Club Focus – Portsmouth – Blues set for pivotal week

After weeks of uncertainty, it looks as if we’re finally going to get some action on the transfer front – both inwards and outwards. It is on good authority that the transfer embargo will be lifted as soon as today or tomorrow, and with the help of a few big-name exits, Avram Grant will get his chance to dip into the January sales.

Mark Jacob gave a small outline of the coming week but stopped short of raising any kind of hope amongst fans. Words such as “could” and “hopefully” were on the agenda this week after his embarrassing statement last week came back to bite him. His now infamous: “This will be a great week for Portsmouth” quote this time last week has seen Jacob as the butt of much ridicule since, after the ensuing days just saw more turmoil as the club sank to its lowest depth so far. Jacob will certainly be choosing his words more wisely from now on, but his latest offerings are promising for club. He claims the club are renegotiating a deal with Udinese in regard to unpaid fees, which in turn would be the final piece of the jigsaw in lifting the transfer embargo. However, it is believed Younes Kaboul and Nadir Belhadj are set to be shipped out with the pair expected to bring in around £16-17m between them.

It will without doubt be a blow to the team losing two important players but the money is desperately needed to not only bring in a few new faces, but also secure the short-term future of the club. Kaboul’s exit will be a major disappointment to not only Grant, but the Fratton Park crowd, with the Frenchman’s attitude and commitment making him a firm terrace favourite. With protests continuing, Kaboul’s imminent exit will prove an unpopular decision, but if it means bringing a few loan deals or basement bargains, then it will surely serve the club well. Belhadj’s sale will be met with a mixed response after the Algerian’s rocky 18 months at the club. His first six months saw him establish himself not only in the team, but in the hearts of many Pompey fans, as his all-action, enthusiastic displays brought delight to Fratton Park goers. However, since then he has blown hot and cold, with his reckless and costly tackles overshadowing his flair and quality. He is a player who possesses many of the attributes that the Pompey squad is currently lacking, in that he is a pacey winger, but his inconsistent displays mean he will not be too big a loss and cashing in is probably the best option.

As for names coming in, Jamie O’Hara will almost certainly extend his loan spell at the club. The Tottenham man is essential to a midfield which lacks real quality, so Grant will be on the phone to Harry Redknapp in order to recapture the influential O’Hara. Rumours persist about another out-of-favour Spurs midfielder with Giovani Dos Santos lined up for a potential loan move, adding a different option to Pompey’s attack. The former Barcelona man is full of quality but his small stature and lack of experience means he represents something of a gamble for Grant, but long-shots are all he has at this moment in time. Grant will still be in the market for a proven hitman, but it looks as if he’ll be too late to capture preferred target Benni McCarthy who is interesting numerous Premier League sides – West Ham being the latest club to be linked with the South African.

As Jacob and co. continue their attempts to stabilise the club’s finances, he must be aware of the necessity in providing funds for Grant to replace his outgoing stars. If Pompey lose Kaboul and Mike Williamson this week, then they are desperately short at the back and are taking a huge gamble in hoping none of their first choice defenders pick up injuries for the remaining four months of the season. In addition, the loss of Belhadj would leave Pompey short in wide areas – something they are already lacking even with the Algerian in their ranks. It’s all well and good discussing Grant’s options and what he does and doesn’t need, but the fact is, what he needs is very different to what he can get. If Pompey do fetch £16m or £17m from the sales of Kaboul and Belhadj, Grant will only see a small percentage of it. The Israeli will have to use his huge range of contacts and call in a few favours for loan deals, or gamble on cheap options from abroad who have no Premier League experience.

Whatever happens this week, it will be vital to not only Pompey’s top-flight survival ambitions, but also to their long-term future. Tonight’s game with West Ham is a genuine six-pointer and would provide a great lift to what could be a “great week for Pompey.”

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