Is there any better illustration of the clarity and confidence that can come with age than David James? His dissection of Premier League overseas matches outside his side's dressing-room on Saturday night took in the environmental effects of air travel and the 37-year-old goalkeeper's views on his own England career were no less assured after another match-defining performance.
"The fact of the matter is I'm not going to come in and waste people's time," said a player whose England epitaphs were written when he conceded all four second-half goals in England's worst defeat in 25 years, in Denmark four years ago. "If I didn't think I could genuinely stake a claim – because at the moment I feel as though I can stake a claim for the World Cup – it's a waste of my time being there. I want to play for England, but who wants to get a couple of friendlies and then say I'm not having any more of it?"
James' certainties currently run through everything he does, from the saves from Tamir Cohen's fierce close-range shot and Grzegorz Rasiak which denied Bolton an equaliser at the death, to the broad grin after the Chaplinesque sliced kick in his own box early on. "You can take him out on a Monday to train with the 18- and 19-year-old goalies and he will be twice as fit as them and work twice as hard," said his manager, Harry Redknapp. South Africa does, indeed, seem reachable.
For Portsmouth, European travel is on the horizon and Lassanna Diarra's presence provides good cause for that feeling. It's a few years since Redknapp saw the Frenchman play in the Toulon tournament before his £1m move to Chelsea and having seen off Manchester City, Newcastle and Villa to bring him to Fratton Park, the signs of his signing's class were already there in last week's display of giddying quality against Chelsea. On Saturday he started and finished the move which provided his first league goal in England – albeit that he was a yard offside when Kanu stole the ball from Andy O'Brien to send him through.
Bolton are a Frenchman lighter, of course, and though talk of Nicolas Anelka is frowned upon here ("I wondered how long it would take before his name came up," said Gary Megson, after it had) it's hard to imagine Bolton's utter dominance here would not have elicited some reward with him present. Still, Bolton ought to have few fears for the run-in after a performance which shows how far Megson has taken them.
Matt Taylor, whose point-blank miss against his former employers was spectacular, was consoled by his old mate James as they left the pitch – so did James feel for Taylor? No.
"When you leave my team, mate, I want you to get beat. That's the way it is, so I'm happy." Age has evidently not brought on sentimentality, either.
Goal: Diarra (81) 0-1.
Bolton (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, O'Brien, Cahill, Gardner; Campo; Diouf (Rasiak, 60), Nolan, Guthrie (Cohen, 87), Taylor (Giannakopoulos, 82); Davies. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Samuel.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Lauren, Campbell, Hreidarsson, Pamarot (Aubey, 27); Hughes, Diarra, Diop, Kranjcar (Utaka, 74); Baros (Kanu, h-t), Defoe. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Davis.
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).
Booked: Bolton Guthrie; Portsmouth Hughes.
Man of the match: Davies.
Attendance: 18,544.Reuse content