Saturday sees Portsmouth travel to Lancashire as they face bottom of the table Preston at Deepdale. Both sides are yet to record a win in the league yet, so they’ll be desperate to break that mould as soon as possible.
And for one Pompey player, it’ll mark a return to his former club where he enjoyed the best form of his career – although he returns a very different player. David Nugent has endured a torrid time since his arrival at Fratton Park three years ago – indeed the manager that brought him to the club, Harry Redknapp, scuppered Nugent’s chances on the south coast before they’d even begun by claiming he would be prepared to sell the forward, barely weeks after signing him for £6m. That turn of events came in the aftermath of a Carling Cup game in 2007, and his manager’s lack of faith in him seemed to have drained Nugent’s confidence to an almost irreparable level. The Liverpudlian found himself a bit-part player, as the club went on to achieve FA Cup success and an eighth place Premier League finish. Nugent was a second half substitute in the FA Cup final against Cardiff but Redknapp lay no confidence at his door, instead fancying the on-loan Milan Baros, or the classy, but altogether immobile Kanu.
This all despite splashing out £6m on the player just months before. It really was a strange situation, one that has seen Nugent’s Pompey career never really lift off. It took him 18 months to score his first Premier League goal – which ironically came against Redknapp’s Tottenham – as Tony Adams gave him a fresh start at the club. Despite scoring against Fulham and Liverpool in the ensuing weeks, his season fizzled out and was subsequently loaned out to top-flight new-boys Burnley last term. Again he showed signs of promise – a stunning brace against Sunderland on his home debut the highlight – but six goals was a poor return. So here we are, and here we watch a player a million miles from where he was prior to his Fratton Park move. He seemed to be only on the up after scoring on his England debut, subsequent to two years of impressing in the U21 side and with a host of Premier League outfits chasing his signature. But instead, a twist of fate has seen Pompey fans offered a shadow of the player they thought they had signed three years previously. It leaves Nugent hoping that the oldest curse in football can strike on his behalf as he bids to get off the mark for the season against his former employers.
Another whose Fratton Park career has largely flattered to deceive, left the club this week with Kevin-Prince Boateng securing a move to Genoa – although he has been immediately loaned out to Italian giants AC Milan. Boateng will be best remembered for his Wembley spot-kicks – one he scored in the semi-final win over Spurs, while the other he missed in the final, costing the Blues their best chance at toppling Chelsea. The Ghanaian is without doubt a talented operator – his skill, aggression and power makes him really stand out from the crowd – but he has numerous faults. His attitude certainly needs improvement for one. Following the 5-0 demolition at the hands of Manchester United in February, Boateng, who had hobble doff injured during the match leaving the side a man down, subsequently went on hiatus in Germany while sticking the boot into Pompey’s medical team. Many fans believe he bulked at the relegation battle the club found themselves in before returning for the two Wembley showpieces.
But he now joins the long list of quality players to leave the stricken club. He, like so many others, are the past, with the current crop a less talented but more committed bunch. Many, like Marc Wilson, Michael Brown, Richard Hughes, Tommy Smith and Hermann Hreidarsson have rode the rough times and stuck with the club despite the off-field shenanigans. These are the players Steve Cotterill will look to build the club’s immediate future around.