Speaking in his weekly Observer column, David James announced today that he had never asked to leave Portsmouth, despite newspaper reports suggesting otherwise.
According to previous reports, the England international was said to be unhappy with the club’s chaotic situation, yearning for a move to link-up with former manager Harry Redknapp, at Tottenham.
James was mysteriously left out of Portsmouth’s squad against Manchester City, fuelling the fire to suggest he had refused to play and was close to completing a move to Spurs.
However, Pompey stated officially that James had yet to recover from a knee injury, later confirmed when James was left out of Capello’s most recent England squad.
When manager Paul Hart was asked if the Blues could keep hold of James, the former defender remained unsure.
And so it came to the final day of the transfer window. The 39-year-old’s movements were monitored throughout the day by Sky Sports News. James described it as a ‘bizarre experience’.
James had arrived at Portsmouth’s Eastleigh training ground for some treatment on his knee. Sky Sports News on the other hand, saw it as James trying to negotiate his release.
Drama occurred when the ‘keeper was seen leaving the ground; with the media speculating it had been his ‘final exit.’ In James’ words, “Actually, I was just going to collect my son from the train station – I’d even worn my training kit to make it clear I wasn’t leaving for good.”
Many fans were left in the dark over the non-transfer-saga, including the player himself at one point:
“Had there been offers from other clubs…there was nothing of the sort. I kept thinking: “Is there something going on I don’t know about?”
James described the transfer window as in ‘intense’ one, as for once; he knew many of the players who were leaving right until the last minute. Two of those would have been Pompey players. Niko Kranjcar secured a £2.5m move to rivals Tottenham, while David Nugent secured a six-month-loan deal at Burnley.
With the transfer window now closed, James sees it as a welcome relief and a chance to now get on with the rest of the season. Despite the pundits putting Portsmouth down as relegation certainties, James thinks the club can defy the odds set against them.
He said: “I know a lot of people are expecting us to struggle and I’ve heard the pundits say that it is a foregone conclusion that we will be relegated. But I remember the same things being said the year I joined Portsmouth. It all feels a bit like starting over.”
In what best can be described, James wants the club and its fans to go back to reality. The reality being, Portsmouth have avoided relegation twice in the past four seasons.
The ‘keeper believes the fans and the players have gotten use to thinking Portsmouth as a success story, FA Cup winners, healthy league finishes, a European tour etc. A little less pessimism and a little more realism is required.
When asked about last season’s antics, James described it as ‘pretty scary’, suggesting the turnover of managers was one of the main reasons why.
He said: “The turnover of managers didn’t help, losing Harry Redknapp so publicly and then appointing and dismissing Tony Adams before Paul Hart came in at the last gasp. We had too many campaigns on the go – Europe, defending the FA Cup, plus the League Cup and the league – and we didn’t have a big enough squad to cope with it.”
In what could be seen as a battle-cry, James believes relegation is not a foregone conclusion, with 34 fixtures still left to go. Pompey cannot however, ‘waste any more points’, starting against Bolton on Saturday.
James said: “Apart from the 4-1 defeat away to Arsenal, we’ve played three other league games and lost them all 1-0. We have a lot of potential. The players coming in have a good level of enthusiasm because they have a real opportunity here.
“I can relate to that. When I first signed, it was seen as a bad career move, but Portsmouth has been great for me. The players joining us who have never played Premier League football before will be absolutely buzzing. This is their chance to show why they should be here.”
In what will be encouraging news to Portsmouth fans, James seems to be prepared for the battle ahead, even claiming to be excited about the challenge.
He said: “I have to say, I am genuinely excited about the challenge ahead. Of course, I’m not doing cartwheels about the situation the club finds itself in, but I do feel positive about the contributions the existing players can make.
“We have a new owner and have a manager – it’s a solid foundation from which we can crack on and get back to being good again.
“This is veritable Pompey territory: it’s time to start scrapping.”
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