No green light for Pompey

David Norris
David Norris
Curtis Main scores a penalty against the Hawks in pre-season

Fulham under-21s v Pompey: Gaffer for a day

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David Norris is today expected to follow Luke Varney out of the Fratton Park exit – but Michael Appleton’s Pompey rebuilding will remain on hold.

The midfielder is anticipated to finalise a move to either Leeds or Sheffield Wednesday, helping drive down the Blues’ wage bill to £7m.

Just as encouraging, Erik Huseklepp is nearing a switch to Brann, although the sticking point centres on £1m Pompey still owe his former club Bari.

In addition, Liam Lawrence has interest from two Championship clubs, although former suitors Cardiff are not believed to be one of them.

Greg Halford has also voiced his intention to do best by Pompey and met members of SOS Pompey on Monday.

Yet, while it looks brighter on the player departure front, the ongoing situation with Tal Ben Haim, Dave Kitson and Kanu – the Blues’ three highest earners – is continuing to apply the brakes.

That not only prevents Appleton from signing players but continues to put the club on liquidation watch, with Balram Chainrai’s Portpin unwilling to take over while the trio remain.

The News understands Ben Haim was offered his most recent compromise deal a week ago. The club has yet to receive a response.

The Israeli international, who this week insisted he is eager to help the club, still wants around £1m to quit.

Agent Pini Zahavi is no longer representing him in negotiations, although it is believed former Blues administrator Andrew Andronikou is advising instead.

Ironically, Andronikou failed to remove Ben Haim from the wage bill the last time Pompey were in administration.

In addition, in post-administration, former chief executive David Lampitt also couldn’t persuade the defender to quit the £12.5m contract he penned under Peter Storrie in 2009.

That figure for the four-year deal includes includes national insurance, agent fees, wages and image rights. Ben Haim was the only player who refused to accept an open letter from SOS Pompey at the Wellington Sports Ground on Monday morning.

Despite the Israeli’s criticism of administrators PKF’s wages this week, it is believed they have taken around £180,000 out of the club for their work since arriving in February. Further fees are expected once the club has found a new owner.

Meanwhile, it is understood Kitson’s agent was made a compromise offer three weeks ago.

There has yet to be any interest from other clubs for the 32-year-old, who has 12 months still to run on his existing deal.

Kanu is also proving to be a headache, with his barrister Samuel Okoronkwo asking the Football League for £3m he claims the player is owed.

At the centre of the dispute is the three-year contract Kanu signed under Lampitt in August 2010, which at the time settled a dispute over a verbal agreement for a new £35,000-a-week 12-month deal.

The News understands Okoronkwo is now questioning the legality of that contract, despite the deal being approved by the Football League at the time.

As it stands, Portpin will not be buying the club while the wage bill continues to be so high – conditions which are included in the CVA. Similarly, the Pompey Supporters’ Trust have been vocal over how they cannot afford to inherit such player salaries going forwards.

Now it’s up to Birch to come to compromise agreements with Kanu, Kitson and Ben Haim in order for Pompey to have a future.

Andronikou and Okoronkwo were unavailable for comment when contacted by The News.

BIRCH SETS DEADLINE n Pages 4-5