Race is on for Pompey

David Norris is expected to be Pompey's first signing but Steve Cotterill has yet to meet with the new owners
David Norris is expected to be Pompey's first signing but Steve Cotterill has yet to meet with the new owners
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Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

Jackett: Pompey can bridge the gap

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Twenty-six days and counting.

The clock is ticking down on a return to pre-season training for Pompey.

And the urgency is growing by the day for the Blues to add to their meagre numbers.

But, despite the torrent of transfer rumours, still no new arrivals.

Friday, July 1 represents the summoning of all contracted players to return to their Eastleigh base.

As it stands, that applies to just nine footballers.

Actually, it will be fewer than that for the first day back.

Liam Lawrence and Tal Ben Haim have each been awarded an extra week off having played international football this summer.

Likewise, Kanu will also be absent through his various commitments in Nigeria.

They are instead scheduled to return on July 8.

It means Pompey need to embark on a rapid recruitment drive during the next 26 days. Otherwise, there will be a mere six players turning up for duty for the first day of pre-season training.

That is the stark reality facing new owners Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI) as they look to plot the course of the club they purchased this week.

But there will be no signings until they have sat down with Steve Cotterill to discuss budgets and identify spending plans.

As of yet – six days after the takeover – that still has not happened.

So the agonising wait will continue for fans, manager and players alike to catch a glimpse of new Fratton Park faces.

Naturally, CSI are well aware of the precarious situation Cotterill’s squad finds itself in. It is a matter which cannot be ignored, glossed over or sugar coated.

Of the nine contracted players, the overwhelming likelihood is Ben Haim will never pull on a Pompey shirt again.

Should others desire to leave – or Cotterill cashes in on them – that tally will sink further. Hayden Mullins – one of the few who are contracted – this week joked diminishing numbers have become a standard part of Pompey pre-season ever since he joined in January 2009.

This time around, however, it has clearly reached its lowest ebb.

Inevitably, the first visible act of CSI as owners must be to allow Cotterill to plough on with his recruitment plans. Long-time target David Norris is standing by to have his move rubber-stamped, he’ll be a precious fresh face at Fratton Park.

The Blues boss has revealed others are also lined-up as he busily scours the free transfer market for bargains.

There are plenty out there. Worryingly, plenty have also been snapped up during Pompey’s enforced period of inactivity.

Others such as Diomansy Kamara and Jason Roberts are going to be outside the wage bracket.

That is unless CSI opt to increase the manager’s budget.

Regardless, there are choices for Cotterill, especially in the fortnight since the Premier League shut down for the summer.

The likes of Giles Barnes, Jlloyd Samuel, Joey O’Brien, Isaiah Osbourne and Abdoulaye Faye have all been released.

Others include Lee Bowyer, Kevin Phillips, Tamir Cohen, Marlon Harewood, Rob Edwards and Shefki Kuqi.

Meanwhile, former Pompey players Sol Campbell and Ibrahima Sonko are both back on the market. Although don’t anticipate a Fratton return.

In the meantime, Mullins, Joel Ward, Ricardo Rocha, Aaron Mokoena, Dave Kitson and Jamie Ashdown will be there on July 1.

That will be the start of two days’ worth of fitness tests.

The group will then embark on full training from July 4 before the remaining three arrive four days later.

But Cotterill needs at least 10 more faces to be competitive.

Twenty-six days and counting.