Mark Catlin: Portsmouth promotion comes first - not players' futures

Pompey accept they risk losing out-of-contract performers after prioritising attention on Championship promotion.

Monday, 18th November 2019, 5:45 am
Updated Monday, 18th November 2019, 10:32 am

Mark Catlin has shelved all talks on fresh player deals until next summer, affecting 10 members of the current first-team squad.

Among them are Ronan Curtis, Christian Burgess, Brett Pitman, Lee Brown and Brandon Haunstrup.

It’s a policy previously adopted during the 2016-17 campaign under Paul Cook – resulting in the League Two title.

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And, similarly, Catlin is convinced players’ focus should now be fixed purely on promotion rather than their individual futures.

Pompey’s chief executive said: ‘This season is a case of “Lads, get your heads down, get us promoted”.

‘If we lose one or two players at the end of the campaign, which we don’t want to, well that’s a risk we are going to have to take.

Christian Burgess, currently in his fifth season at Fratton Park, is out of contract in the summer. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/PinPep
Christian Burgess, currently in his fifth season at Fratton Park, is out of contract in the summer. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/PinPep

‘If we gave those we don’t want to lose a contract at this moment, it becomes destabilising for the rest of the team – and it is a team game.

‘That was the philosophy we adopted in the year promoted under Paul Cook and it's the one we are going to be adopting from now until the end of the season.

‘We were trying to extend Enda (Stevens) during that period, but there were others we basically told we weren’t talking about it until the end of the season.

‘Enda was always a long shot anyway because we were fully aware of the offers he was receiving from other clubs, even the summer before, so was never realistically going to sign a new deal with us.

Brett Pitman is among 10 of Pompey's first-team squad whose contracts expire at the season's end. Picture: Graham Hunt

‘You have to be consistent, that’s the point, so there are players in our current squad who, in an ideal world, we probably would like to offer extended terms to.

‘However, that leaves other members of the squad not offered terms and that causes disruption within the changing room.

‘We will chat with your agent and let you know broadly where we are going, but I don’t want to be spending every Wednesday on the players’ day off sitting with them and their agent trying to negotiate a new contract.

‘The focus has to be on getting promoted.’

In addition to Curtis, Burgess, Pitman, Brown and Haunstrup, also out of contract next summer are Oli Hawkins, Luke McGee, Anton Walkes, Adam May and Matt Casey.

The club possess options on several of the 10, while could yet act if a ‘no-brainer’ emerges.

Catlin added: ‘There may be an absolute no-brainer we have to act upon.

‘But, as a general strategy, we are saying to the players “We are not saying we don’t want to sign you, but let’s talk at the end of the season”.’