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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 23, 2009

Grant hits out at timing of African Nations Cup

Portsmouth boss Avram Grant admits he remains baffled that FIFA allow the African Nations Cup to be staged in January.

The Premier League's bottom club are set to lose four players to their national teams following the trip to West Ham on Boxing Day.

Ivory Coast international Aruna Dindane, Algerian duo Nadir Belhadj and Hassan Yebda and Nigerian veteran Kanu could all be unavailable to the relegation battlers until early February.

With Pompey under a transfer embargo and facing the possibility of not being able to bolster their resources next month, the situation has left Grant fuming.

He said: "I'll say it again - I don't know why FIFA allow this. I don't know why they have the African Cup of Nations in January. The players go two weeks before and need one or two weeks afterwards to recover.

"We pay a lot of money, especially the big teams, to players who are not with us for two months. I think FIFA need to think about this.''

Grant went through the trials of losing players to the African Nations Cup during his season as Chelsea boss in 2007-08.

As well as losing Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou to the tournament, the Israeli's woes were compounded by an injury crisis at the club.

Grant said: "It's not easy. We had nine injuries anyway - (Frank) Lampard was injured and (John) Terry was injured. Then we had four good players go and play in this tournament. Firstly, you have to change the team and secondly, it's not easy when they are back.

"They are coming from hot weather to the coldest days in England. It takes more than a few days to get them back to normal.''

Grant admits he will attempt to delay his Pompey quartet's departures until after their Premier League game with Arsenal at Fratton Park on December 30.

But he said: "We will probably lose the players next week after the West Ham game. We will try and speak with the (national) teams and maybe it will be after Arsenal, but I don't think they will agree.''

Despite his frustration about losing the players, Grant is determined to continue his side's good form, which has seen them collect seven points from their last four matches.

He added: "Even at Chelsea, we won most of the games at this time. It was not easy and we needed to think differently about the team. For any team that loses more than two or three players, it is not easy. But this is a fact and we cannot change it. So we will try to win in January without these players.''

Another man who could be heading for the Pompey exit door soon is Tottenham loanee Jamie O'Hara. The midfielder has become a vital cog in the South Coast side's fight for survival.

But with Portsmouth banned from recruiting players, there are doubts over whether the club will be able to bring him to Fratton Park full time, or even extend his loan.

This could see Grant lose him at the beginning of January, but the former Chelsea boss said: "We are speaking with them (Tottenham) - we want Jamie O'Hara and Jamie O'Hara wants to stay with us.

"As far as I know, he will be here (next week), but I can't be 100%. I like to fight about things I can change. I don't fight things that are out of my hands.''

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