The crucial call Portsmouth boss faces as keeper departs for Bradford City with Crystal Palace youngster lined up

The fact a keeper of his talent has played just two league games since Pompey’s play-off defeat to Oxford United in July 2020 is bordering on a scandal.

By Jordan Cross
Monday, 24th January 2022, 12:00 pm
Updated Monday, 24th January 2022, 12:03 pm

It’s been just 180 minutes of Pompey League One action for Alex Bass in the 567 days since the end-of-season penalty shootout disappointment at the Kassam Stadium in 2020.

Anyone present for those outings against Fleetwood and Wycombe this season would testify to the academy graduate’s talent. This is not a keeper who should be marking time as a number two.

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There are the financial benefits for Pompey of sending out the 23-year-old for the rest of the campaign, with his replacement set to be a youngster in Crystal Palace’s Ollie Webber who doesn’t command the same earning power.

When Cowley was already beyond the playing budget he’d been originally handed going into the January window, every extra penny freed up counts as he reshapes his squad.

But with succession planning a phrase increasingly heard in the football world these days, there’s a more significant issue at play here.

As Bradford City get a player who presents a powerful case to be seen as the most talented keeper at the fourth-tier level over the rest of the campaign, Danny Cowley has a decision to make.

A steady pair of hands in pre-season and Gavin Bazunu's recovery from injury means he’s likely to get the starting spot in goal.

Is Bass going to be his man between the sticks in the long term?

Six months down the line, no one would question the decision to bring in Gavin Bazunu from Manchester City for the season.

The teenager has established himself in the Republic of Ireland squad and gained deserved accolades, off the back of a stay which has seen him established as arguably Pompey’s best performer this term.

But Bazunu is not Pompey’s future. Yet he’s proved an immovable obstacle stopping the development of a homegrown talent who potentially could be.

Cowley chased the 19-year-old hard in the summer, seeing him chime perfectly with his game idea which places such emphasis on distribution from the back.

Having watched Bazunu in action, Pompey fans will testify his ball-playing qualities have proved a potent weapon in his team’s arsenal.

The ability to pick team-mates out with raking crossfield passes and act as a sweeper keeper, has allowed the Blues to get on the front foot much further up the pitch in their better moments.

Such attributes are hard to find, however, as the demands placed on keepers quickly evolve in the modern-day game.

It’s not an area which would naturally chime with Bass’ skillset, with the man who’s made 39 senior appearances since his 2016 debut at Coventry,freely admitting he was being asked to play further up the pitch than he’d ever experienced before under his new manager last summer.

So what does Cowley do?

The Pompey boss will not be handed a playing budget significantly removed from where it currently stands next season.

So does he choose to invest a significant portion of that kitty, because that’s what it would likely take, to find another keeper with the attributes of an outfield player to work with how he wants the game played.

Or does he turn to an option who can comfortably operate at third-tier level, and inject those funds into other areas which will clearly still need improving come the summer?

Perhaps the decision has not been made. Perhaps there are more pressing issues for the Pompey boss to consider right now.

But with 18 months to go on the contract of a keeper who will have a good career in the game somewhere, that will not remain the case forever.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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