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Pompey pledge no favours for old boy Benjani

SoccerNews in English Premier League 18 Apr 2008

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Portsmouth will put old friendships aside when they line up against former striker Benjani Mwaruwari in a crucial English Premier League clash at Manchester City on Sunday.

Pompey first-team coach Joe Jordan admitted that his UEFA Cup chasing south-coast club owe a huge debt to the Zimbabwean, who joined City in January, but that gratitude will be forgotten at Eastlands.

Jordan respects the job Benjani did at Fratton Park, where he spent two years, but with Pompey now closing on fifth-placed Everton in the race for the Premier League’s only guaranteed UEFA Cup berth, the ex-Scotland international knows victory is vital.

“We owe Benji. He certainly delivered here and was well respected by everyone but, come Sunday, there can be no sentiment. Our centre-backs will be looking for him,” said Jordan.

Pompey, who can move to within a single point of Everton with their 10th away league win this season, come up against their former striker for the first time since his controversial City switch.

The two clubs briefly fell out over the deal, which looked to have collapsed at the 11th hour after City expressed concerns over the player’s fitness.

A resolution was eventually reached and the transfer was sanctioned by the Premier League after the January deadline.

Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp used the 3.75million-pound down-payment on Benjani to help buy Jermain Defoe, who responded with eight goals in seven games before a rare blank against Newcastle last week.

Meanwhile, Benjani has scored just once in nine matches for City.

But Jordan recalls: “He played a key part in us staying up the season before last, but I think he also played a key part in the progress we have shown in more recent times.

“Benji was a big favourite here and rightly so. He was one of the favourites of the fans and you can understand why with his commitment in every single game and, in the end, impressive scoring record.

“He got respect not only as a footballer but as a person here.”

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