Ben Haim set for Pompey second coming

New start: Pompey defender Tal Ben Haim
New start: Pompey defender Tal Ben Haim
Kal Naismith. Picture: Joe Pepler

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It has taken 414 days precisely.

Now, finally, Steve Cotterill has Tal Ben Haim at his disposal.

And the Blues boss is eager it remains that way for as long as possible as he plots the season ahead.

The Israel international will start at right-back against Middlesbrough tomorrow.

It completes a welcome return into the Pompey first-team environment following last season’s exclusion.

At the turn of the year, those in the Fratton hierarchy instructed Cotterill not to pick Ben Haim.

That demand centred on an argument surrounding his reported £36,000-a-week wages.

Eventually, the issue was settled, allowing the ex-Bolton defender to feature in Pompey’s pre-season programme.

For Cotterill, it is the first time since arriving as boss on June 18, 2010 that he has been able to select the 29-year-old.

And he believes Ben Haim can emerge from the wilderness to become a key performer for Pompey this season.

He said: ‘Tal really should have been playing for us last year.

‘That was stopped when it shouldn’t have been stopped.

‘We were crying out for players last season and I thought he was unfairly treated.

‘Whatever has gone on in the past, I don’t know.

‘As long as Tal comes in here, plays his football and is a good professional, then that is great.

‘Since I have been here he has been as good as gold and I don’t envisage him changing.

‘I hope he is around at the end of the month.

‘I want him to stay here. I have told him that and I want him to show people he’s a good player.

‘I suppose it’s the old adage, isn’t it – see where we are at the end of the month.

‘I haven’t been told I have to get rid of him, though, and he hasn’t been told he can’t play, either.

‘I have not had a call from Swansea, either, despite the rumours.

‘I wouldn’t want to lose him.

‘I would rather him stay here because, otherwise, that means I have to trawl the country again for another right-back.

‘There’s not a lot of them out there, not good ones anyway.’

Ben Haim’s last Pompey start was in March 2010 against Birmingham.

He spent the first half of last season on loan at West Ham playing 12 times for the Hammers.

The majority of those were spent at right-back.

That is where Cotterill sees him featuring for the Blues this season.

The former Chelsea man has impressed in that role during all four of this summer’s pre-season friendlies.

And the Pompey boss sees Ben Haim excelling on the right-hand side of his back four this term.

Cotterill added: ‘Quite probably, Tal is good enough to play in the Premier League. He proved that at West Ham last year.

‘I think I prefer him at right-back as well. That is my personal preference.

‘He looks fit and he can run.

‘So he’ll get up and down that line and get some crosses in, because he’s got some great quality.

‘In pre-season he has put in some fantastic crosses.

‘We’ve just got to make sure we have somebody in there getting on the end of them.’