Comment: Pompey squad depth a gift and a curse

A gift and a curse.

Friday, 12th August 2016, 7:00 pm
Pompey boss Paul Cook Picture: Joe Pepler

That’s my take on Paul Cook’s Pompey squad depth as he prepares for an assault on League Two with an enviable army of 29 players.

In that number, admittedly, is out-of-favour winger, now turned left-back Kal Naismith, and youngster Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain who is currently out on loan at Salisbury.

The hope is that others, including promising stopper Alex Bass and fellow Academy graduate Calvin Davies, will follow.

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So a false 29 perhaps.

But say we take those four out of the equation, the 25 who remain are littered with talent for this level.

For a promotion push, that is great news from a Blues fan’s point of view.

Spare a thought for Cookie, though, as he has to omit seven players from his match-day squad of 18 with a further four not required for action.

That’s an entire team of frustrated Pompey men.

How can he possibly keep all of them happy?

Well, the much-maligned EFL Trophy is one possible avenue, although selection restrictions already apply as far as that competition is concerned.

Three uninspiring, lowly-attended group games against Yeovil, Bristol Rovers and Reading Academy are hardly going to provide the sort of test needed for the Blues’ back-up men.

And at a cost of £5,000 a pop for wholesale changes, wouldn’t the ‘Mickey Mouse’ trophy be better saved as a genuinely worthwhile run-out for Pompey’s own Academy lads?

Cook has often spoken of operating with a small, streamlined squad with as few as 18 senior professionals.

Yet 13 new arrivals weighed in at Fratton Park this summer to supplement a group many believed need only minor tweaking.

The closing of the emergency loan window has undoubtedly played its part in that, with Pompey unable to replenish resources as and when issues arise.

But with suspensions and, God forbid, injuries an unknown quantity at this point, have the Blues over-compensated with their squad?

The fact fans’ favourite Conor Chaplin has been unable to command a starting role in two entirely different Pompey line-ups this season paints a picture of the embarrassment of riches at Cook’s disposal.

And the last thing League Two’s title favourites need is player unrest as they bid to earn promotion to League One at the fourth time of asking.

Just looking at the Blues’ striking options, four does not go into one as Michael Smith, Chaplin, Curtis Main and Noel Hunt all battle it out to be the chosen man in Cook’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

For strikers, in particular, a run of games can be key to confidence in front of goal.

But while Smith is the current chosen man, three able deputies are largely consigned to a watching brief.

And any notion they or any of the other Pompey players are happy to play back-up was dismissed emphatically by both Main and holding-midfielder Amine Linganzi, who eyed regular match action after impressing at Coventry in midweek.

For Cook, it is a welcome selection headache but a headache nonetheless as he faces the tricky task of picking his best starting XI and keeping the rest of his squad happy.

Rather him than me!