Pompey leave senior players behind

Jon Harley, centre, is expected to be on board the plane to Spain but Luke Varney, Erik Huseklepp, Liam Lawrence and David Norris will be left behind with the other senior pros. Picture: Steve Reid (122332-658)

Jon Harley, centre, is expected to be on board the plane to Spain but Luke Varney, Erik Huseklepp, Liam Lawrence and David Norris will be left behind with the other senior pros. Picture: Steve Reid (122332-658)

The Pompey players celebrate winning the League Two title on the final day of the 2016-17 season following their 6-1 win against Cheltenham Picture: Joe Pepler

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Pompey have today left all their senior players at home as they jet off for a 10-day Spanish training camp.

Michael Appleton has made the shock move in a bid to hasten the seven high earners’ exit from the club.

Instead, a mixture of triallists and the development group have flown to Malaga on a tour which will see the Blues face Gibraltar and Brighton.

Development coach Guy Whittingham will keep an eye on the players left behind, who will follow a specially-prepared training programme.

Those who have not travelled to southern Spain are Tal Ben Haim, Liam Lawrence, Erik Huseklepp, Dave Kitson, Luke Varney, David Norris and Greg Halford.

Kanu, who is still in Nigeria, is believed to have informed the club he has quit and is now not expected to return.

It leaves Ashley Harris and Adam Webster as the only members of the pre-season tour with Pompey first-team experience.

And despite a potential run-out at Westleigh Park being scuppered by the rain on Saturday, Appleton believes it is in the senior players’ best interests to remain back here in England.

He said: ‘None of the senior players who were here last year will come to Spain.

‘They are going to have a training programme and hopefully they will be at pastures new by the time we return.

‘The idea is it gives them the chance to find other clubs – although it is not as easy as that, as we have found over the last 10 weeks or so.

‘Still, I think there’s an opportunity for them to go elsewhere and it certainly makes more sense them being in England rather than Spain.

‘Guy (Whittingham) will also be staying with the senior players to hold their hands and wipe their noses.

‘It means, if you include Sam Magri, Adam Webster and Ashley Harris, there will be eight or nine of the young lads there in Spain.

‘Ashley Westwood will also be on the plane after he was confirmed as our new first-team coach over the weekend.

‘All of the senior lads were going to play against Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday but we feel it’s best if they stay behind for the tour.’

All but three of this season’s nine-man development group will be venturing to the camp in southern Spain.

Full-back Elliot Wheeler is among those to miss out, although the likes of Dan Thompson, Jed Wallace and George Colson will be present.

Appleton is convinced the youngsters will benefit from time away from the city.

He added: ‘I worked with the young lads last year anyway as every training session we had two or three of them, so I know all of them reasonably well now.

‘I know their strengths and weaknesses.

‘The tour’s going to be good for them. They have not been in the first-team environment before and there are two games for them to play in, so they’ll enjoy the experience.

‘Mind you, I will feel more like a babysitter or school teacher.

‘I’ll probably have to take them tenpin bowling or the cinema and then eat at McDonald’s!’

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