As many goalkeepers as central midfielders - why a 17-year-old may be Portsmouth's answer to squad shortage concerns

It would be unfair to describe it as an audition piece, yet these are certainly times of need.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 4:30 pm
Harry Jewitt-White in action against Peterborough in January's Papa John's Trophy encounter. Picture: Nigel Keene/ProSportsImages

Harry Jewitt-White’s half-time entrance against Bournemouth under-21s represented his only taste of first-team action of the summer.

A timely re-emergence for the 17-year-old, who is presently the only Blues midfield back-up to Shaun Williams and Ryan Tunnicliffe.

Following the arrivals of George Hirst and Connor Ogilvie, Danny Cowley has repositioned his transfer focus primarily to the centre of midfield.

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Soberingly, of the current first-team squad, just two are natural central midfielders.

Indeed, beyond Williams and Tunnicliffe, there barely appears to be any suitable candidate to call in an emergency.

Right-back Callum Johnson was once a defensive midfielder, Haji Mnoga tried out there a couple of times at the start of pre-season. But that’s your lot.

Then there’s Jewitt-White, a second-year scholar whose pre-season was initially interrupted by the suspension of Academy players during the racism probe.

Not long after their return to training, the group then had to self-isolate following a case of coronavirus within their camp.

Tuesday afternoon’s Pompey XI fixture at the Canford Arena at least allowed four of their number to have a run out from the bench during a fitful pre-season,

In the case of Jewitt-White, he replaced Hirst at half-time against the Cherries, although wasn’t asked to replicate the striker’s position in the 1-0 success.

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Still, the midfielder is highly regarded at Fratton Park, while last season earned first-team experience through two Papa John’s Trophy appearances.

Certainly there aren’t many other contenders to serve as back up for the two senior central midfielders presently on Pompey’s books.

Casting an eye over the fixture list, the Blues have four matches during the opening 11 days of the season.

These consist of Fleetwood (Saturday), Millwall (August 10), Crewe (August 14) and Shrewsbury (August 17).

As it stands, Tunnicliffe and Williams will be required to start – and potentially complete – all of them, including the Carabao Cup trip to The Den.

It also needs pointing out that, with the greatest of respect, Williams turns 35 in October.

Unquestionably the forthcoming workload should be regarded as a concern for a player of his seniority, irrespective of his high fitness levels and determinatin to play.

Not that Cowley needs reminding further additions to the centre of the park are urgently required as Saturday’s season’s start looms.

It’s an obvious weakness in a squad which has lost Ben Close, Tom Naylor, Andy Cannon, Bryn Morris and Charlie Bell since last term.

Effectively, just two of those five have been replaced – reflecting how short the Blues are in that area. As many central midfielders as goalkeepers is the brutal truth.

Perhaps Johnson can indeed provide cover, although he appears well out of favour generally following the arrival of Kieron Freeman.

Maybe Mnoga can do the job, yet he has been sidelined by coronavirus since late last week, thereby unable to work at the training ground.

Then there’s Jewitt-White, the second-year scholar eager to make his Pompey mark.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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