Same old pre-season story for Pompey

Numbers were sparse for the start of Pompey pre-season training in 2010  Picture: Robin Jones
Numbers were sparse for the start of Pompey pre-season training in 2010 Picture: Robin Jones
Pompey defender Nathan Thompson Picture: Joe Pepler

Thompson: Pompey need to learn lessons from the season

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Different division, different year, different manager – yet it’s the same old pre-season problem for Pompey.

Monday represents back to training for Michael Appleton’s squad ahead of the new campaign.

Yet there are expected to be just 10 senior professionals in attendance to be put through their paces.

A meagre amount for any manager to deal with, no matter what the level, regardless of the identity of the club.

However, the issue has been an all-too-familiar headache in recent times at Eastleigh, as Appleton’s predecessors will unquestionably testify.

This time last year, Steve Cotterill’s troops returned and couldn’t even muster enough bodies to form a five-a-side game.

Just eight in total were present for that July 4, 2011, start – including summer recruits David Norris and Jason Pearce.

They were joined by Ricardo Rocha, Aaron Mokoena, Joel Ward, Dave Kitson, Hayden Mullins and Jamie Ashdown.

In addition, absentee trio Kanu, Tal Ben Haim and Liam Lawrence were not scheduled to be back for another week after being granted permission.

Kanu had a routine heart appointment in Nigeria, while Lawrence and Ben Haim were allowed extra time to recover following their involvement in summer international football.

At least on Monday current Blues boss Appleton will possess more players, albeit the senior members will hopefully not see pre-season out as Pompey desperately seek to drive down the wage bill.

Back in July 2010, Cotterill once again had squad issues for the beginning of training, with a mere five fit senior professionals.

David Nugent, Michael Brown, Tommy Smith, Marc Wilson and Hayden Mullins were all there, overseen by the newly-appointed manager and first-team coaches Ian Woan and Guy Whittingham.

A registration embargo was preventing him recruiting additional bodies – precisely the same situation Appleton currently finds himself embroiled in.

However, Cotterill did manage to bolster his numbers for that maiden training session by blooding 16 youngsters, many of whom were first-year professionals.

Tom Kilbey, Peter Gregory, Paris Cowan-Hall, Matt Ritchie, Danijel Subotic, Liam O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Nadir Ciftci, Marlon Pack, James Hurst, Gael Nlundulu, Jordan Hughes, Ellis Martin, Perry Ryan and Billy Goddard were all present.

As was a certain Joel Ward – at the time considered nothing more than a rookie who would go on to rack up 92 appearances during the next two campaigns.

Those missing were Mokoena, Nadir Belhadj, Prince Boateng, John Utaka and Kanu, who had been on World Cup duty in South Africa that summer.

In addition, Papa Bouba Diop had a work permit issue, while Hermann Hreidarsson, Richard Hughes and Danny Webber were in rehab following injuries.

Back to the present, and the numbers for Monday’s training return will be supplemented by the nine former Academy players who this summer became first-year professionals.

Among them are Ashley Harris and Sam Magri, who the Blues boss has indicated will be part of his first-team plans this season.

Although, realistically, the others will make up the bulk of the newly-reformed development squad.

In addition, Adam Webster will also be in the first-team frame, despite still being a second-year scholar, while Slovenian goalkeeper Darjan Curanovic is set to take his place among the triallists.

Unfortunately, for the start of pre-season on July 10, 2009, The News were not invited to attend.

Overseen by Paul Hart, who would imminently be appointed as permanent manager, photographs taken by the club did reveal the likes of Younes Kaboul, Hughes, Angelos Basinas, Niko Kranjcar and Sylvain Distin were all present.

And when the first friendly kicked off 10 days later against the Hawks, Hart’s side had no fewer than five triallists.

Among them were Eugen Bopp, Modeste M’Bami, Thierry Audel and Onismor Bhasera.

That was an indication of the sparse numbers the former head of youth development also had to deal with as players were sold to alleviate the club’s massive debts which would eventually lead to administration.

Quite a contrast then to July 8, 2008, and what would turn out to be Harry Redknapp’s final Pompey pre-season.

A large amount of the side which had won the FA Cup just two months earlier were all present.

Those that weren’t had been given time off following a summer of internationals.

With the European Championships and World Cup qualifiers, Kranjcar, David James, Sulley Muntari, Utaka, Lassana Diarra, Lauren and Kanu were all missing.

Still, in a sizeable turnout at Eastleigh, Sol Campbell, Linvoy Primus, Djimi Traore, Glen Little, Ben Sahar, Nugent, Sean Davis, Pedro Mendes, Diop, Jermain Defoe, Martin Cranie, Subotic and Richard Duffy were there.

As was triallist and former Chelsea left-back Celestine Babayaro, who ultimately would not win the deal he craved.

That was four years ago now – a grim reminder of the rapid and painful plummet the club has endured both on and off the pitch since.

What’s more, since July 2008, a succession of Pompey managers have had to ensure pre-seasons built around tiny squad numbers and inexperienced youngsters.

For Michael Appleton, history really does keep on repeating.