The player forgotten by the harsh game he loves

Former Pompey defender Joe Devera is still without a club after being released by Paul Cook Picture: Joe Pepler
Former Pompey defender Joe Devera is still without a club after being released by Paul Cook Picture: Joe Pepler
Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder will relish facing former club

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After 36 days of competition, clubs can peer through the fog and glimpse their season’s destiny.

Teams have gelled, players become settled, some managers have departed, while fan expectation is starting to stabilise.

Yet Joe Devera is without employment.

At the age of 28, the defender who finished joint-third in The News/Sports Mail player-of-the-season vote cannot find a club.

Such is football’s harsh climate, someone who made 41 starts for a League Two club last term is surplus to requirements.

There were nine players whose contracts were not renewed by new Pompey boss Paul Cook in May as he instigated the opening throes of a Fratton Park clear out.

However, only Devera remains in limbo, while his former team-mates have relocated to the climes of the Evo-Stick Southern Premier, National League and League Two.

Certainly Google and Twitter currently cannot pinpoint the footballing location of the former Swindon and Barnet defender.

Cruel on a player who never let Pompey down during 80 appearances, a reliable presence despite the shifting sands caused by a procession of managers and players during his two seasons.

Admittedly, he served with more distinction in his favoured central-defensive role rather than in the stand-in slots in either full-back positions.

Devera, an undemonstrative character at the best of times, never complained, was largely defensively sound, and could not be faulted by the Fratton faithful in the twin disciplines of effort and attitude.

An unsung performer unquestionably worthy of retaining a Football League career.

There was a trial at Crawley which he opted to end early, followed by an appearance for Bromley in their 5-0 friendly win at VCD Athletic in July.

Then he turned out for Eastleigh in their 1-1 pre-season draw against Salisbury. Now, apparently nothing.

Devera had featured in the final 19 matches of Pompey’s campaign last season, spanning from February 7, and was a popular member of the dressing room.

No sulks, no histrionics, merely a hard-working professional respected by the three managers he played under at Fratton Park before a summer exit at the hands of Cook. He didn’t even take umbrage at that.

Yes, 48 hours after the bombshell, the defender displayed remarkable honesty by admitting to The News the club needed a player shake-up.

‘To be honest, I sort of knew this was coming. I knew it needed a shake-up and with a new manager coming in I wasn’t really surprised,’ he said.

‘I think what they are doing in terms of clearing out the squad is on the right track.

‘Personally, I had a better season than my previous one and if I was to stay on then it would have been great – but I just think it needed a shake-up.’

Of the eight released alongside him in May, Bradley Tarbuck ventured to Dorchester Town last month and has since been given a deal until the end of the season.

It marked a return to the Evo-Stick Southern Premier club he served for three months while on loan from Pompey last term before his release.

He subsequently trialled at Stoke, Watford and Luton, but has now made six appearances for the Magpies, netting on Saturday in a 3-0 victory at Cambridge City.

Nicky Shorey found employment at FC Pune City – the Indian Super League side nowadays managed by ex-England midfielder David Platt.

Among his team-mates are former Spurs midfielder Didier Zokora, ex-Stoke keeper Steve Simonsen and one-time Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu.

Interestingly, on Pune’s official website, Shorey is listed as Nicholas Robert Shorey and his position midfield for a club whose season starts next month.

Tom Craddock, who arrived in the same summer as Devera, elected to leave a Pompey trial in a bid to win a contract at Cambridge United.

He subsequently signed a deal at National League newcomers Guiseley, yet has failed to find the back of the net in his eight league appearances to date.

The 28-year-old came off the bench in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Torquay, where he came up against former Pompey team-mate Dan Butler – another released by Cook.

The Isle of Wight youngster has made eight appearances for Torquay in the National League – a club which incidentally also has ex-Pompey Academy player James Hurst on its books.

Wes Fogden secured a two-year deal at Yeovil and made four appearances before breaking two fingers during a match at York.

The luckless midfielder is expected to be out for up to four weeks through the injury.

His ex-Blues skipper, Ben Chorley, joined Bromley little more than two weeks ago, since featuring three times for the National League club.

In the same division, Danny East appears to finally have shrugged off his injury woes to make seven appearances for Grimsby Town.

Finally, Ryan Taylor is plying his trade at Oxford United, although has failed to score during eight appearances.

Then there is Devera.

Only Jed Wallace and James Dunne beat him in last year’s The News/Sports Mail player-of-the-season vote. Albeit very comfortably.

This is a player who scored in the 2013 League One play-offs semi-finals for Swindon against Brentford and has no recent history of injury.

A player laden with no baggage, who has averaged 34 league appearances over nine seasons since making his debut in September 2006.

And clubs have picked up their ball and walked away from him.