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English Premiership

Pompey seek FA Cup solace

PORTSMOUTH, March 5 – Jamie O'Hara believes the FA Cup can help salvage some pride from Portsmouth's wretched season of financial chaos and show the rest of English football the ailing south coast club is still alive and kicking.O’Hara is on loan from Tottenham so at least his future is assured when he returns to White Hart Lane at the end of the season but for his Portsmouth team-mates the next few weeks remain uncertain.

Portsmouth meet Birmingham at Fratton Park on Saturday in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a place at Wembley the incentive for the winners.

As it stands, Portsmouth’s season could hardly be worse.

They are bottom of the Premier League and are expecting to lose nine of their 19 points as punishment for going into administration last week.

The club’s fate is still hanging in the balance. The administrator believes Portsmouth’s debts to be around 76 million pounds (114 million dollars) and a third High Court appearance on March 15 to answer a winding-up order brought by the tax authorities could signal the end for the 2008 FA Cup winners.

Against this desperate background optimism survives and O’Hara is convinced that if Portsmouth go down, they will go down fighting.

"The club is in a lot of trouble and there are things going on which are a major worry to us," O’Hara said. "But we have got to play out the season and show our determination and will to succeed.

"We could go on a Chelsea-style winning run in our remaining ten or 12 league games but realistically that is not going to happen and the FA Cup is going to be our priority because we are relegated.

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"Avram Grant, our manager, has been brilliant in telling us to stick together and that is all we can do.

"We owe it to the fans who have been brilliant to me and to every player in the seven years we have been in the Premier League to try to win the cup.

"We have had a great run so far and the win at Southampton (Portsmouth’s bitter south coast rivals) in the fifth round galvanised us all.

"It would be nice after all that has happened to end the season with something positive to show for it."

Birmingham have been one of the surprise sides of this season’s Premier League but their immediate concern was whether or not they would get their share of the gate receipts from the trip to Fratton Park.

City manager Alex McLeish, assured their money was guaranteed, is well aware of Portsmouth’s fierce determination to reach Wembley for the second time in three years.

"Portsmouth are like a wounded and cornered animal and that makes them dangerous," he said. "They may be bottom of the table but they are not as bad a team as that would suggest.

"They will have a loyal and vociferous crowd behind them and they will be wanting to show a few people that they are fired up for this.

"This is going to be a proper test of our progress this year. We have come on tremendously and our league position is no fluke.

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"At the start of the season if you had said we would have 40 points by the end of February, I would have bitten your hand off. But that is where we are.

"To reach a Wembley semi-final would be a terrific bonus and who knows what happens if we get that far?

"But first we must overcome a very passionate Portsmouth and that will not be at all easy."


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