Date: 3rd January 2008 at 9:24am
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It is not just us that John Utaka frustrates, he also frustrates Harry Redknapp, who, as he has told The News cannot work out why he is so erratic.

Most of us had been calling for him to be dropped for some time after seeing next to nothing from him for a good couple of months, but apart from starting on the bench in the Arsenal game he has retained his place.

He put in a decent shift against Reading and raced past Nicky Shorey – who was ill it must be said – to score our 2nd the other day, but Redknapp remains as mystified as us with the fella: ‘John can be a bit frustrating. I would be a liar if I said he wasn’t at times.

‘He’s a threat, he’s got pace to burn but he wouldn’t have run for the goal against Reading if I hadn’t stood a yard away from him, no danger.

‘He was going to stand there with the full-back up his backside waiting for the ball to come. He stood there and stood there.

‘About five minutes earlier I said to him “please John, please run behind the full-back” and in the end he did.

‘He needs to run into space and put balls in behind full-backs.

‘He lets full-backs mark him tight and then he doesn’t get the ball – well you won’t Johnny unless you run the other way sometimes.

‘He’s as quick as lightening, a sprinter almost – he’s got that pace, and that’s got to be used right’.

A theory that some have is that he has one eye on the African nations, but to have been so off form for as long as he has been he must have had both eyes on this…

I remain confident that once he adjusts fully to the English game, and learns that he has to pull his weight and put in a good shift too as we cannot afford passengers we will see the very best of him – this might not be until next season though, but we are a patient bunch, so we will give him that time.

One worry that I do have though appears to be Redknapp’s almost acceptance of allowing Utaka to retain his natural game, and get away with it: ‘you’ve got to be careful. The more you try to tell him and help him sometimes the worst things it can get.

‘He plays off the cuff really, that’s how he is.

‘I think the more you try to coach him and work with him you could end up not helping him in the long term’.

Within reason we cannot change too much of his game, but he cannot be allowed to keep wondering aimlessly, almost disinterested around the pitch waiting for something to happen he does have to want to be interested and must play as part of the team. We would not, and did not put up with this from Lomana Lua Lua – nor would Redknapp – so this cannot be accepted from anyone else.

PLAY UP POMPEY!

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