The Manchester City legend, Barcelona star and Portsmouth triallists in disguise who dominated pre-season

In total honesty, Aaron Jarvis has got it all to do to earn himself a Pompey contract.

Wednesday, 3rd July 2019, 1:33 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd July 2019, 3:09 pm
Brazillian international Geovanni in Pompey colours at Yeovil in 2007. Picture: WILL CADDY (072892-5)

The striker was a surprise face as the Blues reported back for pre-season training last Thursday.

The plan, as Kenny Jackett indicated in a lengthy local press briefing on the first day of term, was to have the 21-year-old in this week for training and take a closer look at his attributes.

But not only has the Pompey boss not signed a triallist in his time at Fratton Park, he’s failed to hand an unsigned player so much as a second on the pitch in any of his side’s warm-ups.

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Ryan Bird completed a meteoric rise to Pompey after two goals at Hawks in 2013.

There was a time when it wasn’t like this, however.

Indeed, many of Jackett’s predecessors could make pre-season a sports writer’s nightmare as they sent out triallists under varying levels of disguise.

We haven’t quite witnessed the scenario seen at Bolton two years ago when they fielded a team of triallists as outfield players against Marine. Lincoln went for a full XI of A.Triallist on the team-sheet 11 years ago.

Nor, have we seen a player take to the field disguised in a fake nose and glasses, but that hasn’t stopped some pre-season friendlies down the years turning into a giant game of Guess Who?

The mysterious 'Berlin' at Torquay in 2006. Picture: Jonathan Brady

Of course, if we’re looking back at the most renowned Pompey triallist tale you’d go no further than the emergence of ‘Andy Henry’ on the team-sheet at Kilmarnock in 2003.

It’s a story which sees Harry Redknapp at his raconteurial best as he retells how he came to sign Amdy Faye, by effectively keeping him prisoner at his Sandbanks home and using his bulldogs as guards (this was Rosie’s first brush with fame before infamy followed nine years later when she was used as a name for a bank account as her owner was cleared of tax evasion charges).

It also saw Redknapp deadpan his way through TV, written and radio press interviews trying to explain how the language barrier and Faye’s attempt to say he knew Thierry Henry led to the name appearing on the team-sheet.

It was all enough, however, to fend off Middlesbrough’s overtures and land the midfielder for £1.5m, as he went on to make 52 appearances in royal blue.

Amdy Faye or 'Andy Henry' is arguably the most renowned Pompey triallist. Picture: Steve Reid

As a pup Pompey reporter that summer proved a baptism of fire as the demand came from the sports desk to put names to a procession of sometimes obscure faces turning out for warm-up games under Redknapp.

Fortunately, there was no such issue when Georgi Kinkladze rocked up at Griffin Park for a pre-season outing against Brentford the same summer. It was the kind of moment which underlined Pompey’s hurtling on-pitch progress, that in the space of a couple of years we’d gone from watching Carl Tiler to a Premier League legend trying to earn himself a Blues deal.

Kinkladze reportedly had been in talks with Liverpool a couple of months earlier, but the Manchester City great looked out of shape in his run out after leaving Derby, and Redknapp eventually opted for Eyal Berkovic to give his squad a mercurial flourish.

Similarly to the little Georgian magician, the appearance of a Barcelona striker at Huish Park in 2007 caused quite a stir among Pompey fans.

The Brazilian international Geovanni scored one goal and set up another against Yeovil, but after turning heads opted to take the money on offer at Manchester City under new boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, instead.

Not all triallists down the years have been as immediately recognisable, however.

The appearance of the mysterious goalscoring striker known only as ‘Berlin’ at Torquay in 2006 had the press scouring the internet without a great deal of success. With talk of Nicolas Anelka arriving, Berlin Ndebe-Nlome was eventually handed a deal, but the man, who according to Wikipedia is now 31, failed to take our breath away and never made a senior appearance.

Frederic Brando offered Redknapp chance for movie-based quips in 2002 as he referenced the midfielder being a ‘contender’ in his post-match interviews after playing Alaves at Fratton Park. The attempt to channel Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront passed most of the assembled press by, however, as did the Frenchman’s chances of earning a contract.

Jocelyn Blanchard, Drees Bouchaart, Dele Adebola, Celestine Babayaro, Glenn Morris, Lloyd Sam, Connor Randall and a youthful Ibrahima Sonko at Bognor 17 years ago were other blink-and-you-missed them players who've trialled in pre-season.

Things went somewhat better for another foreign youngster on show at Nyewood Lane the same afternoon back then, as Vincent Pericard got the only goal on the way to earning a move from Juventus and an eventual 49 Pompey appearances.

Fast forward 11 years and another youngster was making his impact, as a non-league striker was left giddy at the prospect of a contract at Fratton Park following a two-goal 45-minute outing at Hawks. Ryan Bird went on to complete a heart-warming and meteoric rise, as he quite his job as an electrician and stepped up four divisions from Southern League division one central outfit Burnham, eventually grabbing three goals in 25 appearances.

The honour of being the biggest triallist success of recent years undoubtedly goes to ‘Wayne Evans’, who made a big impact when turning up at Hawks four years ago.

It soon came to light this wasn’t the Waterlooville boxer who fought for the British title in the 70s, but Paul Cook trying to keep the fact he’d tempted Fleetwood’s Gareth Evans to the other end of the country for a game.

You could see why Cook irked saw the player being branded a triallist afterwards as disrespectful, with a deal was later wrapped up. Now, after 187 appearances, the club’s longest-serving player is as Pompey as the dockyard, Spinnaker Tower and going for a pint in Old Portsmouth to supporters.

It’s unlikely Jarvis will ever reach such an exalted status among the Fratton faithful, but the pre-season hopers and chancers very rarely do.

And at least with Jackett shying away from playing triallists the panic to identify the Andy Henrys, Wayne Evans and Berlins of Pompey’s past is on hold for another summer.