James admits African concerns
David James is only just coming to terms with the African exodus that will hit Portsmouth in January.
By James Riach
Last Updated: 20/12/09 12:03pm
Portsmouth goalkeeper David James is only just coming to terms with the African exodus that will hit the club in January.
The England international is currently sidelined having suffered a series of injuries but has seen his side crawl back into contention in the Premier League under new manager Avram Grant.
Pompey, who beat Liverpool 2-0 on Saturday, are still in the drop zone but are now within touching distance of safety.
With the African Cup of Nations just around the corner, James hopes his team can cope with a number of their players leaving for the Angola tournament.
Nwankwo Kanu, John Utaka, Aruna Dindane, Hassan Yebda and Nadir Belhadj will all leave Fratton Park in the New Year and James is just coming to terms with ther impending departure.
"With Chelsea flying there is plenty of speculation as to how they will cope without Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou and John Obi Mikel," he said in The Observer.
"While at the other end of the table down here at Portsmouth the coverage is all about how we will fare without six of our players.
"Back in 2008 when Portsmouth were doing well in the league and in the FA Cup, the loss of Nwankwo Kanu, John Utaka and Sulley Muntari made quite a dent in the team.
"This year, though, we have had so many other things to worry about - not getting paid, having another change of manager, being bottom of the league - that the thought of players going missing in a few weeks' time has not yet come to the fore.
"Of course it will be a big blow to us. We don't have the biggest of squads, and to lose some of our best players will have a huge impact.
"When our players do return there could be a host of other problems, such as mental and physical fatigue, adjusting to the difference in temperature, and injuries."
A number of high-profile figures in football have called for the African Cup of Nations to be played at the same time as the European Championships so as not to disrupt club football.
James believes the tournament should be played whenever it suits the African authorities, although said it's timing may have a negative effect on the future of African talent.
"Most of the negative speculation is newspaper talk, but there is some substance to some of the concerns - and success in the Cup of Nations could in theory even be detrimental to African players themselves," he added.
"If Chelsea lose the title race after having a bad January, and Manchester United - who have no African players - are champions, will clubs think twice about signing a star African?"