Pompey's retained list comes under focus

Ruthless Paul Cook has implemented his clear-out as he strives to finally escape League Two.

Wednesday, 18th May 2016, 2:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2016, 5:25 pm
Goalkeeper Brian Murphy has been released by Pompey Picture: Joe Pepler

This week Pompey announced their retained list and NEIL ALLEN looks at the players involved.


Brian Murphy

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Pompey attacking trio Adam McGurk, Matt Tubbs and Kal Naismith have been transfer listed

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An impressive return of 11 clean sheets failed to convince the doubters of Murphy’s credentials and his departure at the end of his deal was expected.

Although often publicly defended by Paul Cook, goalkeeping has been a problem area for the Blues throughout the season and this summer requires urgent attention.

The former QPR stopper had dislodged Paul Jones, yet was hampered by several injuries as the campaign wore on, eventually being unable to feature in the play-offs.

Pompey attacking trio Adam McGurk, Matt Tubbs and Kal Naismith have been transfer listed

Outstanding with his distribution, yet height has been a concern, while Murphy made several costly mistakes in the opening half of the campaign.


Transfer listed

Matt Tubbs

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Last season’s League Two golden boot winner has long been out-of-favour under Paul Cook and it was no surprise to see him transfer listed.

The striker started the opening four League Two matches of the new regime, netting a penalty at Plymouth, yet there remained doubts he could operate effectively in the 4-2-3-1 system.

By the end of October he had scored five goals in 17 matches, the majority of appearances coming off the bench, but he never played for Pompey again.

Injury and the arrivals of Marc McNulty and Caolan Lavery on loan pushed Tubbs well out of the picture and he would later fail to shine at Eastleigh.

Pompey didn’t even attempt to bring him back into their squad once Eastleigh’s season ended and are now seeking to move him on.

Kal Naismith

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Injured on the eve of the season, it wouldn’t be until the turn of the year when he became a regular in Paul Cook’s first-team squad.

Signed from Accrington for an undisclosed fee last summer, the forward did, however, enjoy a successful six-week loan spell at Hartlepool and upon his return in January had his best Pompey moments.

Given a run in the team following injury to Kyle Bennett, he ended the campaign scoring in successive matches against Hartlepool and Northampton.

Yet Naismith had long struggled to convince Cook of his attacking talents and Pompey’s boss opted to transfer list him with two years remaining on his contract.

Adam McGurk

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A topsy-turvy time at Fratton Park for the versatile forward who initially bounced back superbly following pre-season injury.

Scored on his debut against Derby in the Capital One Cup and also his first League Two start against Barnet, with three goals in his opening nine Blues appearances.

By the start of December he had also netted FA Cup winners against Macclesfield and Accrington, to take his tally to six.

Yet since then he has struggled for form, in particular failing to recapture that early-season success following a four-game injury absence in February/March.

He finished the season 21 matches without a goal and a final appearance against Plymouth on Sunday night was a disappointing one.


In negotiations

Ben Davies

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Immensely-popular attacking right-back who collected eight player of the season awards in recognition of an outstanding maiden Pompey campaign.

Despite turning 35 this month, he has been a tireless presence down the right flank, weighing in with assists and a wholehearted approach loved by supporters.

Paul Cook is eager to keep the former Sheffield United man as part of his Blues squad for next season’s push for promotion.

While Davies would accept a one-year deal, talks are ongoing to reach agreement on wages for one of the lowest-paid first-team regulars.

Danny Hollands

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Many thought Hollands would barely be involved during Paul Cook’s maiden campaign considering his below-par displays the previous season.

However, after forcing his way into the side in October, only injury subsequently kept him out of Pompey’s starting XI.

The 30-year-old saw off Nigel Atangana, Adam Barton and Ben Close for the holding role alongside Michael Doyle and developed into a pivotal figure in the promotion push.

A model professional and popular around the club, his immense work-rate and intelligent use of the ball has resulted in Cook wanting to keep him at Fratton Park beyond next month’s expiry of his contract.


Given new deals

Ben Close

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Another season of encouraging progress from a central midfielder who goes about his work efficiently and with the minimum of fuss.

Was entrusted with a holding role alongside Michael Doyle for eight games during Danny Hollands’ injury absence at the turn of the year and continued to impress.

Close’s natural game means he essentially lacks the physicality in that precise position when compared to other contenders in Pompey’s squad.

Yet he continues to use the ball excellently and Paul Cook has regularly spoken glowingly about the youngster from Fratton.

With his contract expiring this summer, the Blues have activated the option for an additional 12 months.

Ben Tollitt

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Seen as a gamble by Paul Cook but the promising winger has done enough for the Blues to activate a 12-month option in his initial one-year deal.

Formerly with non-league Skelmersdale United, Tollitt arrived on trial last summer and caught the eye.

A direct, attacking wide midfielder, he contributed with assists against Crawley and Carlisle after appearing from the bench, while netted his maiden Football League goal against York.

Appearances dried up during the second half of the campaign, yet Pompey’s coaching staff have long talked favourably of the potential of the 21-year-old.

Adam May

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Extremely highly regarded among the Academy ranks he has risen from and was handed a professional contract while still in the youth set-up.

The midfielder spent time on loan at Gosport to further his development and Pompey’s management continue to be encouraged by his progress.

Given his first start in the youthful side which lined-up at Exeter in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, he went on to make three appearances in total.

Pompey have activated a 12-month option to tie him to Fratton Park for another season.