Date: 24th April 2008 at 11:24am
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…and Harry Redknapp insists that he will from here on in!

Redknapp has basically admitted that John Utaka will be starting the FA cup final whilst also warning clubs that he will be the real deal next season, telling The News: ‘It’s great to get John back in the team and playing again. He is important to us.

‘He’s come back from injury but we won’t be resting him. He needs to play some games before Wembley.

‘With him there we have the option of a 4-4-2 or a midfield five. He’s got pace, skill and he’s strong.

‘He’s been up and down to be honest. He started ever so well for the first few games, then went off the boil a bit. But he has still scored fantastic goals at Newcastle and Reading.

‘You’ve got to be a bit patient. It’s his first year here and he’s got to adjust. He’s been playing in France, it’s a different pace over there. He’s had to learn how to put a shift in working up and down that right flank but he’s getting there.

‘John will be here next year, without a doubt, and I’m sure he’ll produce what we know he’s capable of’.

I have been a big critic of Utaka, but in my defence – and other peoples – I do not think this has been unfair in all fairness? We have seen flashes of brilliance from the Nigerian, but the lazy and uninterested one is the fella we have seen most of all.

You can argue that he is predominantly a striker, and as such he wants to play this role, but he can and has played on the wing plenty of times – he did this regularly for Rennes and Nigeria also use him in this role. The role of a winger in this country is probably different to one that he is used to though.

Yep, it does take time to adapt to the premier league, and some do take longer than others but my own thinking is that Utaka’s failings have not been so much down to failing to adapt – as when he has wanted to he has looked the part – I just feel it has been lack of application. So if he applies himself we do have a star in the making, and hopefully we will see this next season – and for the remainder of this for that matter!

In all fairness to Utaka he was good against Wigan but then unfortunately picked up and injury in that game and missed the semi final and the next couple of league games. He returned against Citeh last weekend and picked up where he left off against Wigan. He looked a threat going forward, scored a goal, and helped out defensively – his effort and commitment was visibly there.

I was speaking to my cousin on the phone last night and we both agreed that if the real Utaka turns up in the cup final we certainly want him in the starting 11 as he could have a field day – his pace, power and skill on the wide open surface of Wembley could tear the Cardiff defence to shreds, so he could in all probability be the key man in the cup final…

I am willing to give Utaka this chance, that has never been in doubt – it is the Pompey way isn’t it. His early season promise filled me with joy, but his commitment for a good few months leading up to the African nations was dreadful, and even after this for a while he just did not look interested at all. The performance at Old Trafford in the quarter final horrified me and I thought that could have been the point of no return for him. But as I say in fairness to him his last couple of performances have been good, lets see more of this and he will be fantastic for Portsmouth Football Club.

If Utaka is interested he will be a handful for anyone, if not then he will not be of much use. Will the real John Utaka please stand up… and more often than not now please!

PLAY UP POMPEY!

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