Cook’s familiar summer talent search

Alex Bass is currently the only keeper on Pompey's books. Picture: Joe Pepler
Alex Bass is currently the only keeper on Pompey's books. Picture: Joe Pepler
Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder will relish facing former club

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Different summer, an alternative division to prepare for, but a familiar goalkeeping hunt.

Paul Cook will once more devote a close season to striving to recruit a stopper for his Pompey side.

David Forde and Pompey boss Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler

David Forde and Pompey boss Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler

League Two ever-present David Forde returned to parent club Millwall following a superb loan stay.

He was released by the Lions yesterday, prompting the Blues to open negotiations over a Fratton Park return.

However, Blues boss Cook remains light in a key area.

Resident back-up Liam O’Brien this week joined Coventry on a two-year deal in the search for regular first-team football, which left the promising Alex Bass as the sole keeper on the books.

Cook, of course, has been here before and will not subscribe to panic.

These are early days and, whether it was through patience or well-judged late timing, this season he unquestionably reaped dividends by his approach.

Forde did not arrive at Fratton Park until the final few days of July, with his first and only pre-season outing coming at Bristol City.

Certainly not ideal preparation ahead of the 2016-17 campaign.

Regardless, the Millwall veteran went on to record 19 clean sheets and supply the penalty area dominance Cook had long craved from a goalkeeper.

In total, the Republic of Ireland international made 47 appearances, more than any other Blues player during the season.

There may yet be a Fratton Park reunion, considering Mark Catlin is now in talks with Forde’s representatives.

It remains to be seen, however, if the 37-year-old should emerge as the emphatic solution to this summer’s conundrum.

O’Brien was recruited even later, days after the start of the League Two campaign.

Having been invited to train by former mentor John Keeley, the 25-year-old proved his worth to be initially taken up on a month-by-month deal.

The ex-Pompey Academy graduate subsequently lasted the duration of the season and Cook was willing to retain him further.

All three of O’Brien’s first-team outings arrived in the Checkatrade Trophy, while he was an unused substitute 45 times.

In addition, he was a mainstay of the reserve side which reached the Premier League Cup semi-finals, making 10 appearances.

Yet O’Brien recognised his chances in League One next season would once more be restricted, so opted for a Ricoh Stadium switch.

Incidentally, second-year scholar Nick Hall was released just before the campaign’s end. The youngster served as substitute keeper in the Checkatrade Trophy fixtures.

So, presently, that just leaves Bass.

The 19-year-old made his Pompey debut in the EFL Cup defeat at Coventry in August 2016.

He then spent the season as Salisbury’s first choice as they reached the Southern League south & west division play-off final before falling to Tiverton Town.

Contracted until 2018, the Blues’ hopes for his talent remain high.

Regardless, Cook has embarked on a familiar goalkeeping summer search.