Pompey chimes

As part of skysports.com's Championship spotlight, Chris Burton catches up with Portsmouth midfielder Liam Lawrence.

Lawrence: Hoping to help fire Pompey back into the big time

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Life is rarely dull around Fratton Park, with the Portsmouth soap opera having produced more cliff-hangers than an Eastenders/Coronation Street love child.

Pompey seem to be only a matter of pence away from financial disaster at any given time, with a directorial merry-go-round having left the club's bank balance in a daze.

There is no getting away from the fact that these are tough times, even if the worst of the storm appears to have drifted out into the English Channel.

Stability is required both on and off the field, with an endless conveyor belt of owners and a playing staff which has been patched up with Sellotape hardly a formula for long-term success.

Boss Steve Cotterill has had to beg, borrow and steal in an effort to keep a competitive side on the field, preventing Pompey from tumbling from their rather precarious perch and into the eye of the abyss.

It has to be said that he has done a remarkable job, given that he has been forced to carry out more fire-fighting than the local fire department.

His rag-tag bunch of loanees and experienced pros have somehow blended together to form a potent mix which is in danger of surpassing even the wildest of expectations.

Among those to have considerably aided the cause is Liam Lawrence, a man who knows precisely what it takes to negotiate life in the Championship and make it to the Premier League Promised Land.

His arrival, as protracted as it was, represented quite a coup for the club, given his top-flight and international experience.

The 29-year-old, who initially arrived as part of the deal which took Marc Wilson to Stoke before making that switch permanent in January, has not disappointed, bagging eight goals in all competitions.

His presence will be crucial to Pompey moving forward and it is imperative they get him back out on the field as soon as possible.

Setback

Skysports.com caught up with Lawrence the day after a 2-0 victory over Scunthorpe, but found that the midfielder was not in celebratory mood after suffering a setback in his recovery from a calf problem.

He said: "I did it again last night. I did it in the warm-up last night, pulled my calf. It's going to be another couple of weeks again."

Pressed on whether he had pushed himself too hard and rushed back too soon, Lawrence added: "I was supposed to be out for a couple of weeks, but I've come back inside eight or nine days, just a few days short of two weeks. I don't know, maybe it was too soon, maybe not. It felt alright so I thought I would give it a try. It wasn't right, so there was obviously something still wrong. It's pulled in a different place, though."

Upon picking up the knock a couple of weeks ago, Lawrence attempted to hasten his recovery by using an oxygen chamber.

He admits he is likely to find himself back in it in the near future, with it important that he addresses the issue as quickly as possible

He said: "I should think they will stick me back in the oxygen chamber again. I have had injections in it again so we will monitor it for the rest of the week and see how it is at the weekend."

Lawrence could not have picked a worse time to be laid low, as Pompey are absolutely flying at the moment.

Victory over Scunthorpe in midweek was their fifth in a row, with no goals having been conceded during that impressive run.

On the club's fine form, Lawrence said: "It's brilliant. The lads are doing absolutely fantastic. We went on a similar run to this earlier in the season so hopefully we can get another win at the weekend, and then you never know what might happen come the end of the season."

Consistency will be key from here on in, as Pompey did win six out of seven games earlier in the season, only to then hit an untimely slump around the turn of the year.

Promising

"We can't be good and then bad again, we have to be good throughout if we want to have a chance of getting out of this league," said Lawrence.

"If we can carry this run on, and we have some good games coming up where we fancy we can get some results, fingers crossed the lads will keep doing well."

Portsmouth face Sheffield United, Bristol City and Middlesbrough in their next three fixtures, with all of those sides currently occupying a standing below them in the table.

With just seven points separating the club from the play-off places, now could be the ideal time to put a late promotion surge in motion.

Asked if the club are daring to dream about a top-six finish, Lawrence said: "Not at the minute. We did last time and then we hit a stumbling block midway through the season. We are just taking each game as it comes now. The next game is Sheff U on Saturday, so that's the next game we need to win."

It is probably best that Pompey do not get too far ahead of themselves, given that they crashed out of the Premier League last season, haemorrhaging money and fearing for their very existence.

Taking all of that into account, it has to be said that the club have done remarkably well just to be considered outsiders for the play-offs.

Asked if they have over-achieved, Lawrence said: "I would think so, massively. The gaffer has done an amazing job with the resources available, given what has been at his disposal. It was a difficult time after Christmas because the club was up in the air. To be where we are now and to be comfortable in the league, it's a great achievement by everybody."

In fact, whisper it quietly, good times might lie closer than many at Fratton Park think.

Reports continue to suggest that numerous potential investors are courting the club, and an injection of much-needed cash could be just the catalyst to fire Pompey back into the big time.

Funds

"I heard them myself," Lawrence said on the takeover rumours.

"That's why I came to the club and why Kits' [Dave Kitson] came to the club. The gaffer sells the club to you with the ideas he has for it. If someone comes in and he is given what he needs, I'm sure he will continue to do a fantastic job and help this club get out of this league."

But are Portsmouth capable of making that step up again, given the number of punishing blows they have had to suck up over recent years?

"Definitely," said Lawrence.

"Portsmouth are a great club. Even when we went through that bad run in January, we still had the support. The supporters still come in and they have always been on our side. Not once have they complained, and that's credit to them. Hopefully we can carry this run on and they will have something to shout about come the end of the year."

Lawrence is also hoping that he will be toasting international success in the not too distant future, with Republic of Ireland locking their sights on Euro 2012.

Their next fixture sees them entertain Macedonia on 26th March and Lawrence is confident he will be in contention for a recall to Giovanni Trapattoni's side.

"I think it will be a couple of weeks," he said on his niggling knock.

"This time I will have to do it properly and make sure it is a couple of weeks. There will be no rushing back. There are two massive international games coming up with Ireland, so I need to make sure I'm right."

Asked whether the Republic are capable of steering a path out of Group B and into a first major tournament since 2002, Lawrence added. "There is a great chance. The group is still wide open and I think we can make it. We have got Russia and Slovakia to play as well, so it's going alright at the moment. It's wide open and we have a great chance."

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