Cotterill to end Kanu friendly absences

Kanu, right,  in training ahead of the opening match of the 2010-11 season
Kanu, right, in training ahead of the opening match of the 2010-11 season
Jez Bedford

Pompey recall midfielder Bedford

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Steve Cotterill has pledged to cure Kanu’s friendly aversion.

But the veteran striker will not feature against the Hawks on Monday night.

Since Kanu joined at the end of pre-season in the summer of 2006, Pompey have played 33 friendlies.

He has featured in just four of them.

In fact, the substitute appearance against Fulham last year was the only time he has played for Pompey in a pre-season game in this country.

Even during the pre-season tour to his native Nigeria in 2008, he played only one of the three matches.

And that was just for 45 minutes.

Harsh or not, Kanu has developed a reputation among Pompey fans for traditionally being absent from pre-season.

This time around there are five friendlies, including a tour to America.

Kanu is expected back at Fratton next week, although after Monday’s match at the Hawks (7.45pm).

But Cotterill has vowed the iconic figure will feature in the remaining friendlies.

He said: ‘Kanu won’t be there against Havant.

‘He is back a little bit later as he’s got a couple of heart appointments, one is in America.

‘I believe last year was the first time he has played for this club in a friendly in this country.

‘Well, that is something I have achieved as manager then!

‘I can tell you, this year he will play in more in this country.

‘He will be there or thereabouts against Chelsea and then Real Betis.

‘He will also be travelling to America with us.

‘I know it is mandatory for Kanu to come back late but when our lads do as much as he does at his age I think we can afford to give them an extra day off as well.

‘It is no big deal not getting King in doing what we are now.

‘Otherwise he would be off to Paris for treatment on his back or something like that.

‘He is not built for all the running in pre-season.

‘He knows what he needs to do. King has got a summer programme which he has to keep to before coming back.

‘I think they call it man management.’

Harry Redknapp snapped up Kanu in August 2006, claiming the striker had spent the summer ‘running in the park’.

That was at the end of pre-season, although the former West Brom striker did sit in the stands and watch the Fratton Park friendly against Porto.

Since then, Kanu has managed just 179 minutes spread over four friendlies over four years.

And he has featured for more than 45 minutes in only one of them.

The 2007 pre-season saw Redknapp’s men play eight friendlies.

Kanu did not play in any of them, not even the triumphant Barclays Asia Trophy tour.

While his team-mates lifted silverware in Hong Kong, he was negotiating a new deal with his contract having expired.

A year later and pre-season involved a trip to Nigeria.

Naturally, Kanu and John Utaka were present for the three-match trip.

Utaka started two matches – his compatriot featured in one.

Mind you, Kanu did score in the 5-0 victory over Kano Pillars.

However, that was to be his only appearance during that summer.

Next up was the Paul Hart era in the 2009 pre-season.

Kanu travelled to Portugal where the Blues participated in the Guimarães Tournament.

He came on as a 63rd-minute substitute for David Nugent in the 2-0 defeat to Guimarães.

The next day he played the second half in the 4-0 thumping to a Benfica side who featured future Chelsea defender David Luiz.

They were the only two outings he had in seven matches that pre-season.

Last term, with Cotterill at the helm, Kanu played in Linvoy Primus’ testimonial against Fulham.

By that stage he had missed six friendlies, including the infamous tour to America and Canada.

The striker replaced Primus in the 12th minute, before being substituted himself 62 minutes later.

To this day, that Fratton Park fixture represents his only friendly appearance in this country for Pompey.

With Chelsea (July 16) and Real Betis (July 30) on the horizon, Cotterill has promised that will all change.