Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Diamond In The Rough Gives Redknapp Plenty To Ponder

Ask any Portsmouth fan to nominate their low points from the current campaign, and the list would most likely fill a tome the size of a standard Tolstoy novel. A list of positives, on the other hand, could be detailed on one hand with three digits to spare: a run to the FA Cup semi-final (which has included a victory over hated Southampton), and the consistently fine form of midfielder Jamie O'Hara, on loan from this weekend's cup opponents Tottenham Hotspur. However, with the season drawing to a conclusion and Pompey all but certain to slip into the Championship, O'Hara will no doubt be allowing his thoughts to wander to his future, particularly with his absence from Portsmouth's biggest game of the season guaranteed by the terms of the loan.

Regular first-team football - not that Portsmouth could lay claim to any sort of regularity this season - has seen the young Englishman blossom into an all-action player capable of being classified using that most wonderful of descriptions, the 'complete midfielder'. Tenacious in his defensive play and with an engine more suited to an endurance racer than a 23 year old sportsman, O'Hara also possesses a dreamy left foot that provides deliveries capable of arousing the admiration of some of the league's premier left-footed players (Aston Villa's Stewart Downing and Man City's Adam Johnson are those that I primarily have in mind). Surprisingly, O'Hara has only contributed 4 assists in the league this season - to go with his 2 strikes - but in this regard he is still Portsmouth's most productive player in the current campaign.

One would - perhaps not unreasonably - expect Harry Redknapp to be rubbing his hands in gleeful anticipation at being able to include O'Hara in his Spurs squad in the near future. After all, while Redknapp is blessed with numerous talented midfielders, none can boast the mix of characteristics enjoyed by the Portsmouth star. Bentley, Modric, Huddlestone and Kranjcar are all capable of a pinpoint delivery and a 30 yard screamer, while Palacios is one of the Premier League's finest exponents of tough tackling and breaking up opposition attacks. Of these though, only Palacios could legitimately be described as approaching the status of the complete midfielder, and his work rarely includes assaulting the opposition goal in any case. Forgotten man Jermaine Jenas - currently keeping Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King company at the physio's - is well past his days of aspiring to be North London's answer to Steven Gerrard.

Strangely, however, wily Redknapp appears to have other ideas. The Spurs boss has not exactly been shouting O'Hara's praises from the rooftop, and recently irritated the youngster by refusing Portsmouth permission to include him in their threadbare squad for the weekend's FA Cup clash. This latter was perhaps in response to O'Hara's (possibly unwise) statement that he would not be supporting Tottenham in their quarter-final against Fulham, as he wished to prolong his own run in the competition; nevertheless, it would take a brave man to back Portsmouth against the top-four chasers even with O'Hara in the side, and the experience of a major semi-final could only be beneficial to the player's growth, so the harm in permitting his involvement would probably not be significant.

One must hope that both parties are able to see past these petty squabbles, as Harry's injury-prone midfield would certainly benefit from the presence of O'Hara. This would be an even more pertinent issue if European football was added to the fixture list when hostilities resume in August. The current campaign has proved that the young midfielder can impose himself on matches at the top level, and any short-sightedness on Redknapp's part would no doubt be swiftly punished by a Premier League rival. There will be no shortage of offers when O'Hara's loan expires next month, but the jugdment of the Tottenham management would require serious questioning if any were allowed to make headway.

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