Danny Cowley's Portsmouth goalkeeping dilemma as Manchester City ace emerges as top target

It’s a department Danny Cowley unsurprisingly wants to bolster ahead of his Pompey troops returning to pre-season next week.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 5:30 pm

Ever the joker, the Blues head coach will likely quip he’ll be dusting off his Sondico’s to go in goal if he can’t get a goalkeeper signed by Monday.

With just one senior stopper in Alex Bass under contract following the departures of Craig MacGillivray, Duncan Turnbull and Taylor Seymour, it’s scarcely a surprise it’s a position Cowley’s been prioritising so far in the transfer window.

After being linked to West Brom’s Josh Griffiths, Gavin Bazunu’s now emerged the Blues’ top target.

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The Manchester City youngster’s fresh off the back of a season with Rochdale and now poised to head back out on loan to garner more crucial first-team experience.

Evidently, Bazunu is a good few years off even being considered to vie for Edison's spot at the Premier League champions.

However, in a Category One academy stratosphere where umpteen players across the country are stockpiled, you get the impression there are genuine hopes for Bazunu at the Ethihad.

After all, he’s a Republic of Ireland international at just 19 and is still in the embryonic stage of his career in terms of goalkeeping years.

Pompey keeper Alex Bass, left, and Gavin Bazunu.
Pompey keeper Alex Bass, left, and Gavin Bazunu.

During his maiden taste of senior football at Rochdale, he played 33 times for a Rochdale side that was relegated from League One.

A switch to Pompey would be a step up in the right direction for the Dublin-born teenager and would keep him in the Republic reckoning given Ronan Curtis' consistent call-ups from League One.

Yet there may be concerns from the Manchester City end around whether he's going to be first choice.

When it comes to loan moves, Premier League clubs can frequently demand stipulations in contracts to ensure their player makes a certain number of appearances – otherwise fees must be paid.

And when it comes to the goalkeeping spot, there are no guarantees that Bazunu would be featuring week in, week out.

It was this time only 12 months ago when Bass was attracted admiring glances from higher up the pyramid.

The homegrown talent's performances in 2019-20 after he wrestled the No1 jersey off Craig MacGillivray – away to Peterborough the apogee – meant that Premier League Crystal Palace and Championship Middlesbrough were among the clubs known to have shown interest.

The 2020-21 season proved to be challenging for Bass, however.

Firstly, he surrendered his No1 spot following a nightmare first half on the opening day of the season at Stevenage before injuries confined him to a further five games in all competitions. That included 45 minutes during an emergency loan at Southend where he suffered a recurring leg fracture.

Still, Cowley's remained a fan of Bass, having been impressed when he broke into the team under predecessor Kenny Jackett, and his ability was one of the facets behind allowing MacGillivray to exit.

What's more, it's understood that Bass still has clubs keeping a watchful eye on his progress despite his setbacks.

With two years left on his Fratton Park deal, the 23-year-old is Pompey's most bankable asset along with Ronan Curtis.

Granted, Bass' valuation might have dropped from a year ago but there's still plenty of scope for him to fulfil his potential.

However, what he needs to do to achieve that, quite simply, is to play games.

Despite being around the first team since he was aged 16, Bass has had just half a season of regular action and made only 34 appearances in total.

He's also still relatively youthful for a keeper but another campaign as reserve may see him follow academy graduates such as Conor Chaplin, Brandon Haunstrup, Adam May and most recently Ben Close out the door for regular opportunities elsewhere.

When compiling his list of keepers, Cowley would have mulled over such quandary extensively.

Signing a more experienced protagonist who’d accept he was back-up will have been weighed up – but they’re often not cheap.

Ultimately, Cowley’s decision will come down to what he sees best to serve a Pompey promotion push.

That seemingly is bringing in Bazunu to compete with Bass.