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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Utaka frustrates 'Arry too!

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.

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The Journalist

Writer: pompeyrug Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday January 3 2008

Time: 9:23AM

Your Comments

Good article, PR, I agree with it all and its kind of encouraging that HR agrees too - at least it helps us to understand the situation. But, how hard can it be to kick the ball past the fullback and run after it? I told my son to do that when he was 9 and he did it well despite not being part whippet. Maybe we could work out a crowd chant to remind him. Something like "run past the fullback, you gotta run past the fullback, run past the fullback, you gotta run past the fullback; run past the etc. (to the tune, obviously, of Guantanamera) It's simple and to the point. Course it does then give the fullback a clue to what might happen - although the evidence says it won't!
Et_tu_Pompeii
if it serves as a reminder, makes him more enthusiastic, at the risk that the full back might take the crowd seriosly, then so be it - it woulddefinatly be worth trying to do SOMETHING to get him going... And if vital pompey wanted to get a song going round fratton park, that would be a great one to start, as it might prove some use...
pompeycarpet
I'd like to see him play as a striker as I feel he can do more damage with his pace here.
bluedr
I agree bluedr, he was signed as a striker, not a wing back. I feel HR put him in this position, as he could not have two 6 million strikers not being picked!!
007
i would agree that giving him a go up top wouldnt be a bad thing, but with 'arry playing 4-5-1 there is noway that he could do the lone striker role. but lets be fair he isnt being played as a wing back is he... he can play up front or on the wing, he is playing on the wing and has looked dangerous when he has been interested. maybe we arent giving him enough of the ball, but if you arent looking interested - as he often isnt - then its hard to want to get the ball to him... he'll be a star, he just has to learn the english game, and all sides that go with it.
pompeyrug
I agree Rug, a lot of overseas players take time to be in to the PL, look at Krancjar last season, looked overweight and off the pace. This year brilliant, maybe we will benefit next season from Utaka?
bluedr
I think it is about time HR changed it around a bit anyway, why not go with Nicko on the right and Matty on the left with Muntari and Davis (when fit again) in the middle in a 4-4-2, with Utaka up front with that other new guy we got called Nugent. That really is getting my goat at the moment, the lad is desparate to get a game but HR just gives him a cameo role now and then. Why spend even more money on a young striker when we have got a perfectly good one who hasn't been given a decent run of games to prove himself. Maybe it will be an inforced decisionwhat with the Africa Nations, but hopefully he will get a good run and bang in a few goals and then force his claim as a first choice starter.
blarmy
yep i agree pompeyrug, i feel it is the same with Kanu. it just leaves us two men down on the game and we cannot cover that. Digressing, i disagree with HR over his claims that our problem is not the formation, I don't see how either a non running OR a non scoring striker being played next to Benji can be called 4,4,2, its 4,5,1 at best anf from going to the games it seems more like 4,4,1
russellm
blarmy i think you are spot on
russellm
bluedr Utaka was not in anyway prolific in france and he couldnt get a strikers role which is one of the reasons he departed, Krancjar is intelligent, strong, classey but a pace player he aint, i think you would also admit in the last 3 games he has looked somewhat jaded.
russellm
i think kranjcar - and toa certain extent utaka too, has been targeted by oposition defences, as danger areas. and if you have a man that follows you everywhere, its very difficult to make the runs to get away from them, when itonly works one in ten times, and you only get the pass one in 5 of THOSE times...
pompeycarpet
Carpet I think to a certain extemt you are right and that's why I think Utaka does need the coaching Harry claims he doesn't. The 'torpedo' needs to think a little more and if he's not getting the space he needs then it is down to him to create it and drag his marker all around the pitch in the process - Even if teams are zonally marking us he can dart and make runs to pull them out of position - It's and easy concept but requires a lot of concentration and thought.. something I think he is missing at the moment.
Chix
i would like to see an interview with the otter, i get the feeling he is as thick as pigs
paultsmouth
Bring Utaka on for the last half an hour. Get him to run at the tired defenders, the ones already booked. I still can't see why he justifies a starting place, game in, game out.
storagematt
 

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