This Saturday sees Fratton Park welcome back numerous familiar faces as Portsmouth look to build on their first win of the season with the visit of Tottenham and a certain Harry Redknapp. Yesterday described as the club’s best ever manager – by himself nonetheless – the former Blues boss brings with him a host of former Pompey stars who may also face a frosty welcome.
All the talk in the build up to the match has surrounded Redknapp, and the media-friendly Londoner has done little to take himself out of the spotlight. From claiming to be the club’s best manager, to blaming former owner Sacha Gaydamak for the club’s recent downfall, Redknapp has been quick to clear himself of any blame for Pompey’s predicament while barely stopping short of calling his departure a favour to Portsmouth. Whether the £5m Pompey received from Spurs for the services of Redknapp went as far as saving the club is unknown but his constant boasting and self-righteousness has left many Pompey fans with that unsavoury and familiar sour taste in their mouths. Not one Pompey fan will dissent the fantastic work Redknapp did for their club but his referring to some Pompey fans as “idiots” whilst quickly boasting his achievements leaves him as distant from their hearts as ever. Redknapp will be forever remembered as one of Pompey’s most successful managers but his talking off the pitch, along with his baffling concept of loyalty, leaves him far behind in the most likeable stakes. Indeed, it must be said many Pompey fans still hold the former boss in high regard, and while we can only speculate as to Redknapp’s reasoning in leaving, and whether to believe his many claims, it is only fair to say the Fratton Park faithful will always thank him for the work he did.
A few interesting developments did come from Redknapp’s numerous interviews this week – apart from his own great ability – as he delved deep into Gaydamak’s motives and consequent failings with the club. Redknapp said of Gaydamak’s apparent lack of interest in the football side of the club and nibbled at the possibility of Gaydamak’s motives being plainly making money. Indeed, Redknapp made a rather good point when asking why the owner wasn’t there to witness games at Old Trafford, Anfield or even the club’s first ever foray into Europe. Redknapp went on to say how Gaydamak always “wanted me out” and that it was only because of the success he had that he stayed as long as he did. It’s all a little unsettling for any Pompey fan knowing the soap opera that seemed to be happening throughout the last year behind closed doors and quite who or what left Pompey in the mess they found (find) themselves in is still up for debate.
However, it is not just Redknapp who will be back on his old stomping ground on Saturday. Jermain Defoe, Niko Kranjcar and Peter Crouch will all feature once more on the Fratton turf and while Crouch and Kranjcar can expect decent receptions, Defoe is a different story. The former West Ham striker went sick before securing his sought-after move in January, and his ruthless departure has seen him gain hate status at Pompey. However, the death threats issued to Defoe while his protracted transfer was ongoing were sickening and inexcusable, and the Fratton faithful will have to keep any unwelcoming gestures or chants tasteful. Defoe’s reasoning behind leaving Fratton Park was in the main down to him being dropped for trips to Liverpool and Arsenal while Tony Adams was in charge, as he wanted to play five across the middle in an attempt to curb the flow of their superior opponents. Few could argue with the logic, but Defoe didn’t take kindly to the situation and quickly sought refuge with his former mentor. But while Defoe awaits his difficult reception, Kranjcar and Crouch are still looked upon fondly on the south coast as their situations were firmly as victims of the Pompey fire-sale and they showed decent loyalty to the club. The fact Kranjcar has been replaced by former Tottenham midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng is just another in the long line of links between the sides – one which Pompey will feel they got the better deal from the way Boateng has started life on the south coast.
Paul Hart is likely to start with the same side that won at Wolves last time out, minus the on-loan Spurs man Jamie O’Hara who is ineligible and is expected be replaced by Aaron Mokoena. Mokoena will be key to Pompey’s aspirations on Saturday as the man to break down Tottenham’s fluid style of play and protect his back four. However, all eyes will be on the returning Redknapp, who this week claimed: “I love Portsmouth – and I always will”. Come Saturday, we will see whether the feeling is mutual.
Portsmouth Club Focus
New-look Pompey fail to stop rot – September 15
Put your money where your mouth is – September 18
From bad, to worse, to downright horrendous – September 22
Wham, bam, thanks Dindane – September 25
Groundhog Day – September 29
Cirque du Pompey – October 2
The tide turns – October 6
Friends Reunited – October 16