Grant backs Portsmouth to avoid relegation

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The Independent Football

Avram Grant is convinced Portsmouth still have what it takes to survive in the Barclays Premier League, despite a resounding 4-1 home defeat to Arsenal and more financial worries.

Pompey issued a statement yesterday denying the club had been formally served with a winding up petition by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in relation to disputed VAT, PAYE and National Insurance contributions of a reported £3.5million.

While that matter may yet be resolved in a High Court hearing early next month to avoid administration, Pompey continue to operate under a transfer embargo imposed by the Premier League and face an uphill battle to save themselves from relegation.

Sections of the Fratton Park faithful chanted "Where's all our money gone?" and vented their anger towards owner Ali Al Faraj as chants of "Sack the board" and "You're not fit to run a club" rang out around the ground.

The substitution of captain Aaron Mokoena was also cheered but former Chelsea boss Grant insists all is not lost.

"When we get onto the pitch the players are trying to do their best. I know the board are trying their best," he said. "I hope to have some funds [in January].

"Even if it's a difficult situation, the team can stay in the league.

"One month ago we were seven points off safety, now we are four, but we need to do something.

"I feel the supporters are behind us and they are good for the team.

"The fans were here before any player, manager or owner, and they will stay after, so we need to do our best for the fans.

"I know there are problems off the pitch, but I cannot say anything about this.

"I have sympathy for the fans. We are trying to do our best for them. The situation is not easy."

Portsmouth are set to lose several players to the African Nations Cup, including goalscorer Nadir Belhadj, while there are reports the club could be forced to sell key men like England goalkeeper David James to stay afloat.

However, Grant said: "All the players in the team need to stay and I think the board know that.

"From the football side we need the players to stay and we need to make the team stronger.

"I know what the team needs to stay in the league and I'm sure we can do that."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had sympathy for Portsmouth's plight on a day when it was announced Roman Abramovich has all but wiped out Chelsea's £340million debt by turning an interest-free loan into shares.

Wenger said: "Professional football is about winning and balancing the budget.

"That is the basic rule and one which I fought for. All the rest is half cheating.

"I don't speak about what has happened here, but that is what I am for.

"For every club it has to be the same, for Chelsea, for everybody. I always pleaded for financial fair play."