Portsmouth’s players search for a Hollywood ending

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The haves versus the have-nots, David versus Goliath, the little team overcoming the big boys. It is one of sport’s eternal, clichéd storylines. It occurs so frequently on the silver screen, but not often does it happen within the Premier League.

Portsmouth, little, broken, scrapping, fearing for their lives, fight on.

They were 2-1 down in the 88th minute at home to Hull on Saturday, yet turned it around to win 3-2. It couldn’t have been a more thrilling tale if it had been Samuel L Jackson scoring the winning goal instead of Kanu.

Avram Grant – Marlon Brando in The Godfather? – has overseen his team with a steely determination and quiet dignity ever since taking over in November. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

The off-field mismanagement and irresponsibility has deservedly placed the club in its mounting problems – the latest of which came with a £1million fine from the Premier League yesterday – but you can’t blame Grant and his players for that. They’ve gone about their business admirably, are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and without their nine-point penalty would be just five points off safety in the league.

This is a club with massive problems, as if that weren’t already apparent enough.

Aruna Dindane won’t be selected tonight. It’s nothing to do with his performances – he is Portsmouth’s second-highest scorer this season with seven goals – but rather because one more appearance would trigger a clause in his loan contract requiring Pompey to pay his parent club Lens £4million. Dindane is good, but he’s not worth any further damage to the club.

A super-rich Russian oil baron will be in town tonight, but far from representing the villain in a James Bond-style story, he’s bringing his Chelsea side to Fratton Park.

Roman Abramovich isn’t a happy man. Money can buy you many things, but not it seems a Champions League title, as the Blues failed in Europe for the seventh time in his seven seasons at the club with defeat to Inter Milan last week. Then they lost ground in the Premier League race too.

Problems then, but miniscule ones compared to the kind faced at Portsmouth.

Chelsea will be overwhelming favourites when they visit the south coast tonight. A win is imperative if Carlo Ancelotti’s men are to keep touch with Manchester United and Arsenal at the league table’s summit, but those underdogs from Portsmouth can produce a pretty vicious bite.

Don’t confuse that with nastiness though, Pompey are still the good guys in this particular tale.

This week the players and staff all chipped in to save the jobs of five of the club’s training ground staff who were made redundant last month. One of them, 64-year-old ex-Royal Navy sailor Tug Wilson – perhaps played by Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses in the film – told the Daily Mail that: “You read a lot of bad things about footballers these days, but what's been happening here has been amazing.”

We could still have our dream, fairytale ending as Pompey beat Chelsea to lift the FA Cup at Wembley in May, but for now their rapid descent into Championship football will continue.

As the credits start to roll on their Premier League lives, Grant and his players deserve to take a bow.

Those in the directors’ chairs do not.



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