James hopes fans forgive but do not forget

Click to follow
The Independent Football

David James is hoping for a warm reception from the Manchester City fans when he returns to Eastlands tonight as a Portsmouth player.

The former England goalkeeper became an instant hero at Pompey with a flawless display in Saturday's 3-0 Premiership win against Blackburn at Fratton Park, following his £1.2m move from City two weeks ago.

The chance to join the revolution that Portsmouth's manager, Harry Redknapp, and the club's new owner, Alexandre Gaydamak, are planning at Portsmouth proved too much to resist for the 36-year-old, who was keen to move south for personal reasons. James says it was still a wrench to leave City and he hopes supporters look back fondly on his career in Manchester.

"Maybe they will [boo me], maybe they won't," he said. "Whatever happens, I'll just concentrate on my game. But I had a really good bond with the City supporters and hopefully they will respect it.

"After I lost my England place to Paul Robinson, we had a home game against Everton and I got the best reception I've ever had from a crowd in football. I was amazed. I have no bad feelings at all towards anybody at the club and I'm not just saying that to protect myself. And the manager, Stuart Pearce, didn't want me to go.

"But it is good move for me at this stage of my career and, let's be honest, you will always get abuse from rival fans."

James has only 16-year-old goalkeeper Nick Jordan as back-up on the bench, with Redknapp ready to wait for Dean Kiely (thigh) and Jamie Ashdown (broken thumb) to regain fitness rather than waste his penultimate loan opportunity until January. Svetoslav Todorov (knee), who scored Pompey's first goal against Blackburn on Saturday, is a doubt, as is midfielder Gary O'Neil (thigh). Portsmouth's assistant manager, Tony Adams, said: "We are hopeful both will be available."

James is confident that Portsmouth can maintain their form, saying: "Our first six games look winnable, although the last six of the season look challenging.

"It is fair to guess we will probably find ourselves in the same area of the table as City for much of the season - the middle.

"But Harry has made some great signings - as well as me! - and once you get in that middle section you can either push on for a place in Europe or slide down and get involved in a dogfight.

"City lost 11 out of their last 12 games last season. I hope that sort of thing doesn't happen this season but, of course, now I hope we finish above them."

Redknapp's hurried exit from training yesterday prompted speculation that he might be on the verge of spending some more of Gaydamak's millions.

Sulley Muntari, Udinese's young Ghana midfielder, is still a target, and Serbian winger Ognjen Koroman is set to return on a year's loan from the Russian club Terek Grozny, once he renews his work permit.

The departing chairman, Milan Mandaric, has also been reported as saying that the Bulgarian midfielder Stilian Petrov could join Pompey from Celtic, despite a £5m bid being rejected.