Smith hails cup influence

Striker hails positive influence of FA Cup final on Pompey players

Smith: Hailed positive influence of FA Cup

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Tommy Smith believes the FA Cup final has given the Portsmouth players an added incentive to give their all in the club's remaining Premier League games.

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The South Coast club are already down from the top flight after a nine-point deduction for entering administration killed off their slim chances of beating the drop.

While some believe the Pompey players could now take it easy in their remaining four top-flight games, Smith could not disagree more.

He says the FA Cup final date with Chelsea on 15th May means the players will be giving their all to impress boss Avram Grant and earn a place in the team which contests the showpiece.

The striker, who was an unused substitute in last Sunday's 2-0 semi-final victory over Spurs, said: "I think there are definitely places up for grabs at Wembley and everybody understands that.

"There is certainly a lot to play for between now and the end of the season, which is great. It's good not to let the season just peter out and go down without a fight.

"I'm sure we wouldn't have done anyway, but now there's that added incentive of having something to play for."

Criticised

Pompey boss Grant was criticised in some quarters for leaving a number of the FA Cup semi-final heroes out of his squad for the goalless draw at Wigan on Wednesday.

But Smith has defended Grant's actions, saying: "We had to make eight changes against Wigan; there was nothing we could do about that. They were forced upon us. But there is a lot to play for and everybody is looking forward to it."

While Grant is struggling for fit players in Sunday's game against Aston Villa, Smith has rejected claims the Israeli will field anything other than his best available side.

He said: "Unfortunately people might look at the position we're in and think that's something we might do.

"But I don't think anyone who has seen us play this season could accuse us of not trying or not putting out full-strength teams.

"The fans here deserve performances - they've been fantastic, brilliant, and have never got on our backs once all season. That's a great credit to them and as players, we appreciate that."

Smith joined Pompey on a four-year deal from Watford in August and admits he would have no qualms about following the club into the Championship next term to aid their bid for promotion back to the top flight.

He said: "I haven't had a chance [to think about it] with what has been going on. I'm just focusing on this season and the last few games.

Future here

"But I've got three more years on my contract after this, so my future is here. I've got nothing to think about at the moment.

"The Championship is a great league. I've got a lot of friends in it, so I watch it closely. I enjoy playing in it.

"It would be great to stay in the Premier League, but that's not going to happen next season."

After watching Newcastle and West Brom regain their top-flight spots at the first attempt this season, Smith feels Pompey could do the same.

And he believes blooding academy players Joel Ward, Matt Ritchie and Lenny Sowah against Wigan last Wednesday could help their cause.

The striker added: "The teams that went down last season have done great this year, and hopefully Pompey can do the same.

"We've got some good young players as well. Matt Ritchie and Joel Ward, who made their debuts on Wednesday night, did great. So we've got a lot of players to fall back on."