Exclusively revealed: The Pompey XI That Never Was

Mick Mills
Mick Mills
Joe Hancott was 16 years and 161 days when he made his Pompey debut in the Checkatrade Trophy against Fulham Under-21s on Wednesday night Picture: Joe Pepler

From Pompey apprentice to record holder - in seven weeks

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They all should have worn royal blue and it is a side which would have undoubtedly gone down as one of the game’s greatest.

Now it’s time to reveal, in all it’s glory, the Pompey XI That Never Was – a team chock full of world-class talent that got away....

Keeper

Stipe Pletikosa

Filled many a summer transfer story column inch in the The News down the years. The Croatia international first surfaced in 2002 and regularly after. Harry Redknapp took him to Spurs in 2010 in the end.

Defence

Mick Mills

Full-back was at Pompey as a schoolboy in 1965 before being released. Duly went on to pick up 42 England caps, captain his country at the World Cup, lift the Uefa Cup with Ipswich and break their record for appearances.

Graham Roberts

Roberts was released from Pompey in the 1970s at a time when the club was financially struggling. Joined Dorchester before going on to play for Spurs, Chelsea, Rangers and picking up six England caps. Barry Harris remembers taking him to hospital after breaking his ankle in a reserve game.

Ryan Nelsen

Was close to arriving at Pompey in 2006 when he was offered a lucrative contract worth twice his existing deal at Blackburn. Opted to remain at Ewood Park, however. Edges out Richard Dunne who was another who came close to joining two years later.

Juan Manuel Vargas

Peruvian left-back with an eye for the spectacular. Popped up at Eastleigh and could have signed for £1.6m in 2006. Ended up going to Genoa and joining Fiorentina for £10m two years later.

Midfield

Michael Carrick

One of the most famous ones who got away. Had a medical at Pompey in 2004 but Milan Mandaric wouldn’t stretch to paying £3m for him after Arsenal became interested. Ended up going to Spurs and joining Manchester United for £18m two years later.

Martin Peters

The World Cup winner could have been a Pompey player if things had been a little different. Came down for a trial and was lined up for another but had to play for England Schoolboys. Freddie Cox opted not to pursue the matter and the rest is history.

Yaya Toure

Tony Adams’ period in charge of Pompey may not be remembered as the most glorious but landing Yaya Toure would have been a coup. Pompey ended up with the likes of Angelos Basinas, Hayden Mullins and the mysterious Pele, who never played, instead.

Strikers

Nicolas Anelka

Harry Redknapp spent the summer of 2006 being driven to distraction by Anelka’s brother, Claude, in negotiations. The deal was eventually done but Sacha Gaydamak instead wanted David Nugent. Anelka went to Bolton and Redknapp had a £6m player he didn’t want.

Edin Dzeko

Another one lined up to arrive under Tony Adams. Apparently an £8m transfer was agreed but Pompey’s financial supply from the Gaydamak family had been turned off. Theofanis Gekas signed instead and was barely used by Adams.

Didier Drogba

One of the biggest ‘what-ifs’ which is rarely mentioned. Drogba had been playing as a midfielder for French side Guingamp but converted to a striker in 2003 and impressed Harry Redknapp. A £2m deal never came off and he later joined Marseille before moving to Chelsea.

ON THE BENCH

Thiago Motta

Was knocking around the training ground 
in 2008 but went on to play for Inter 
Milan and now Paris St Germain as well as Italy.

Martin Chivers

Had a trial at Pompey as a schoolboy but was not offered terms. Became a Spurs great and scored 13 goals and won 24 caps for England.

Denilson

Was once the world’s most expensive player when he moved to Real Betis for £22m. Couldn’t get a deal at Pompey after a trial in 2006.

Nigel Reo-Coker

Wimbledon were in administration and Pompey had Reo-Coker lined up with the likes of Jobi McAnuff and Damien Francis. Terry Brady said he could get all three for £200,000. He was wrong.

Javier Saviola

Was going to be the man to replace Jermain Defoe in 2009. A loan deal couldn’t be completed and he moved to Benfica.