to be mentioned as a possibility.

We may see the return of a number of players from injury, with Ilunga, Gabbidon, Parker and, crucially, Cole all said to be nearing a comeback. Franco will be absent for another week or so and, if Carlton needs another few days of rehab, expect Nouble to have another start. The youngster started to show some promise up at Villa Park last week, though his composure in front of goal obviously needs a bit of work. Still, early days, as they say.

Predictions? Well they’ll be on a mini-high after the cup win, though by Tuesday their players will know whether or not they’ll need to be taking a closer interest in those Ocean Finance ads next weekend. Assuming that some, if not all of our players who are said to be close to a return, make an appearance I have a suspicion that we’ll be to strong for them once more, especially if the atmosphere is already on a downer. I shall therefore go for a 2-1 victory as the players seek to impress the new bosses who, let’s face it, do not have the air of people who will tolerate a lack of effort!

Enjoy the game!

Last Season: Won 4-1 A Craig Bellamy-inspired yuletide performance served to kick-start a season that saw us ultimately pushing for a European slot. Same again please.

Referee: Andre Marriner – did the Halloween match up at the Stadium of Light. Sent off two whilst Sunderland’s Cerna was allowed to get away with half a dozen awful challenges each of which could have merited a red card in its own right.

Danger Man: Utaka He will have his tail up after his goals on Saturday.

Look out for: Pompey Owner Ali Al Faraj – if you do see him there are a few Pompey fans who I am sure will reward you handsomely for the information!

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.

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