Pompey’s starting XI: The battle for positions

From left: Drew Talbot, Michael Doyle and Gary Roberts should start the season in the Blues' starting line-up Picture: Ian Hargreaves
From left: Drew Talbot, Michael Doyle and Gary Roberts should start the season in the Blues' starting line-up Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Injured left-back Tareiq Holmes-Dennis Picture: Joe Pepler

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Pompey are back in training and it’s five weeks and counting until the new campaign begins.

And the guessing game is already under way to predict Paul Cook’s first-team XI against Carlisle.

So who’s leading the way as pre-season begins?

We can expect more triallists and action in the transfer market yet, but we’ve weighed up how the battle to start currently stands.

Paul Jones

Central-defender Christian Burgess Picture: Ian Hargreaves

Central-defender Christian Burgess Picture: Ian Hargreaves

(Goalkeeper)

The only senior goalkeeper at the club is still finding his way back from a thigh injury.

Had problems last season with spells on the sidelines after falling out of favour.

Jones showed himself to be a dependable choice after being signed by Andy Awford in 2014.

But it appears he’ll have it all to do to start the campaign as first-choice keeper.

Drew Talbot

(Right-back)

Nailed on to start in the right-back role following Ben Davies’ departure for Grimsby.

Youngster Calvin Davies is the back-up in the position, although there is the chance of Paul Cook looking to the loan market for a further right-back.

Talbot was a popular figure at Chesterfield after spending seven seasons with the Spireites before being released in the summer.

Christian Burgess

(Centre-back)

The most experienced of Pompey’s central-defensive options and the first choice of the players in the middle.

Made 43 appearances last term after joining from Peterborough and impressed with his languid style and passing from the back.

With Adam Webster departing for Ipswich and Matt Clarke injured, much of the defensive responsibility will fall on his shoulders.

Matt Clarke

(Centre-back)

Facing a fight to be fit for the start as he struggles with a groin injury.

But Paul Cook is a big fan of Clarke, who signed permanently as part of Adam Webster’s move to Ipswich.

Pompey are looking at other other central-defensive options with a further addition expected, too. Adam Barton and Jack Whatmough will also vie for playing time.

Enda Stevens

(Left-back)

Undoubtedly one of the most consistent players in Paul Cook’s side last season.

It was only Cook’s choice to rest the Irishman for the final day visit of Northampton which stopped him having an ever-present league campaign.

Brandon Haunstrup is well thought of at Fratton Park and will provide the back-up, but Stevens starts at the head of the left-back pecking order.

Michael Doyle

(Holding midfield)

Captain, player of the year and Pompey’s leader.

There were doubts raised about the 34-year-old’s age after arriving from Sheffield United last year. None of those can be heard now.

Doyle was a colossus for his team, playing much of the campaign with a broken leg. Will continue to be the Blues’ heartbeat.

Danny Rose

(Holding midfield)

Turned down the option of playing for last season’s champions Northampton in League One in favour of a move to Fratton Park.

Arrives with a reputation as a box-to-box midfielder who will add energy to the middle of the park.

We wait to see what Danny Hollands’ future brings, with Ben Close and Adam Barton, who is also seen as defensive back-up, other options.

Carl Baker

(Attacking midfield)

The man Pompey have pushed the boat out to bring to the club this summer.

Baker was tempted to move as the Blues bettered the new contract he was offered after MK Dons slipped out of the Championship.

The 33-year-old scored five goals in the second tier last term and beat the likes of Dele Ali and Will Grigg to the Dons’ player-of-the-year title in 2014-15.

Gary Roberts

(Attacking midfield)

Was expected to be Pompey’s talisman in League Two but, by his own admission, didn’t hit regularly hit the heights expected.

There’s little doubt Roberts has the ability to devastate opponents with his quality, however, and much of Pompey’s chances of success rest with the 32-year-old.

Will be intriguing to see how he links up with Carl Baker and desperately needs to stay free of injury after playing through the pain last term.

Milan Lalkovic

(Attacking midfield)

Joins from Walsall with a big reputation for his dribbling quality and eye for the spectacular.

Turned down a new deal at Walsall to step down a division and join Pompey’s bid for promotion.

With Kal Naismith and Adam McGurk’s days at Pompey numbered and Gareth Evans injured, Lalkovic appears Kyle Bennett’s biggest rival to start in front of Ben Tollitt.

Michael Smith

(Striker)

Smith will be expected to lead the line next term in a 4-2-3-1 after signing permanently from Swindon.

Scored four goals in 13 starts on loan last season and grew in confidence and influence during his stay.

Cook is still looking for another striker and is exploring the possibility of using two up front as well as his preferred formation. Conor Chaplin will also have a big role to play.