Gloves on in battle to be Blues No1

Pompey were quick to move for former Charlton goalkeeper John Sullivan after learning about Simon Eastwood's desire to move to Blackburn

Pompey were quick to move for former Charlton goalkeeper John Sullivan after learning about Simon Eastwood's desire to move to Blackburn

Tom Davies. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Alan Knight weighed up Pompey’s goalkeeping options for next season and promised: The No1 shirt is up for grabs.

The Blues’ goalkeeping coach insisted there will be no hierarchy when it comes to the battle between new boy John Sullivan and Phil Smith, who was Simon Eastwood’s understudy for the second half of last season.

The pair will be battling it out for the nod when the League Two campaign opens on August 3 on an even footing.

Sullivan, 25, was quickly recruited when it became clear Eastwood was joining Blackburn.

That move was confirmed this week, with Knight expressing some disappointment with Eastwood’s decision to move.

But he is pleased with the calibre of the man who replaces the 23-year-old in Guy Whittingham’s first-team squad and will vie with Smith for a starting spot.

His homework on former Charlton man Suliivan has uncovered plenty of positive information about the keeper’s quality.

Knight said: ‘I’ve been on a coaching course doing my badge and there were a lot of good reports about John.

‘There were people from Charlton, Brighton and Colchester. A lot of the lads knew him and spoke very highly of him.

‘People within the game are talking well about him.

‘And, as I said to Guy, I don’t mind working with them as long as they want to work.

‘John is the right age group and fits in budget-wise with what we’re trying to do.

‘I’m looking forward to working with him.

‘There is going to be challenges there for both keepers. We’ve got a senior one and a young one.

‘I’m a bit old-school maybe, but whoever is playing the best at the time will play.

‘That’s the way it should be.

‘I’m a great believer someone shouldn’t be happy to just sit on the bench.

‘Guy doesn’t want that and I don’t want that. It will be open to whoever is doing the best.’

Knight also believes Smith will benefit from getting a full pre-season under his belt ahead of the new campaign.

The 33-year-old free agent joined Pompey last December and had been doing little in the way of playing after seeing his contract at Swindon expire.

‘People may think Phil didn’t play games last season,’ said Knight.

‘But he’s an experienced keeper who has done well at the clubs he’s played at.

‘Speaking to him, he feels he’s had a second chance. I know what that’s like, and it makes you hungrier.

‘His attitude in training has been spot on. He will get a full pre-season, which didn’t happen last season, and he’ll get a proper crack at it and be challenging.

‘Hopefully both of them can stay injury free and it will bode well for them and us as a club.’

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