Sulaiman Al Fahim announced himself as Portsmouth’s saviour when he claimed to be on the brink of a takeover which many Pompey fans believed would signal the start of some major spending and rebuilding. However, almost four months on since that fateful day in May and Fahim has yet to live up to his early promise and fans are getting restless. The latest twist in this never-ending saga has seen Fahim claim to have secured a deal ‘in principle’ with a party in America which will see invaluable money pumped into the club.
Good news for Pompey then? Well, there were very few cheers down on the South Coast in reaction to this ‘great’ news. After a summer of confusion and at times utter despair, in which the on/off takeover became a total farce – even now there are rumours the deal still isn’t fully finalised – fans will take news like this with a pinch of salt. Whether, these funds will become available who knows? In fact, even Chief Executive Peter Storrie seems to know very little about the whole deal, or anything else since Fahim became involved. The deal itself is believed to be related to the running of the club, a remark that stinks of administration still being an issue at Fratton Park. In some ways this is a very worrying situation, with Fahim having to rely on outside sources to keep the club afloat, although quite how much help he is getting remains confidential. The mega-bucks Arab seems to be struggling to get his hands on any of his own money at present, with a great deal of it believed to be tied up in his assets.
If this mystery investment does indeed come to fruition, then Fahim will finally have come good on one of his many promises. But for now, the Pompey supremo has said nothing since his takeover was supposedly completed and while that remains the case, fans will remain sceptical on the his plans and promises.
Back to matters on the pitch and Pompey face a tough trip to Aston Villa this weekend. Last Saturday’s defeat to Bolton was a major blow for Paul Hart and his men, although there were positives to take from the game. Jamie O’Hara looks an excellent acquisition while, in Kevin-Prince Boateng, the club finally has a midfielder who is willing to take part in the attacking moves and hopefully net some vital goals. Tal Ben-Haim will no doubt improve on his last outing after a week of training with his new teammates now under his belt and a better understanding with his centre-back partner Younes Kaboul. Fitness doubts still surround full-backs Herman Hreidarsson and Steve Finnan, and with both players distinctly better defensively than the two current occupants of the full-back slots, Hart will be praying his experienced duo get back to fitness quickly. Villa will come too soon for both however and, with wingers like Ashley Young and James Milner to contend with, the as-yet unconvincing duo of Nadir Belhadj and Anthony Vanden Borre could be key to Pompey’s hopes.
The coming month is undoubtedly Hart’s most important and defining of his short career in the Pompey hotseat. The trip to Villa Park represents a tough task on paper but the Villans have been short of any real form – albeit after three consecutive wins – and their home form is inconsistent at best. Indeed, Wigan – a team widely regarded to struggle this term – returned home with all three points last month which will give Pompey fans great hope as they make their 150 mile trip to the Midlands. However, Pompey is yet to win away from home under Hart so a draw would be deemed an excellent return with more winnable games on the horizon.
Second -bottom Everton visit Fratton Park next, and although the Toffees’ form will surely improve, they are a beatable opposition until they find their feet. The upcoming crunch tie for Hart will be that of a trip to the Molineux at the start of October for a six-pointer with Mick McCarthy’s Wolves. If, at the end of that game, Pompey still has no points, alarm bells will well and truly start ringing and Hart’s position will find itself under threat for the first time. Anything against Villa will be a bonus, but with Hart now stamping his authority on this Blues team, results need to start coming – and fast.