Absent Kanu still in Pompey frame

Pompey's Kanu during Portsmouth fc training session ahead of their home game to Nottingham Forest in the nPower Championship on Saturday.
Pompey's Kanu during Portsmouth fc training session ahead of their home game to Nottingham Forest in the nPower Championship on Saturday.

The King these days rarely carries out public engagements.

Michael Appleton, however, insists Pompey’s talismanic striker is still very much part of his squad.

It has been two months and four days since Kanu last appeared for the Blues.

The occasion was an October trip to Ipswich, where the veteran spent 25 minutes on the pitch after entering as a substitute.

In the subsequent nine matches, he has been an unused substitute in five of them.

And the 35-year-old has failed to even make Pompey’s past three squads.

Instead Benjani and rookie Marko Futacs are the preferred options from the bench, as back up to Dave Kitson.

It also means Appleton has yet to field his former West Bromwich Albion colleague.

Kanu has made 167 appearances for Pompey, scoring 28 goals.

Famously, he brought the FA Cup back to Portsmouth in 2008 with the match-winning goal against Cardiff.

But these days he’s not even guaranteed a place on the bench.

Appleton said: ‘King is still part of the squad and still comes in and trains every day.

‘He is not a spring chicken any more and if the pitch was 60 by 40 (yards) he’d be one of your first names because he’s got fantastic ability.

‘I had a conversation with him and he seems quite happy. He said “whenever you need me, I’m there”.

‘It was quite good of him because he wanted to have a chat with me and told me he would keep training and he’s ready when I need him.

‘King knows what I’m trying to do from a long-term point of view and, as long as he keeps training right and being professional, there will be no issue.

‘In training, your team-mates are not trying to kick you quite as hard as they would on a Saturday.

‘When you do train, you tend to train on smaller areas than the real size of the pitch on a Saturday.

‘I couldn’t expect King to be able to play for that long at the level you would expect from your front men.

‘Circumstances will dictate whether he gets another chance, whether people are playing well, scoring goals or picking up injuries and suspensions.

‘If it doesn’t, he’s just got to deal with it, that’s part and parcel of being a professional footballer. Sometimes you find yourself in the squad and sometimes you don’t.’

Kanu isn’t even the oldest player in Pompey’s squad, Hermann Hreidarsson is 37.

Both are out of the frame at present, though.

Not that Appleton discriminates among his squad according to age.

At the other end of the scale, youngsters George Thorne and Marko Futacs have been involved since he arrived at Fratton Park.

And the Blues boss insists being young or old makes no difference when selecting his team.

He added: ‘I’ve got no issue with age. If they are good enough, they will play.

‘One thing the players have responded to is that I have tried to up the intensity in training and the demands I have put on them over the past few weeks.

‘I don’t think they have experienced that for a while because it has taken a lot out of them physically.

‘We’ve had to stop a lot of the sessions early because the lads have struggled to cope with the intensity we want out of them.

‘I’ve got no issues with the young lads and I don’t think they will let the club down.’