Should we be prepared for Tom Naylor's summer departure, would Nathan Thompson still start and how have the kids been faring after West Ham? - your Portsmouth questions answered

Our weekly Pompey Q&A continues after Saturday’s impressive 2-0 victory over Peterborough.

Monday, 7th December 2020, 12:50 pm
Updated Monday, 7th December 2020, 1:36 pm

As ever, the debate around all things Fratton Park continues to rage, with plenty of talking points to discuss.

Here are the responses to questions we’ve been sent regarding Tom Naylor’s future, Nathan Thompson and the fledgling talents at PO4…

1. Pompey have three tough-looking league games before Christmas. Is this a make or break period in Pompey's season? What would be a good points tally from Ipswich, Fleetwood and Hull?

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Steve Wood

When we surveyed the fixture list in August, this period did appear to be Pompey’s most challenging.

The Blues performed poorly in the loss to Blackpool but the Seasiders went and won again on Saturday at Fleetwood. Maybe the result wasn’t as bad as it was suggested at the time.

Pompey bounced back magnificently against Peterborough and it sets them up well for the games against three more promotion rivals.

Tom Naylor celebrates scoring against Peterborough. Picture: Joe Pepler

I don’t think it is a make or break period but it will certainly help define whether the Blues can finally finish in the automatic promotion spots or again be in the play-offs.

Five points (a win and two draws) would be a very decent return, I reckon. That’s just under the two points per game required to finish in the top two.

What’s more, it would ensure their promotion rivals drop points, too.

One thing you can say about Pompey under Kenny Jackett is they’re capable of going on lengthy winning streaks. So even if the Blues do underwhelm then they’re capable of hitting it off again very quickly.

2. Honest opinion – should we expect Tom Naylor to leave in the summer?

Dave Conville

As long as the skipper continues to do his best Steven Gerrard impersonation then this will remain a pertinent question – and one we’ll try our best to answer.

We now know officially that Pompey want to keep their skipper beyond the end of his contract, which expires in June.

He’s club captain, highly respected by players and fans alike, and is Kenny Jackett’s lynchpin.

But Gallen is well aware potential suitors will be watching Naylor’s contractual situation like a hawk.

Every club in the country keeps track of players they could potentially snap up on a free.

It’s not just Naylor’s goalscoring that’s been impressive of late.

His distribution, which previously got criticised, has made a marked improvement and his reading of the play is better than ever. For me, he’s playing his best football during his time at PO4.

If there was no wage ceiling in place, a deal would possibly be wrapped up by now.

Naylor’s someone who could, quite easily, join a Championship side who are able to meet his wage demands in the summer. Any bottom-six side would relish someone with his energy, resolve and grit.

The wage cap remains at a period of arbitration and the players do understand why their futures can’t yet be discussed.

But, in truth, if the £2.5m limit is here to stay then Naylor may reluctantly have to leave.

Approaching 30, he’s in his prime and entitled to look for the most lucrative deal of his career.

3. Pompey can't afford to let all the players who are out of contract run their contracts down. It would be crazy. Is there any way agreements could be reached to stop players just walking away come June?

John Bradshaw

As well as Tom Naylor, eight others are also out of contract in the summer. They are Andy Cannon, Jack Whatmough, Ryan Williams, Craig MacGillivray, Ben Close, Bryn Morris, Haji Mnoga and Duncan Turnbull.

Mnoga’s exempt from salary cap restrictions, being under 21, so we don’t have to panic over him yet.

Meanwhile, the club hold one-year options on MacGillivray, Close and Mnoga so they can’t just leave if the Blues want to keep them – although the terms they’re currently on must be matched.

The three Pompey really wouldn’t want to lose on free transfers are Cannon, Whatmough and Williams.

All have been key players of late and I’m fairly confident would also want to remain at Fratton Park.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any sort of agreement that can be reached yet. As the salary cap wrangles continue, they just have to be patient and accept the unprecedented situation.

The only thing I could think of is Pompey possibly getting the players they want to keep to sign some sort of pre-agreement.

If the Blues are in a position to offer Naylor X per week or Whatmough Y per week come May then the player/s have to put pen to paper.

Should Pompey be unable to do that because of the cap restrictions then the player/s have the prerogative to walk away.

However, I’m not sure if that would be permitted by FA rules etc.

4. Nathan Thompson was in the headlines again this week. Would he get in this current Pompey team?

Ash Bembridge

You just can’t keep Nathan Thompson out of the column inches when he faces his old club.

And how well he did at Pompey, coupled with the manner of his departure, is why he’s still at the forefront of fans’ minds whenever Pompey meet Peterborough.

He didn’t have the best of afternoons on Saturday and was substituted when treading the disciplinary tightrope after being booked for a professional foul on Ronan Curtis.

Thompson’s just back from a hamstring injury and always takes a few games to find his rhythm.

The short answer is, yes, he would get into this Blues team.

The former Swindon captain is regarded as one of the best right-backs in the division and Pompey didn’t want to lose him after suffering play-off defeat to Sunderland in 2019.

The Blues badly missed Thompson’s experience last season. Both James Bolton and Ross McCrorie shared the role but never filled the void Thompson left.

In fairness, Callum Johnson’s come in and made a good start to his Pompey career.

His crossing left a lot to be desired in the first half against the Posh, but he was excellent in the second half.

The ex-Accrington man drew the foul which won the Blues the free-kick for Jack Whatmough’s opener.

Over time, Johnson will continue to improve and I’m convinced he’ll play in the Championship in the future.

But had Thompson penned a new deal with Pompey when he could have, he’d arguably now be vice-captain and just as important to the team.

5. Pompey fielded a lot of youngsters in the last round of the EFL Trophy, but we've not heard about them since. How have they progressed since that West Ham game?

Timothy Mason

There were plenty of fledgling talents out against West Ham in the last round, weren't there! A night to remember with six of them making debuts.

The reason why we haven’t heard of them since is because there haven't been any more EFL Trophy games.

Meanwhile, Pompey aren’t organising any reserve matches due to the congested fixture list – and coronavirus restrictions mean The News are unable to attend academy games on a Saturday morning like we often would.

Third-year scholars Eoin Teggart, Harry Kavanagh and Alfie Stanley have all had a frustrating month after featuring against the Hammers.

Teggart and Kavanagh have been on loan at Gosport Borough this season, while Stanley’s represented Bognor.

However, the second national lockdown meant non-elite sport was suspended, meaning the trio have been confined to the training ground.

Stanley's got a good chance of starting up front at Cheltenham in the second round of the EFL Trophy on Tuesday night.

John Marquis and Ellis Harrison are unlikely to be risked, so Stanley could partner Jordy Hiwula up top.

Kavanagh and Teggart are also likely to be involved, either from the outset or on the bench.

The other youngsters who all played against the Hammers have been regularly turning out for the academy.

Harvey Rew and Charlie Bell have made 14 appearances for the under-18s, with the latter notching his fifth goal of the season against Forest Green last week.

Harry Jewitt-White, Harrison Broom and Seok Jae Lee came off the bench against the Hammers and have also been prominent players for Liam Daish's side.

Second-year scholar Gerard Storey is hoping to make his Blues bow at Whaddon Road. The Northern Ireland youth international has been out on loan at Gosport and is well regarded.

His compatriot Harry Anderson has also been banging the goals in for the academy, plundering 16 goals in 13 games.