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How Pompey need to wheel and deal their way upwards

Harry Redknapp, left, who signed 88 players during his time at Pompey, welcomes Peter Crouch back to Fratton Park in 2008

Harry Redknapp, left, who signed 88 players during his time at Pompey, welcomes Peter Crouch back to Fratton Park in 2008

 

It’s Kryptonite to Harry Redknapp in any media situation.

Whisper ‘wheeler dealer’ and expect the smile to evaporate, the hackles to emerge and the mask to be torn off.

How Redknapp despises the label and connotations associated by wearing it.

Nonetheless, in a combined five years and five months as Pompey manager he recruited 88 senior players.

Effectively, that’s 17 new signings every single year.

Of course, Redknapp is these days no longer anywhere near Fratton Park, but how the Blues would welcome his wheeling-dealing credentials.

The transfer window opens on January 1 – and for a club still in administration, expect plenty of action at Pompey.

With exits certain, the pressure will be on Guy Whittingham, Andy Awford and head of recruitment Luke Dowling to exhaust every last contact to unearth replacements.

What’s more, the trio will need to convince the club is one to join.

To date, 41 players have been used this season. In addition, 43 different players have been named in squads.

Putting that into perspective, during the entirety of last year’s campaign there were 31 utilised.

The lack of continuity in terms of naming a side this season has clearly affected the team.

What’s more, expect the numbers to continue to soar next month as the administration scenario strangles the Fratton playing squad.

The contracts of 18 of the current 20-man first-team squad expire during that period.

Regardless of whether they are loan or ‘permanent’ deals, contracts for one month can only be tabled.

The two not affected are Ashley Harris and Adam Webster, whose long-term deals expire at the season’s end and beyond.

The rest of them – from Izale McLeod, Brian Howard and Lee Williamson, to Johnny Ertl, Liam Walker and Phil Smith – will at one stage become free agents.

Having signed at different times, the dates differ. Although Wednesday, January 16, is the most populous, with eight contracts in total expiring.

However, the deals of Ertl and Darel Russell end around December 31, while Jack Compton and Josh Thompson appear Colchester-bound having been told they can leave.

The challenge remains convincing people to re-sign in the on-going climate – that is if Whittingham wants them to.

Regardless of the Blues’ position in the relegation zone, the club represents an attractive place for their League One rivals to visit.

And such is the small size of the squad, the majority of players up for grabs are match fit and have played plenty of football this term.

Some may not have scaled the heights many expected. Nonetheless, they represent perfect recruits for clubs from the Championship down to enlist.

Fit, experienced and, most attractive of all, free.

The product will be ready-made to introduce straight into a first team without any outlay of compensation or transfer fee. Hardly a risk.

Take McLeod – a striker with 11 goals to his name and prolific at lower league level, even if his penalties tend to be errant.

On the other hand, Pompey’s shopping list will mainly contain players either without a club since last season or having just been released by mutual consent.

Smith arrived earlier this month having all but given up hope of a return to the professional game following his release by Swindon back in June.

Those new free agents unveiled to the market next month may have played the odd game during the current season but, having been out of favour, their match fitness will obviously be lacking.

Still, what will be crucial to Pompey’s ability to recruit will be how many of the existing 20-man squad leave – whether by choice or by instruction.

Certainly, it may be a consideration to slash the wage bill by letting the higher earners leave and accept the club is heading into League Two.

Gabor Gyepes has already indicated he will be listening to offers, before deciding his Fratton Park future.

The 31-year-old Hungarian wants a long-term deal so he can bring his young family back over from Budapest.

A viewpoint from a human angle rather than financial, and one which surely should not be criticised.

Similarly, Williamson’s family have remained in Sheffield, with Michael Appleton previously revealing the midfielder was struggling being away.

The likes of Williamson, Howard, McLeod and Mustapha Dumbuya also turned down offers during the summer from others to sign, having been sold a dream.

Unfortunately, that vision has never materialised.

The chance for a fresh start must be a tempting one, especially with the carrot of a long-term deal.

Others like Walker may opt to quit in search of regular football, having barely even featured off the bench in the past three months.

Luke Rodgers has already agreed to join Shrewsbury permanently, following Thompson out the Fratton Park exit.

And so the task begins to throw together a new squad of free agents and outcasts. Nothing wrong with wheeling and dealing.

 

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