Danny Cowley's cull is ongoing - yet still short of ruthless 2015 clear-out which changed Portsmouth destiny

It has been six years since Pompey initiated such a ferocious cull of its playing staff.

By Neil Allen
Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 6:00 pm
The shock departure of skipper Paul Robinson completed a 14-player clear-out by Paul Cook in the summer of 2015. Picture: Joe Pepler
The shock departure of skipper Paul Robinson completed a 14-player clear-out by Paul Cook in the summer of 2015. Picture: Joe Pepler

Although Danny Cowley still has a little way to go to match the summer of 2015 tally of 14 overseen by Paul Cook which transformed Pompey’s destiny.

The Blues’ head coach has so far removed 11 players from the squad he inherited from Kenny Jackett.

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Fuelled by failure to reach the play-offs and Tornante’s desire to reduce the wage bill to maintain self-sustainability, the subsequent overhaul has been wide reaching.

It leaves Cowley with a massive rebuilding programme to assemble a squad capable of another promotion challenge in 2021-22.

A similar task faced Cook upon his arrival from League One play-off semi-finalists Chesterfield in May 2015.

Having occupied the Fratton Park hot-seat for six days, the retained list announced the departures of eight players, including Dan Butler, Ben Chorley, Tom Craddock, Joe Devera, Danny East, Wes Fogden, Nicky Shorey and Bradley Tarbuck.

Cook then tried his best to persuade Wolves-bound Jed Wallace to remain, although was unable, while Craig Westcarr was allowed to join Mansfield.

When Pompey decided against offering a new deal for Ryan Taylor following opening talks, it represented 11 departures before mid-June.

Cook wasn’t done, however, turning his attention to contracted players.

Tellingly, Johnny Ertl and Andy Barcham were left out of pre-season bonding and training trip to Vale do Lobo in the Algarve.

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It was no surprise when they exited in July 2015, both my mutual consent.

Barcham’s negotiated release allowed his move to AFC Wimbledon on a free transfer, while Johnny Ertl retired after his Blues love affair was ended.

Undoubtedly, the highest profile departure of them all was that of skipper Paul Robinson.

The central defender left Pompey by mutual consent just eight days before the season’s start – and on the eve of the final first-team pre-season friendly at Gillingham.

Instead Cook put his faith in Adam Webster, new recruit Christian Burgess and a teenage loanee from Ipswich called Matt Clarke.

Robinson soon moved to AFC Wimbledon, where he featured 118 times over the next three seasons.

Those exits left Cook with a 13-man squad, primarily made up of home-grown youngsters such as Jack Whatmough, Ben Close, Adam May, Alex Bass, Conor Chaplin, Brandon Haunstrup and Webster.

Incidentally, the 14 departures were replaced by 14 arrivals.

Among them were Kyle Bennett, Kal Naismith, Enda Stevens, Gary Roberts, Christian Burgess, Michael Doyle, Gareth Evans, Matt Clarke and Ben Davies.

Pompey finished sixth in League Two that season, before losing at the play-off semi-final stage to Plymouth.

In the present day, Cowley has lost 11 players so far. As with Cook, he will be judged entirely on their replacements.

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