More than a little tinkering required for Pompey promotion

Striker Marc McNulty was part of the hired help used by Pompey this season Picture: Joe Pepler
Striker Marc McNulty was part of the hired help used by Pompey this season Picture: Joe Pepler
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Neil Allen continues our series of opinion pieces on what Paul Cook must do this summer to get Pompey promoted next season.

Paul Cook’s maiden summer on the glorious south coast was delicately balanced.

Perhaps through chance rather than intricate planning, nonetheless a swinging of the scythe saw 14 players depart and the same number arrive.

A turnover of 28 footballers as the newly-appointed Pompey boss rang the changes, cleared the decks and removed the dead wood.

This pre-season, however, he has talked of careful finetuning rather than brutally ripping apart a squad which encouragingly reached the League Two play-offs.

Yet a fair amount of surgery is surely still required to ensure the Blues escape the bottom division of the Football League next term.

Certainly, the transfer-listing of Adam McGurk and Kal Naismith is intriguing in terms of Cook’s mindset as he cranks up his recruitment drive.

Likewise the decision to offer new deals to Ben Davies and Danny Hollands – agreements dependent on the duo’s wage expectations rather than duration.

In my mind, Pompey may need to recruit as many as eight players this summer to bolster a squad already possessing an excellent foundation.

Natural evolution is not enough, the strengthening programme needs to be bold, ambitious and backed by several transfer fees.

Cook will be fully aware of the penalty should he miss out on promotion again.

I believe a goalkeeper, two strikers, two attacking midfielders and a holding midfielder are an absolute necessity.

Potentially, there is also the need for a new right-back and central defender, although Davies, Jack Whatmough and Adam Barton have the power to persuade otherwise.

Few could dispute the requirement for a new goalkeeper, a position stubbornly troubling the Blues for the entire season.

There have been six named in match-day squads, three of which were loanees, and a total of four troubled by injury.

Similarly, Cook has been reliant on loan strikers to give his team a cutting edge, with hired help Jayden Stockley, Marc McNulty, Caolan Lavery, Michael Smith and Conor Wilkinson utilised.

As Matt Tubbs is not required, it leaves Conor Chaplin as the sole forward in his entire squad, including the first-year professionals.

An absence of creativity at home has prompted the manager to seek the offloading of McGurk and Naismith – and they need replacing.

Ben Tollitt remains too young to be relied on as an alternative. Instead Cook has to get established attacking quality.

Irrespective of whether Hollands stays, another option is required to partner skipper Michael Doyle.

Cook appears to trust Barton more as a centre-half than midfielder.

Adam Webster is off which leaves a defender short, as Matt Clarke was already at Fratton Park last season.

Cook must decide whether Barton and Whatmough will be the back-up.

Finally, the impressive Davies is 35 on Friday and wants a wage increase.

The question is, even if he stays do Pompey bring in another right-back?

The Blues may have narrowly missed out on the play-off final, but considerable squad structural work is still desired.

– NEIL ALLEN

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