Recruitment is king. Why managers - and Portsmouth fans - shouldn't fear going off beaten track for signings

Ben Close tells the story of encountering a certain Pompey triallist in training for the first time, the veteran’s thunderous rollickings leaving an indelible imprint on the memory.

By Neil Allen
Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 12:08 pm
There's nothing wrong for scouring League Two for talent - Enda Stevens (right) was once a performer there for Pompey. Picture: Andrew Yates/Sportimage
There's nothing wrong for scouring League Two for talent - Enda Stevens (right) was once a performer there for Pompey. Picture: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

His name was Michael Doyle not that Paul Cook dared to refer to the former Sheffield United skipper as a triallist.

That summer of 2015 also saw fellow free agents Ben Davies and Gareth Evans rock up at Fratton Park bidding for permanent deals.

A manager has to explore every market open to him. Look in the right places and talent can be unearthed.

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Let’s not forget, there were some Pompey fans against Doyle’s signing on account of his age.

No doubt others turned up their nose at Evans’ credentials as an ex-Fleetwood winger costing nothing.

Later former Barnet player Jamal Lowe came from Hampton & Richmond, while Ronan Curtis arrived from the League of Ireland.

There would have been murmurs of discontent at their signings too. After all, they didn’t land from the Premier League or Championship.

It seems to have alarmed some, who misunderstand that the Blues’ entire recruitment drive will now rigidly focus on the National League.

In reality, such signings will supplement playing numbers and help construct a future. What’s more, those aged under 21 possess the bonus of not being included in 22-man squad-size restrictions.

No doubt League Two will also prove to be a hunting ground for Cowley – and, once more, let’s not allow preconceived ideas write off playing talent.

Not so long ago, League Two contained Enda Stevens, Christian Burgess, Matt Clarke, Kal Naismith, Adam Webster, Jed Wallace, Conor Chaplin and, of course, Lowe.

It seems ridiculous for a League One club to dismiss signing such performers purely on the basis of them featuring in the bottom division of the Football League.

Recruitment defines a manager – he cannot afford to have limited vision. His job depends on it.

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That’s not to say that Pompey shouldn’t cast their eye around fellow League One clubs or higher up the leagues. Far from it.

It’s also worth remembering that Craig MacGillivray was a free transfer from Shrewsbury, while Pompey paid money to Spurs for Luke McGee.

Clearly the arrival of one would have been more well received than the other – before a supporter had glimpsed either keeper in action.

Charlie Daniels was playing Premier League football last season and represented quite a coup in January. In reality, he has been one of the Blues’ most disappointing signings of recent times.

Then there’s Rasmus Nicolaisen, whose high regard before kicking a ball was constructed upon playing in the top division of Denmark and appearing in the Champion’s League.

In the end, even forgotten man Paul Downing was ahead of him, such were the average nature of his central-defensive displays.

Regardless, Pompey should at least receive credit for exploring other markets and trying something different.

Cowley has been challenged to overhaul a playing squad which finished eighth in League One, despite having three players which each cost in excess of £450,000.

Any manager must remain open minded when scouring for new players – and, perhaps, so too should supporters.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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