"Gary O’Neil – surely one of the most underrated players in the Premiership alongside Matt Taylor"
Hopes and Fears
After a good season, Harry Redknapp continued to build on his squad and now looks good enough to challenge for that sixth spot that, on paper, looks to be the only real possibility for teams outside the big spending quintet of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.
In Sylvain Distin they have signed one of the best defenders in the Premiership and someone who will ensure that Portsmouth retain their defensive solidity whilst Sulley Muntari is a good player, albeit one who has to calm down or risk missing plenty of games through suspension. Up front, apart from Nugent, Redknapp has brought in John Utaka who never really got his break in France despite playing excellently for a number of years with Lens.
This year’s squad is stronger than last year with Redknapp having a number of options for practically every position. As they showed in pre-season in Asia against Liverpool, they are more than willing to defend – occasionally ruthlessly – when faced by a stronger team. But in reality, this team is built to attack and if Gary O’Neil – surely one of the most underrated players in the Premiership alongside Matt Taylor – can continue to develop Portsmouth will keep on surprising a lot of people.
It is strange that, whilst more than happy to spend millions of players that might have done well elsewhere, so few club were willing to meet Preston North End’s £6 million valuation for David Nugent. The striker – who has already played and scored for England – has been the Championships most consistent goalscorer for the past three season and with an excellent record for the national youth sides, there is little risk that he will fail to adapt to the Premiership.
Something to Prove
Having risen to prominence as one of the most promising players at the last World Cup, big things were expected of Nico Kranjcar but the Croat midfielder failed to deliver in his debut season in England. Still, the talent is there and if he can build on last year’s experience there’s still time for him to develop into one of the Premiership’s finest midfielders.
One to Watch
Having rejected the offer of a new contract at Southampton, versatile young defender Martin Cranie made the short trip to Portsmouth where he will be re-united with his former boss. Highly thought of, Cranie spent most of last season on loan at Yeovil where he did exceptionally well. The jump to the Premiership, however, is a big one to make yet given the quality of defenders at Portsmouth he has every opportunity to learn and keep on developing.