Pompey’s gates are locked to triallists

Steve Cotterill has closed the gates to potential triallists
Steve Cotterill has closed the gates to potential triallists

Pompey boss praise for riding out defensive storm

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Steve Cotterill has slammed the door in the face of potential pre-season triallists.

The Blues boss insists any free agents pitching up at Fratton Park this summer pleading for an opportunity to impress will be sent packing.

Pompey have a chequered history when it comes to triallists, particularly during the reign of Harry Redknapp.

Since 2001, a staggering 42 have been blooded in pre-season friendlies.

But only four impressed sufficiently enough to earn Pompey contracts – Amdy Faye, Berlin Ndebe-Nlome, Jean-Francois Christophe and OJ Koromah.

Of that quartet, just Faye went on to represent the first-team, racking up 52 appearances.

The remaining three drifted out of the English game long ago, their current whereabouts unknown.

Others such as Royce Brownlie, Gemaremo Gilly, Frederic Brando, Jocelyn Blanchard, Sergiy Konovalov and Modeste M’Bami didn’t even get that far.

Pompey’s present squad shortage has inevitably made it an attractive port of call to footballing waifs and strays seeking to resurrect their career.

They will, however, find the Fratton Park gates locked and bolted.

Cotterill has no intention of fielding triallists in the five friendlies ahead of the August 6 Championship kick-off.

Pompey’s first game is at Havant & Waterlooville on Monday (7.45pm).

And the likelihood is the visitors’ bench will be characteristically sparse for their pre-season opener.

He said: ‘I am not really going to look at triallists – the chances are they are triallists for a reason.

‘The only ones I would want to bring in are lads who have maybe fallen off the radar a little bit but have a good pedigree.

‘We can have a look at them but I don’t want to take someone who has been out for a year or not done anything. I don’t really want to go down that route.

‘We had one last year called Gabriel or something. He was highly recommended, meant to be fit and was going to outrun all of them in training.

‘Well he came in, was at the back of the queue and had one leg longer than the other. Either that or one of them was wooden.

‘What happens is you get the lads looking at you then as if to say “who has okayed him coming in?”.

‘I don’t want any of that. You want your dressing room to bond and stay tight – so I haven’t got any plans to bring any triallists in.

‘At the moment, all my energy is focussed on the lads we’ve got in there now, encouraging them to get fitter and pushing them out on the training ground.

‘When they’ve gone home I’m trying to bring in the new ones we want.’

There have been some notable players who have trialled at Fratton Park during the past decade.

The much-maligned Ibrahima Sonko featured against Bognor in July 2002, although Redknapp elected not to sign him.

The powerful defender returned on loan from Stoke eight years later and made 27 appearances.

New Hull striker Dele Adebola featured against Chelsea in the same pre-season, while Georgi Kinkladze lined-up against Brentford in August 2003.

Former Chelsea left-back Celestine Babayaro played against Kano Pillars and Ajax Cape Town in July 2008.

The one that got away was Brazilian Geovanni, who netted in the opening pre-season friendly at Yeovil in July 2007.

Days later he joined Manchester City and carved out a three-year Premier League career which also took in Hull.

An iconic Pompey triallist for all the wrong reasons was Eugen Bopp.

Brought in by Paul Hart in summer 2009, he went on to feature in six friendlies, including the tour to Portugal.

The former Nottingham Forest midfielder saw out the season with the Blues as a non-contract player.

He almost signed, too, but that move was scuppered when it was realised the club was subject to a registration embargo.

Without question, though, the most successful triallist since 2001 has been Faye.

Redknapp famously introduced him as Andy Henry in a friendly at Kilmarnock during a tour to Scotland in July 2003.

Yet Faye went on to spend two years at Fratton Park before playing for Newcastle, Charlton, Rangers, Stoke and Leeds.