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Michael Taylor 5th Mar 2010 - 12:31

Cup king Avram can restore some Pompey pride

It may only be 90 minutes, but for Portsmouth, this weekend's FA Cup quarter-final tie with Birmingham finally offers them momentary respite from the politics and irregularities that has seen them thrown into chaos.

It's unbelievable to think that just two years ago Pompey were enjoying one of the most successful eras in club history culminating in Harry Redknapp leading his team to a majestic FA Cup final triumph.

A place in Europe followed and the talk wasn't of avoiding relegation rather how they can push on from their lofty perch to an even higher dominion.

How quickly things change.

Things haven't been right at Fratton Park for a while now but it was only in the past fortnight that the true magnitude came to light as they became the first side in Premier League history to enter administration.

Like many companies recently they went for boom but ended up with bust, however with Avram Grant still taking charge of matters on the field there could be one last chance of glory before the inevitable hardships really set in.

Grant, not unfamiliar with operating in the face of adversity at his time with Chelsea, undoubtedly has his toughest task to date in front of him but he does offer at least a glimmer of hope.

His appearance may reflect Portsmouth's accounts, glum, yet unlike the aforementioned Grant's emotions are a closed book and it's this steely determination that could see them past Alex McLeish's rock solid Blues.

Grant's better talent, players such as Glen Johnson, Jermain Defoe, Lassana Diarra and Peter Crouch are gone but they still have a bit left, at least enough to savour another great cup day.

Birmingham will be determined, they always are. McLeish has created them in such a way that flair and panache are limited while defensive stability and an unmatchable work ethic are pushed to the forefront.

It's the exact mentality Redknapp fought so vehemently against in his time on the south coast; nevertheless this Portsmouth side will need to conjure up all their fighting qualities if they're to succeed.

Luckily, as quality and class has decreased hard workers and battlers have emerged and Grant will be looking towards the likes of Michael Brown, Frederic Piquionne and Jamie O'Hara to keep the Blues honest.

Unlocking the door may be a tougher ask though especially when you consider Danny Webber is a main strike option but I feel confident someone can create an opening with John Utaka (9/1 first scorer) the most likely, if he has his head in the game.

As for Birmingham they've kind of become the forgotten men in the run-up to this weekend.

They've been terrific all season starting with Joe Hart between the sticks right through to Cameron Jerome who gets little credit for tirelessly chasing what most see as lost causes.

Their style of football might not be eye-catching or fashionable but it's effective and all of their hard work has been rewarded through the results they're getting.

One man who typifies what Birmingham are about is Lee Bowyer who has completely rejuvenated his career in his destructive midfield role; he's also not a bad looking goal threat at 7/2 if he's given permission to get forward.

However, and I keep coming back to this in my mind is that everything seems so perfectly poised for Pompey to give their fans the lift they desperately need.

Whether it's the magic of the Cup or just the fact Fratton Park will be jumping, I believe they can and will temporarily lift the gloom and progress to the semi-finals - they also look a great price to do so at 8/5.

It's sure to be a close, tight run encounter but I reckon Grant's boys can sneak it by the odd goal with 1-0 a decent shout at 5/1, and who would deny their faithful fans one last moment of glee?



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