It’s finally here. In less than five hours Portsmouth will kick-off a new Premier League campaign against recently resurged Fulham FC.
Despite the state of confusion and despair arising from Fratton Park, over the summer break, I have failed to hear or meet one fan who is not looking forward to the new season.
The season will be challenging, but it should also prove to be entertaining. With Al Fahim’s takeover yet to be completed, we’ll perhaps see it completed midway through the season.
As fans we then have another transfer window to look forward to, with Al Fahim promising more funds made available for manager, Paul Hart.
If reports are to be believed, Al Fahim is set to receive a £100m bonus payment from Royal Group, the owners of Hydra Properties, at the end of this year. How much of this money will be invested in the club, remains to be seen.
Fans will want money to be invested straight away, with Pompey’s threadbare squad equalling that of 24, including three goalkeepers.
Despite the large number of players leaving the club in the summer, manager Paul Hart has done his best to recruit new players.
Of the four players coming in, both Frederic Piquionne and Aaron Mokoena are expected to make their full debut this afternoon for Portsmouth.
Defender Steve Finnan misses out against his former club, after suffering a hamstring injury on Portsmouth’s Portuguese tour. ‘Keeper Antii Niemi may have to remain satisfied with a place on the bench, as England no.1 David James, has recovered from a new minor shoulder injury in time to keep goal.
New signing Anthony Vanden Borre also misses out, due to his international clearance yet to have come through. CEO Peter Storrie stated they would be going to the FA regarding the issue, as the application had been in the Italian FA offices since Wednesday.
Fulham’s midfield maestro, Simon Davies will be unavailable for selection due to a foot injury. Defender Toni Kallio misses out due to an Achilles problem suffered during pre-season.
New signings Stephen Kelley and Bjorn Helge Riise have been included in the squad and both will be hoping to make their debut in this afternoon’s encounter.
For the first time in a Premier League encounter, Fulham are favourites to beat Portsmouth away from home. But to win they will have to break their curse, after failing to win the opening day encounter for the past five seasons, losing the last three.
Portsmouth on the other hand have only won two opening day encounters, during their time in the Premier League.
Manager Paul Hart will be hoping his players get off to a good start, as they face a difficult and uncertain season ahead.
Referee – Martin Atkinson
Assistant Referees – Phil Sharp – Darren Cann
Fourth Official – Andy Woolmer
Venue – Fratton Park – ‘Theatre of Miracles’
Kick-off – 1500 BST