Hart calls for unity as Portsmouth's problems multiply

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The Independent Football

Paul Hart has called on Portsmouth to continue weathering the storm after the club's chief executive, Peter Storrie, was charged with cheating the public revenue. The impending charge relates to the transfer of the midfielder Amdy Faye from Auxerre to Portsmouth for £1.5m in August 2003. It is alleged that Faye was paid a £250,000 signing on fee, on which tax was not paid. Storrie has pledged to "defend the allegations in the strongest possible terms".

It is the latest in a series of problems to hit Portsmouth this season and Hart admitted the situation could get worse before it gets better, but hoped everyone would stick together. He said: "The football club is going through a difficult period. That's there for everybody to see. I just believe that we can get through this together as a club. We might not have seen the tip of it yet. It might be harder but we just have to stick together, put our heads above the parapet and wear our tin helmets. I've been in football a long time. I've not seen it and done it all and I'm not trying to be clever, but nothing surprises me."

Hart's side also face a fight on the pitch in the coming weeks. Their next three league matches are against Hull, Wigan and Blackburn, teams they will be looking to beat in their bid to climb off the bottom of the Premier League. Pompey have received praise for their efforts to play attractive football, in contrast to last season, but Hart knows his side will have to scrap to add to their three points from nine games.

He said: "Outside the top four, that 'beautiful game' syndrome we all talk about is a myth. It's just a war and the next four games probably won't disappoint on that basis. Last year there was a lot of criticism about me playing 4-5-1 and gritty performances and grinding out results which helped keep us up in the Premiership. It kept us up and people moaned, but now they're saying we need some gritty displays. You turn the team out to play to their strengths and that's what we have been doing."

While Portsmouth fought admirably before going down 2-1 at home to Tottenham last Saturday, Hart admitted that his side cannot remain gallant losers for much longer. They are four points adrift of safety and the manager is determined not to let their rivals get away. He said: "These performances have got to start turning into results because it gets harder. We need the points anyway but for our self-belief we need to turn these great performances into results. There are people still around us and I think it will be a lower points total [needed to stay up] this year. We were all aiming for 42 last year and it was 35."

The Hull defender Anthony Gardner has declared himself fit for tomorrow's game against Portsmouth. The injury-plagued 28-year-old, who made only eight appearances last season after his £2.5m move from Tottenham, has not played since the Tigers' defeat of Bolton on 22 August.

After thigh and back problems last season, a knee injury has been the cause of his latest lay-off but he is now confident he is back to full fitness. Gardner said: "I'm feeling good, ready to go. It's been two months since I last played a Prem game so I'm ready to get involved in the game at the weekend. Throughout all the time I've been trying to get right I've been travelling to some of the games. It's hard when you know you can't be out there."