Numbers don’t add up for threadbare Pompey

Pompey boss Steve Cotterill
Pompey boss Steve Cotterill
Samantha Quayle. Picture: Jordan Hampton

Flying start for Pompey with Cardiff swept aside

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They have the smallest squad in the Football League.

No other Championship team has used fewer players this season.

In addition, almost a third of the current playing staff are loanees.

Now Pompey’s footballing numbers are to shrink even further.

David Lampitt anticipates manager Steve Cotterill’s retained player list will be finalised by the end of this month.

Danny Webber, David Nugent, Hermann Hreidarsson and Darryl Flahavan will be out of contract come the end of the season.

As are first-year pros Billy Goddard, Ellis Martin, Peter Gregory and Perry Ryan.

Others have already departed and the certainty is plenty more will follow.

As it stands, just nine players are contracted to Pompey next season.

Even then, that lowly tally includes Tal Ben Haim, who has failed to kick a ball for the Blues all season, despite returning from a loan spell at West Ham.

If Pompey had their way, he would have been forcibly removed from their wage bill and escorted off the premises long ago.

Currently remaining in dispute with the club, there is little chance he will be around to be part of Cotterill’s remaining nine.

At least that is what the Blues hierarchy are hoping.

Still, Ben Haim is contracted until the summer of 2013 and is in no hurry to leave behind his reported £36,000-a-week salary.

Not that Cotterill can begin strengthening a squad that will soon be in single figures.

After all, the ownership situation means any player recruitment drive is firmly on hold.

Balram Chainrai and Levi Kushnir won’t invest because they are looking to sell.

Meanwhile, Convers Sports Initiatives are in no position to invest because they haven’t purchased the club yet.

It’s a vicious circle which has left Cotterill in limbo.

It has also left Pompey with nine players for next season.

They are Hayden Mullins, Jamie Ashdown, Ricardo Rocha, Aaron Mokoena, Joel Ward, Kanu, Dave Kitson and Liam Lawrence.

Oh, and of course Ben Haim.

Of those in the current Pompey set-up, youngsters Marlon Pack and Tom Kilbey have already been told they will not be offered fresh deals.

Considered not of Championship standard, the duo must now look elsewhere to ply their trade.

Richard Hughes and Michael Brown have long possessed the knowledge their Fratton careers are over.

In the meantime, they have had to wait for their contracts to tick down before the inevitable parting of the ways.

Then there is Nadir Ciftci, who was offered a fresh contract earlier in the season.

Following two-and-a-half months of stalling, Cotterill learned elsewhere that the forward would not be putting pen to paper.

Ciftci has barely featured for the first-team since and is now set for a Turkish club as a free agent.

Meanwhile, Ibrahima Sonko, Carl Dickinson, Greg Halford, Jonathan Hogg, Ritchie de Laet and David Cotterill will all return to their parent clubs at the season’s end.

De Laet and Hogg have already indicated their willingness to return.

But while the ownership matter rumbles on, that will not happen.

Of those players the club owns and whose contracts end this summer, Nugent is the only one to have been approached.

Pompey’s leading scorer opened talks with the club in December but has since put everything on hold until the season’s end.

Effectively a free agent this summer, he is sure to attract plenty of interest.

It remains to be seen whether the Blues have the ambition and financial clout to keep him here.

Hreidarsson has recovered from a career-threatening injury to re-establish himself in the side.

But with his 37th birthday approaching in July, age may become an factor.

Then there is Webber – back from a year out injured and launching a late push to impress.

He has certainly caught the eye in one start and several brief substitute appearances.

It remains to be seen, though, whether he has done enough to convince Cotterill he is worthy of a new deal.

Finally, in terms of the first team, there is Flahavan.

Yet to make an appearance this season, the experienced keeper has been a regular on the bench.

Clearly a number two is required for Jamie Ashdown, with no youngsters yet ready to step up.

If Flahavan does not fit the bill, Cotterill will need to bring someone in.

Let’s also not forget youngsters Goddard, Martin, Gregory and Ryan – all of whom featured in the last pre-season.

However, the odds are stacked against them whether they will be around for the next one.

One thing for certain, however, is that there are nine players contracted for next season.

And it is essential at least 11 are brought in to supplement that number to give Cotterill a reasonable squad size. At least 11.

As ever, we wait and see what the future holds.