LuaLua's debt to pace of Bellamy

Treasure of Pompey: In the centre or on the wing the former Newcastle man is determined to deliver
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Leaving aside the name, there is a touch of the elegantly eccentric about Lomano Tresor LuaLua. The Congo-born Portsmouth striker is, without question, the only Premiership footballer who totes his car keys and other accessories around in a Louis Vuitton washbag. Nothing eccentric, though, about his choice of car, a top-of-the-range Jaguar, or the fashion in which he delivered a cross of such precision against Tottenham last Monday that Ayegbeni Yakubu simply had to let the ball kiss his forehead for the winning goal.

Leaving aside the name, there is a touch of the elegantly eccentric about Lomano Tresor LuaLua. The Congo-born Portsmouth striker is, without question, the only Premiership footballer who totes his car keys and other accessories around in a Louis Vuitton washbag. Nothing eccentric, though, about his choice of car, a top-of-the-range Jaguar, or the fashion in which he delivered a cross of such precision against Tottenham last Monday that Ayegbeni Yakubu simply had to let the ball kiss his forehead for the winning goal.

The question of whether it is the job of someone who regards himself as an out-and-out striker to be providing centres has been an issue of heated debate this season, not least at Newcastle, Lua-Lua's old club, where Craig Bellamy and Kieron Dyer were required to play on the right. One grumbled, the other refused.

LuaLua knows better. Having reluctantly shipped out of St James's Park in the summer in search of a regular first team place, the 23-year-old is prepared to play anywhere for Portsmouth, as he hopes to prove against Middlesbrough this afternoon.

"I think the middle is my best position, but if the manager thinks I can do a good job on the right wing then I'm not going to complain," he said at Portsmouth's Eastleigh training ground on Friday. "I just want to be in the team, it doesn't matter whether they want you to play in goal or defence. But the manager also knows my best position."

The manager in question being Harry Redknapp, Lua-Lua's opinion is clearly a correct one. Redknapp confirms his high regard thus: "He did very well for us last season when we took him on loan. Now he is with us permanently and has just come back into the team after a thigh injury. He knows there is fierce competition up front, we have four good players and he is one of them. I was pleased with him on Monday. He is a good lad as well, no problems."

Whether that will translate into LuaLua operating up front or on the right this afternoon remains to be seen, but the player will be happy as long as he trots out for the start. "I knew when I came to Portsmouth that no one is guaranteed a place. But my argument at Newcastle was that there were times when I could have played and the manager [Sir Bobby Robson] didn't play me."

LuaLua was by no means the first bench-warmer to earn the sobriquet Supersub and his exuberance and cartwheeling goalscoring celebrations made him popular at Newcastle. "In a way I didn't want to leave there," he said. "I enjoyed my time at St James'. The fans there are unbelievable, that's one of the things I miss most. But they didn't see the best of me because I wasn't given my chances.

"So for the sake of my career I had to move on. Sitting on the bench, you play one game and then don't get another chance for 15 games. That was bad for my morale. At times I didn't feel I was part of the team. But I guess that's football, and now I am finding my happiness here at Portsmouth."

LuaLua is at pains to stress his gratitude to Robson, who signed him from Colchester United in 2000. "I can say I have been bought by one of the best managers around. And he wasn't just a manager, he was like a father figure to us youngsters. I had my problems there, but there were no bad feelings between me and him."

On the contrary. LuaLua's rawness was manifested in the tendency to run with the ball, head down, and to delay delivery too long. Sir Bobby it was who advised him to watch how Ryan Giggs did it. However, the most valuable lesson was self-ingested from observing how Bellamy utilised his pace so effectively.

"Bellers and me are about the same age, but I used to look up to him at Newcastle because he was more experienced. The way I use my pace now is something I picked up from Bellamy. He's a great friend, a great player and on the pitch he always gives 110 per cent. But when I sometimes read what he says in the papers..." he tried, and failed, to complete the sentence before going on with what he clearly felt was a spot of advice to his pal: "It's a case of teamwork. Nowadays you just have to get on with it as a professional and do the job."

LuaLua is keen to be given the chance to show he can do a job for Redknapp and Portsmouth. "I don't think the supporters have seen the best of me," he claimed. "Monday was just a little indication. Some of them said it was the best they had seen from me, but I know deep inside me I can do much better. I think the best of the season is in front of me."

If so, there will be plenty more of the back flips and the other acrobatic skills he picked up as a child in Kinshasha. He came to London at the age of eight and developed his raw pace in inter-school races in the Newham area.

Now captain of the Congo national squad attempting to qualify for the 2006 World Cup and known as his country's David Beckham, he reveals that he runs a charitable organisation in Kinshasha to help orphans. "It's called the LuaLua Foundation," he said, pronouncing it as one word "looahlooah". "People in England say it as two words," he explained before embarking on a swift tour of his name. "LuaLua is my grandfather's name and they gave it to me just before he died. I want to make my family proud, that's why I use it. My family name is Lomano, so if you call my house in Kinshasha and ask to speak to Lomano, they say 'Which one? We are all called Lomano'. My Christian name is Tresor, and that's what my close friends call me. So if you call, ask for Tresor."

And Tresor, of course, is French for treasure. Pompey fans, please note.

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