Tuesday 12 December 2017

Portsmouth bring down final curtain as players face uncertain futures

Mark Fleming

MOST of Portsmouth’s beaten FA Cup finalists have played their last game for the bankrupt club, who are to sell as many players as possible to alleviate debts of £138m. Portsmouth managed to hold Chelsea for almost an hour on Saturday but the reward for the players will be a move to a new club, one that will pay their wages on time.

The Portsmouth manager, Avram Grant, is all set to be unveiled as the new manager of West Ham United, in a deal brokered by his close friend Pini Zahavi. The futures of the players, however, are far less certain and they left Wembley unsure where their next game would be coming from.

The veteran defender Steve Finnan said: “Some of them are off to the World Cup but a lot of players don’t know where their futures lie. It’s difficult for the younger lads. It doesn’t matter so much for the likes of myself. I’m 34 now but a lot of players will have to sort their futures out as soon as possible. I don’t think I’ll be at Portsmouth next season. We all said: ‘See you whenever’, really. There’s going to be a lot of players going.”

Finnan is one of three players from Portsmouth’s starting XI at Wembley who are out of contract this summer, along with the goalkeeper David James and defender Ricardo Rocha. Of the others, three will return to their parent clubs after their loan deals expired – Jamie O’Hara to Tottenham Hotspur, Aruna Dindae to Lens and Frederic Piquionne to Lyons.

James said: “For us at Portsmouth, it’s a funny feeling we have now. Win or lose, we were always going to have to come back to reality. The club will be in the Championship next season, and in all likelihood the squad then will bear scant resemblance to the squad we have now, which in itself is quite a sobering thought.”

Of the five players left, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Hayden Mullins and Aaron Mokoena have two years remaining on their deals, while Michael Brown and Papa Bouba Diop have one. The club’s administrator, Andrew Andronikou, would love to receive offers for them. Brown said: “I am not sure how many will be left next season, maybe four or five. It’s the million-dollar question. Nobody will know what happens with the administration. It’s a strange feeling as we have lost and so are disappointed and we are also saying goodbye to people maybe for the last time.”

O’Hara returns to Tottenham believing he deserves a place in the first team. The 23-year-old, who played at Wembley despite two stress fractures in his lower back, said: “They have some fantastic players at Spurs, but I will go back there and see what happens. It is up to the manager whether he wants to keep me. No one likes to sit on the bench. I have proven that I can play in the Premier League by what I have achieved this season.”

There was also news about the future of O’Hara’s Spurs team-mate Ledley King yesterday, the England centre-back signing a new two-year deal.

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