With three weeks left in the season, the relegation battle is a little clearer. Portsmouth are gone, Hull City and Burnley are on their way (thanks for visiting!) and big teams like either West Ham and Wolves could lose their spot to Newcastle and West Brom (Welcome back! We hardly missed ya!).
The teams that drop can’t expect to keep all of their players. At The Rails will look at the teams that have been relegated — or are in danger of the drop — and who we think could jump ship.
Poor old Pompey. Never really had a shot, did they? Their revolving door of owners and managers finally caught up with them. From their FA Cup-winning season on, the debts mounted — they even owe money to the milkman — and the League imposed administration, effectively relegating the last bastion of South Coast football from the Premier League.
Most of Portsmouth’s highest paid players were shed at the beginning of the season, with the boardroom electing to bring others in on loan. That means Freddie Piquoinne and Aruna Dindane will almost certainly return to France (Lyon and Lens, respectively) in May and Jamie O’Hara will resume his role as Tottenham’s Young Player of the Year.
But others will be sold off: some will leave to drop the wage bill, some will go to a team that actually pays the players… and some will leave because the FA Cup finalists will be a shadow of what they once were and players won’t relish another relegation battle. Let’s have a look at possible pickups for the other Prem outfits:
Kevin-Prince Boateng: This Ghanian international will have to be on the block this summer, as Portsmouth still owe 3 million pounds to Spurs for the hard central midfielder. Boateng will showcase his stuff for the Black Stars in South Africa this summer, where he will face off against brother Jerome (who plays for ze Germans). Jerome has been linked with Manchester City but Kevin-Prince may have to look a little lower down the table. The elder Boateng would be a good fit for Steve Bruce’s Sunderland.
Steve Finnan: The ultimate journeyman, the Irish RB is the only player to play in the World Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup, all four levels of English football, as well as the Conference. Although a bit long in the tooth, he recently came out of retirement to join Giovanni Trappatoni’s Ireland squad and may have another Euro left in him. Reliable and experienced, Finnan is out of contract come July.
Aaron Mokoena: The captain of South Africa’s squad, Mokoena’s fate may depend on how well the Bafana Bafana does in front of the home crowd. The hard-tackling midfielder (his nickname is ‘The Ax’) is nursing a lingering groin injury. But after his sterling performance in the FA Cup semi, Prem teams will likely not care that his mum used to dress him up as a girl.
Nadir Belhadj: Another one of Pompey’s better-than-average players currently on the injured list, Belhadj was brought over from Ligue One for 4.4 million pounds. A Dubai-based law firm said they are still owed fees for helping that transfer along. Belhadj is in a race to get fit in time for Algeria’s World Cup debut against Slovenia. But games against England and the U.S. may give the defender a chance to shine.
David James: He’s old, he’s a bit of a tw@t…. and he’s prone to huge lapses in concentration. But even after Portsmouth sink further and further, Calamity James will still call the Premiership home. Why? Because England’s national team can’t afford to lose him to the lower leagues. He’s 40 years old but he’s still best goalkeeper in all of Albion — on his day. His record of most Premier League clean sheets is more a testament to his longevity. But there are teams that could do worse than the man from Welwyn. Besides, who else will set Glen Johnson’s corn rows?
Up Next: Burnley