Mokoena: Pompey will fight to end

Captain says his 'amazing' players will reward fans by maintaining professionalism
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The Independent Football

The Portsmouth captain Aaron Mokoena has vowed the players will never give up in their seemingly hopeless battle to stay in the Premier League.

Bottom club Pompey went into administration on Friday with estimated debts of £78m, including an outstanding tax bill of £12.1m, and look set to be deduced nine points which would effectively seal their fate.

Nevertheless, South Africa midfielder Mokoena, in line to return to the squad for Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final against Birmingham City, following seven matches out with a knee problem, maintains the team will battle until the end.

"The good thing at the moment is at least we know where we stand with administration. That's a big relief," Mokoena said. "We just have to try to get ourselves back in the Premier League again next year, but it is not over, we still have a lot of games to play.

"For me personally, I hope everybody connected with the club, especially the players, fights until the last moment, the last game. We need to show our professionalism, we need to make sure our fans enjoy each and every game we play from now until the end of the season. That's how it is."

Despite the off-field chaos, which also saw players and staff not paid on time several times, Avram Grant's men have managed to find some form in recent matches, taking four points from a possible nine following the morale-boosting victory over fellow relegation strugglers Burnley.

Mokoena insists the players have to remain focused on the job in hand, which could yet yield a return to Wembley for the 2008 FA Cup winners.

"It is a big challenge and it is up to us to go on to the field and give our best, that is all we can affect," he said. "You can't really ask much more from players, we have all done what we could. There is no question about fighting spirit in the dressing room.

"We have brilliant players, the character is unbelievable. There was a point where we never got paid but we kept coming into training and giving it all and that shows what amazing players we have.

"I can really say the fans have played a massive role so far and it is about what we can do for them. We know how important this Cup is now and how important this league is still. I have not lost hope. The situation we are in is difficult, but we just have to fight it until the end. We are not going to give up now."

Administrator Andrew Andronikou maintains Tuesday's High Court appearance, at which a judge ordered another hearing in a fortnight's time to ascertain whether his appointment by Balram Chainrai was valid, will have no bearing on the plans to find a new buyer, while he also looks to slash costs over the next few weeks.

There has been some interest from New Zealand businessman Victor Cattermole, while the Intermarket Group who were close to a takeover at West Ham United have also emerged as possible investors.

The Pompey squad, though, can only prepare themselves for a huge Cup tie this weekend, with the added incentive of some £1.2m for making the semi-finals.

Assistant manager Paul Groves said: "In the end, we just have to try to concentrate on the football. There is not a lot that we can influence with regard to the off-the-field activity. People are aware of it but in terms of being able to do anything about it, there's not a lot we can do. We have to get on with the job that we are employed to do. Whatever happens, we just have to deal with it and move on."

Pompey will be without Portuguese defender Ricardo Rocha, who is suspended following his red card against Burnley and also misses the league game with Birmingham next week.