In these days of computer-generated imagery, Fratton Park is perhaps the last set on earth in which you can witness a genuine crowd scene, as swarms of extras mill around trying to catch the eye. Sixteen players have arrived since the end of last season, and Harry Redknapp would like even more.
"I asked [the coach] Joe Jordan what we need and he said eight players," the Portsmouth manager explained. "I wouldn't say it was wrong, but I'm not going to get eight. [Emmanuel] Olisadebe was already here, so I've brought four in, but I still feel we need to strengthen a bit if we can. We've got to get a bit of balance."
Balance was certainly lacking on Saturday, as was creative spark, defensive cohesion and a host of the other attributes that might keep Portsmouth in the Premiership. The presence of Alexandre Gaydamak in the directors' box for his first League game since buying half the club might have been expected to provide a lift, but this was a strangely flat performance. Without being particularly good themselves, Everton looked dangerous every time they lofted the ball into the box, and a more ruthless team would probably have won more comfortably.
Tim Cahill headed two chances narrowly over, and Leon Osman missed a first-minute sitter before making amends with the game's only goal after 31 minutes, a combination of his shot and Richard Hughes's lunging tackle sending the ball back across goal and in off Andy O'Brien's shin after Kevin Kilbane had nodded on Joseph Yobo's free-kick.
None of Redknapp's new signings had particularly eye-catching debuts, although Benjani Mwaruwari, brought in for £4.1m from Auxerre, showed moments of graceful ability. There were even signs of an understanding developing with Lomana LuaLua, although Redknapp seemed sceptical that LuaLua can ever operate in anything approaching an orthodox partnership.
"Benjani played some good early balls, but Lu is really a lone ranger," he said. "He plays off the cuff. They could be a threat. Hopefully they will, but it's not easy to play with Lu. He's got to learn to play with people a bit more."
Perhaps one maverick spirit can be accommodated, but Redknapp's problem is that he has a team of players who are learning to play with each other. "Some may never settle in," he said. "Some will go on and be good players. I've seen enough of [Pedro] Mendes to know what a good player he is. I know Sean Davis, I know [Noe] Pamarot. They are not a problem."
Time, though is, and after almost a year of constant flux, it is running out.
Goal: Osman (31) 0-1.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): Ashdown; Griffin, Pamarot, O'Brien, Taylor; O'Neil, Davis (Karadas, 87), Mendes (Diao, 73), Hughes (Olisadebe, 61); Benjani, LuaLua. Substitutes not used: Westerveld (gk), Priske. Everton (4-2-3-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Ferrari, Yobo, Valente; Neville, Arteta (Bent, 89); Osman, Cahill, Kilbane; Beattie (Weir, 88). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Davies, McFadden.
Referee: A Marriner (W Midlands). Booked: Portsmouth Mendes, Davis; Everton Ferrari, Kilbane.
Man of the match: Yobo.
Attendance: 20,094.Reuse content