Sad goodbyes, fond farewells. Departing heroes can check out any time they like - but they are Portsmouth for life

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The Blues announced their retained list on Wednesday evening, with 10 departures

Clutching a Glen Moray whisky bottle and a bottle of red, Sean Raggett initiated his final act as a Pompey player.

The recipient of the gifts was Kev McCormack, a colleague for five years and close companion through play-off disappointments, last-day disaster and now, at last, promotion from League One.

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Despite having been informed he had no Blues future, on that same Monday afternoon the popular defender wished to convey his thanks to the long-serving kitman through the farewell presents.

Sean Raggett celebrates after scoring the equaliser to make it 2-2 against Plymouth in September 2021. Picture: Robin Jones/Getty ImagesSean Raggett celebrates after scoring the equaliser to make it 2-2 against Plymouth in September 2021. Picture: Robin Jones/Getty Images
Sean Raggett celebrates after scoring the equaliser to make it 2-2 against Plymouth in September 2021. Picture: Robin Jones/Getty Images | Getty Images

It was a gesture which genuinely touched McCormack, reaffirming his admiration for a player he regards as one of the best professionals he has ever encountered at Pompey and ‘a gentleman’.

Following an emotional embrace between the pair, Raggett walked away from the Blues’ Hilsea training ground - and out of the club.

He’ll be back of course, the bond is now lifelong, it can never be severed. The 31-year-old is lodged in Pompey folklore, ingrained in the Fratton faithful’s hearts, and one day will occupy the Hall of Fame.

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Regardless of what the future holds, Sean Raggett can be assured of a hero’s welcome upon any Fratton Park return, whether professionally or as a spectator.

When McCormack drove 11 members of the title-winning squad to Heathrow Airport in the club minibus early on Tuesday morning for Las Vegas celebrations, Raggett was not among them.

He had already booked a holiday to Croatia with his young family. Time to rest, recuperate and plot the next challenge of his football career. Understated as ever.

It had long been suspected the former Norwich man would depart at the season’s end, particularly considering John Mousinho already has four contracted centre-halves for the Championship.

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In addition, there remains the likelihood another front-line central defender will also be required during the summer recruitment drive. As a consequence, there was no fresh deal on the table.

In the case of Joe Rafferty, his inclusion among the 10 departures was a surprise to many and another heartbreaking exit.

The likeable Scouser had put last season’s injury woes behind him to become Pompey’s first-choice right-back and a pivotal performer throughout the title-winning campaign.

Aside from suspension, a brief absence through a neck injury sustained after using a hairdryer, and rotating with Zak Swanson in the final five weeks, Rafferty was an automatic selection in one of the best defences in the division.

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His competitiveness, commitment, consistency, experience and mischievous relish for winding up opposition benches and fans by going to ground were a key component.

Mousinho admitted Rafferty deserved a new deal, but, crucially, couldn’t see a role for the 30-year-old in the Championship. Now he also leaves.

Elsewhere, the decision not to take up Joe Morrell’s 12-month option is an intriguing one and primarily financial rather than a reflection on his ability to make the step up and squad worth.

Mousinho is adamant he wants the Wales international to remain and instead the club will aim to negotiate a fresh deal, allowing flexibility on wages and length, albeit running the risk of the midfielder signing elsewhere.

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It’s a similar scenario with Swanson, although his ongoing groin problem and restricted availability is a concern, despite a high regard for his talent.

With Connor Ogilvie, social media rumours had declared he’d been shown the door, swiftly becoming regarded as fact. The truth is, within the club, there was little debate over handing him a fresh deal.

Likewise, Marlon Pack, for entirely obvious reasons. Now aged 33, his game has never relied on pace, not even as a promising youngster in the Blues reserves, while he possesses plenty of Championship experience.

As for others, Matt Macey will now pursue his desire for first-team football. This season he has spent too long either on the bench or sidelines with Luton and Pompey, especially for a player clearly capable of being first-choice in League One.

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Ryan Schofield’s Pompey future was effectively decided by AFC Wimbledon in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy in December, Lee Evans was an important midfield safety-net for the short-term, and likewise Josh Martin offered back-up comfort.

Completing the list of those released are Harry Jewitt-White, Haji Mnoga, Liam Vincent and Josh Dockerill, sad exits, the majority local lads, but nonetheless anticipated.

Clearly tough decisions, some rightly mourned by the Fratton faithful, yet, on the flipside, the ruthlessness augurs well ahead of Pompey’s Championship.

There remains a desire to evolve and improve the champions rather than basking a remarkable season. It promises to be a fascinating summer of recruitment.

And for those departing League One heroes, you can check out any time you like, but you will never leave. This is your club for life.

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