Once eyed by Crystal Palace, now forgotten Portsmouth goalkeeper is back in first-team frame - after 16 months of biding his time
It has been more than 16 months since Alex Bass made successive league appearances.
Yet he has never been as close to ending that unwanted statistic as today.
In July 2020, he was a highly-promising keeper eyed by Crystal Palace and lining-up Oxford United in the League One play-off semi-finals.
Such was Pompey's admiration for his burgeoning capabilities, they had secured Bass’ future months earlier on a three-and-a-half year deal.
Since then the Academy graduate has been handed just three Football League outings – and one of those was 45 minutes for Southend in a loan spell ended mid-game through injury.
Wycombe, however, provided a timely reminder of the 23-year-old’s ability.
Bass’ progress may have stalled in the shadows behind Craig MacGillivray and Gavin Bazunu, nonetheless his talent has never deteriorated.
Once tipped by former Pompey goalkeeping coach John Keeley as a future England international, the youngster has primarily been used in the EFL Trophy in recent times.
Then, on Saturday, a penalty save and a stunning late stop, amid a magnificent rearguard action, secured the Blues a heartening victory at Adams Park.
Bass’ second League One start of the campaign had arrived by default, with undisputed number one Bazunu on Republic of Ireland international duty.
With Manchester City loanee Bazunu back available for this weekend’s visit of AFC Wimbledon, does he retain Bass in his starting XI?
In truth, the Blues have been well stocked for goalkeeping talent over a number of seasons, from David Forde and Luke McGee to MacGillivray, Bazunu and Bass.
While weaknesses have consistently required addressing across the pitch, there have been no such headaches with the goalkeeping department, certainly not since the summer of 2016.
Whether Bass or Bazunu is selected against Wimbledon, Cowley can be comfortable in the knowledge he possesses an excellent and reliable performer.
Yet in Bazunu, Pompey’s coach has a player integral to the footballing philosophy he is attempting to implement at Fratton Park.
His preference for play to be dictated by a goalkeeper was noticeably ditched in the teenager’s absence at Wycombe, albeit also influenced by tactical necessity.
Regardless, the Blues claimed a 1-0 triumph and marked three successive clean sheets in all competitions, the latter two achieved with Bass on duty,
Bazunu is also in fine form, having recovered impressively from the blip epitomised by Rotherham and Ipswich to regain his composure and return to displays of the highest calibre – both domestically and internationally.
On the flip side, Bass remains Pompey’s future, contracted until the summer of 2023 and undoubtedly deserving of a first-team break following wretched luck.
There was that first-half implosion in the Carabao Cup at Stevenage, breaking the same leg twice, and the ominous task of toppling MacGillivray during a year in which he claimed The News/Sports Mail’s Player of the Season.
Now his rival is Bazunu, last week crowned the Confederation of Republic of Ireland Supporters Clubs’ Player of the Year.
Up until the July 2020 play-offs, Bass had overthrown MacGillivray and racked up 18 successive league, play-off and FA Cup starts.
In the subsequent 499 days, he has totalled 10 Pompey outings in all competitions.
Good luck with this decision, Danny Cowley.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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