Aborah exit offers clues into Pompey’s development

Former Blues midfielder Stanley Aborah has departured Fratton Park
Former Blues midfielder Stanley Aborah has departured Fratton Park
Pompey striker Curtis Main. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey striker: I never lost the belief

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No outcry or uproar, yet there was certainly a tinge of disappointment felt at news of Stanley Aborah’s exit.

But an investigation of the clues left behind by the Dutchman’s departure might just provide Pompey fans with an encouraging insight to what lies ahead for their side.

It also offers the first intriguing hints of how Kenny Jackett intends to go about his business.

It may not have reverberated around the football world, but there was a frisson of excitement among the Fratton faithful at Aborah’s arrival in February.

Memories of his dominance at Meadow Lane for Notts County in their win over Paul Cook’s side in 2015 came to the fore, at news of his signing.

And some classy cameos over the title-winning season’s finale whetted the appetite, along with an impressive start in the win over Cambridge.

Cook’s assertion he was the most talented midfielder at the club and was showing it in training every day as he built fitness, was another take which offered encouragement.

Yet the Blues will go down as just another pit-stop on the Dutchman’s much-travelled career, as Sunday’s tweet confirmed to a modicum of online misgivings. No doubt, a 13-year career which has offered circa 150 appearances among a bevy of clubs would have been noted by the new man at the helm.

But it’s what it says about Jackett’s mode of operation moving forward which is significant. And to learn the relevance, you simply have to marry it with chief executive Mark Catlin’s words on the back page of The News and at portsmouth.co.uk today.

Catlin has confirmed Pompey’s plans to put in place a fully-fledged development squad. It’s something we’ve seen before in recent years, of sorts.

But when is a development squad actually a development squad?

‘There won’t be a development squad next season,’ said Pompey boss Andy Awford, when ditching the set-up after guiding Pompey to Football League survival in 2014. ‘We don’t have enough players to do that.

‘A development squad is at least 15 players with its own department.

‘It’s like a separate part within the Academy, with its own coach, its own physio and own analysis. As a football club, we can’t do that at the moment.’

So, if an investment in harnessing young talent is worth doing it’s worth doing properly. Which takes us to Catlin’s announcement of the project, which is set to be a central strand of prospective owner Michael Eisner’s Pompey vision.

Any notion of a swift introduction of the squad has been given short shrift, with Catlin outlining any introduction would be around a year in the planning.

‘What we want to do moving forward, and we don’t want to put a time frame on it, is have a development squad where the clue’s in the name,’ Catlin said. ‘It has to be about the development of players moving forward for the long-term future of Portsmouth Football Club.’

So what has this got to do with Aborah? You have to look to the likes of Ben Close and Adam May too make that connection.

The pair are two highly-regarded, bright Pompey young things who have found little in the way of meaningful first-team minutes over the past season, instead farmed out on loan to varying degrees of success.

You need your senior players, make no mistake. But there’s an argument that, behind the likes of Michael Doyle and Danny Rose in the middle park last season, the young pretenders should’ve been pushing for inclusion.

Yet there was still another layer of player for them to push beyond in the likes of Aborah or Amine Linganzi. So, the pair found themselves in a place where talk of their promise from Cook didn’t quite tally with any evidence he was prepared to put his faith in them.

Well, that might just well be about to change.

Jackett has highlighted he’s to implement a ‘quality over quantity’ policy to his recruitment plans. Estimates put the figure at around five new faces or so.

A perusal of Pompey’s options make it fairly simple to see the positions where those bodies will go, if that’s an accurate assessment. A keeper or two, left-back, right-back (if Drew Talbot leaves or Gareth Evans moves up the pitch), holding midfielder and striker (if an attacking body is shifted) seem the obvious ports of call.

The attacking midfielders are plentiful, though there’s time for movement in and out, with the two players Pompey have so far been linked with – Gavin Massey and James Henry – in that area of the park.

The current squad numbers committed for next season total 21. Of that figure, seven are 20 or under.

With much made of Jackett’s desire to work with younger players, it may well be that we see a desire to look at these younger options and choose to supplement them with a few heavy-hitters, rather than bulk.

And, in the meantime, plans can be drawn up to get the development squad in place which isn’t a misnomer and does what it says on the tin.

To do that properly will need investment from Eisner’s Tornante Company and the knowledge and wherewithal to put the players in place. That means utilising the much-trumpeted knowledge Jackett provides of the young talents trying to make their way at the established clubs in and around the M25.

There will be players cast aside by those Premier League and Championship clubs. The challenge for the Pompey boss and his contacts is to spot the rough diamonds other trained eyes miss – and then polish them into gems at PO4.

The finance to put a scouting network in place to unearth those falling out of the Football League, and in need of a route back into the game, is imperative. Those players are there, of course, just ask Jamal Lowe.

So, Aborah’s departure may see a player of undeniable talent depart. And it will no doubt stick in the throat if we see him resurface at Wigan under Cook.

But the bigger picture is the Fratton faithful may now really get to find out if their kids are alright, as Jackett puts meaning into Pompey’s development.