The hindsight-fuelled Pompey midfield debate which won’t fade

Stanley Aborah played 122 minutes for Pompey last season
Stanley Aborah played 122 minutes for Pompey last season
Brandon Haunstrup. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey to secure youngster’s future

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On 77 minutes, Waterford’s number 22 carved a pathway down the left flank before applying a sumptuous backheel.

The ball released Garry Comerford on the inside and, without breaking stride, he delivered for Dean O’Halloran to slide home at the far post.

A moment of inspiration which banished the Irish club’s decade-long wait for victory in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.

Certainly, an instant impression from debutant and former Blues midfielder Stanley Aborah.

The goal’s orchestrator had arrived at the Regional Sports Centre almost a month earlier during the club’s pre-season.

Google fails to pinpoint the Belgian’s whereabouts during the previous seven months which passed following the June 2017 announcement there would be no fresh Pompey deal.

There were trials, with Fratton Park on occasions asked by interested clubs to deliver character references.

However, it seems the visit of Derry City on Friday night last was the enigmatic midfielder’s maiden competitive appearance since claiming the League Two title.

On that wonderful May 2017 afternoon, Aborah arrived off the bench to replace Danny Rose for the last 19 minutes against Cheltenham Town.

It ensured he was on the battlefield when Christopher Sarginson’s final whistle crowned Pompey champions in front of 17,956 gathered.

There were also euphoric scenes earlier this month in the League of Ireland when First Division champions Waterford marked a triumphant return to the top flight.

Back at the level they exited in 2007, they secured a 2-1 opening-day victory, witnessed by 2,502.

Aborah was substituted on 80 minutes, but his contribution had been telling, an arrival into the affections of Waterford followers breakneck rapid.

In a nomadic career consisting of 11 clubs, the 30-year-old has never struggled to enchant upon his unveiling. Where he flounders is continuing to captivate once familiarity has dug in.

The former Ajax player served Pompey for 122 minutes, a period spread over the final four matches of last term, yet his name continues to be treasured with awe by some.

Inevitability when Kenny Jackett failed to strengthen his central-midfield area with either experience or guile during the last transfer window, longing looks are cast in Aborah’s direction.

Similarly, Michael Doyle and Amine Linganzi have also been heralded as the solution, prompting ‘If only’ cries during hindsight-fuelled debates.

It cannot be argued that the trio haven’t been effectively replaced since Jackett arrived, the absence of strengthening in that area glaring.

Once Danny Rose was ruled out for the season with the broken leg sustained on December 30 to join Stuart O’Keefe on the sidelines, the need gathered urgency.

Presently, teenager Adam May is partnering Ben Close in the centre of midfield, having produced at Fleetwood what Jackett described as his finest display under him.

The alternative is right-back Nathan Thompson, presently serving a four-match ban.

So what of the threesome some still parade as the ones who got away?

Coventry skipper Doyle has not played since injury earlier this month and, in his absence, the Sky Blues have lost all three fixtures.

Typical of the 36-year-old, he had sustained knee ligament damage two games earlier, yet continued to feature.

Overall, he has made 35 Sky Blues appearances, scoring three times, and was a member of the side which triumphed over Stoke in the FA Cup.

Fratton Park lost Doyle 23 days before Jackett’s arrival, having been unconvinced the new deal pledged to him by Paul Cook would arrive.

He had seen similar promises to Ben Davies and Danny Hollands fail to be honoured.

With Coventry showing interest, he was unwilling to gamble on someone’s word.

The Blues’ skipper left five days after the title triumph – and Cook followed a fortnight later.

Out-of-contract Linganzi had the presence of mind to obtain Jackett’s phone number to explore whether he had a south-coast future.

The pair held training ground talks, with the Waterlooville-based midfielder walking away believing a new deal was in the pipeline. However, Pompey’s manager had a change of heart.

Swindon would instead become Linganzi’s footballing home, where he has so far made 25 appearances and netted four times.

However, a thigh problem collected at Barnet on New Year’s Day has sidelined the 28-year-old.

Then there is Aborah.

Cook spoke highly of the former Notts County player, confiding in some that he wanted him in his League One midfield unit.

His admiration engineered Aborah a SkyBet title-winners’ medal on the Southsea Common stage, whereas Curtis Main was overlooked for the limited supply.

There were team-mates alarmed at such treatment dished out to a player who scored twice in 12 league appearances, before injury arrived.

However, Main eventually received commemoration from the Football League during their distribution of different medals.

By all accounts, Aborah did not display the unsettling presence his reputation is burdened with. Those who worked with him had no criticism of his attitude or talent.

Perhaps, crucially, his fitness and mobility remained a concern, even three months after his free-agent arrival in February 2017.

Tellingly, Cook never handed him that deal.

And now the 122-minute favourite is using the Republic of Ireland’s top flight as his stage.