Club Focus – Portsmouth – New owner, now time for new faces

Balram Chanrai’s takeover of Portsmouth Football Club is good news for everyone involved. There’ll be debates about his motives, but the self-proclaimed ‘accidental owner’ has spoke encouragingly about ambitions for stability at the club, and if he has aspirations of looking up the league ladder rather than down, then he will have to dip into his pocket a few times over the next few weeks.

This current Pompey team has genuine quality in areas, coupled with an indisputable dearth of ability in others. But for all the positives and negatives, this side will be in for a miserable season if reinforcements are not brought in. Make no mistake – relegation is a possibility at this moment. Just look at Saturday’s draw with Reading at Fratton Park. For what its worth, the visitors undeniably deserved their share of the spoils, but Steve Cotterill’s assessment that if it was simply XI vs. XI, i.e. no substitutions – his side would most likely have won the game. For while Reading were able to call upon the services of Grzegorz Rasiak and Noel Hunt from the bench, Pompey had four youth players sat in the dugout, with first tram appearances barely into double figures between them. Joel Ward (20), a defender by trade, was forced to play in an unfamiliar central midfield position for a large part of the game, after John Utaka was forced off early on.

Additionally, Cotterill’s troops visibly tired in the final 20 minutes of the game, but the lack of any fresh legs meant they had to wearily trudge on in the hope they could hang on to their slender win. It all leaves Cotterill with an interesting few weeks ahead. No doubt his first exchanges with new owner Chanrai will revolve around new signings and just how much the Hong Kong based businessman is prepared to shell out. Former players Kanu, Ricardo Rocha and Anthony Vanden Borre appear to be on the verge of rejoining – the latter on loan, the other two on free transfers. They would join Ibrahima Sonko and Carl Dickinson who have both arrived from Stoke in the last week or so, but who have yet to impress. Dickinson had a torrid time against Jimmy Kebe on Saturday, as the Malian’s pace and trickery proved far too much for the 23-year-old. It would be unfair to judge him at this early stage, and he will undoubtedly improve with more game time under his belt, but his debut was one to forget.

Meanwhile, reports suggest Tommy Smith, who didn’t feature against Reading, is set to stay at Fratton Park. Cotterill insisted the former Watford striker was simply carrying a knock from the Coventry game, which curtailed his involvement this weekend. Smith, although yet to set the world alight at on the south coast, could be a real asset for Cotterill this season, as Saturday’s game only furthered the point of how lacking Pompey currently are in the final third, but Smith has quality in that area of the pitch. Perhaps more at home in the second tier, Smith could form an envious partnership with David Nugent if, or when both hit form. Nugent is still a shadow of what he could, and should be. Brought for £6m three years ago, the former Preston man has never been given a proper chance since his arrival. Farmed out on-loan last season, his Fratton Park career looked over, but now, he has a chance to start a fresh, in his favoured position.

However, watching Nugent in his first three games this season, there’s no doubt he’s a player shot of any confidence. His finishing is wayward and his all round play looks rusty. Pompey fans will hope it’s just a case of getting one, and the rest will follow, but he will need help from a massively uncreative midfield. Nugent’s movement is excellent, no argument, but without the required service, his runs often go unnoticed, or the ball through is far from good enough. For now though, he’ll be begging for a simple tap-in, or one to just go in off him in order to get him off the mark, as he could potentially fire this side to play-off territory, or keep them floating above the drop-zone – depending on what the transfer activity this month.

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