PAUL COOK insists his key post-promotion priority is to secure the futures of Pompey’s heroes.
The Blues are back in League One next season – and their manager wants the bulk of the team which accomplished it to remain by his side.
Let’s keep the ones we want in terms of the lads here and make sure they feel that love quickly, they are the ones who got the club promotedPaul Cook
Among the 16 players out of contract this summer are Enda Stevens, Michael Doyle, Gareth Evans, Kyle Bennett and Jack Whatmough.
In addition, the loan spell of David Forde from Millwall comes to its conclusion.
Others whose deals finish at the season’s end include Stanley Aborah, Noel Hunt, Amine Linganzi, Liam O’Brien and Ben Close.
Cook has already held talks with Mark Catlin over his League One budget.
Now his first task is to tie down those he believes can continue reaping success for the Blues.
Cook said: ‘I feel the club can go a lot further and the bulk of the players will be here, without any shadow of a doubt.
‘I don’t think there will be many major shocks – I am a very loyal manager.
‘It’s important I speak to them all individually in terms of what their futures hold.
‘They deserve massive praise and respect for what they have done for this club.
‘Obviously, in the current climate, other things are going on (takeover talks), which I have to sort of stay away from and see what happens.
‘However, we will keep working away and do our job like we are supposed to – and getting the lads here signed again is my priority.
‘I want to look after those players, those players need looking after and deserve to be.
‘They are my priority, without a shadow of a doubt.
‘Let’s keep the ones we want in terms of the lads here and make sure they feel that love quickly. They are the ones who got the club promoted.
‘Let’s get the takeover sorted out – for good or bad – ASAP and try to put a team on the pitch next season and see where we can go.’
The likes of Stevens, Doyle, Evans and Bennett have been mainstays of the Pompey side during Cook’s two years with the club.
All featured in the Easter Monday triumph over Notts County which clinched promotion.
Cook added: ‘We have such strength in this team.
‘You look at the character, the learning curve, the team spirit development and the work ethic. There has been an evolvement of everyone feeling more comfortable being at Portsmouth.
‘Lads like Stevens, Evans and Michael Doyle don’t miss training. They are so durable, so tough, they are good lads.
‘I’ve had Kyle Bennett in once or twice to tell him I’m going to rest him and he has told me he doesn’t feel tired!
‘That’s how it is. Even through Kyle’s disappointment or Gary Roberts’ disappointment, they want to play.
‘They are desperate to do well for the club.’