Three right-backs, no central midfielders and two injured players - the issues behind Portsmouth's 14-man squad

James Bolton is one of three right-backs in Pompey's existing 13-man squad. Picture: Graham Hunt/ProSportsImagesJames Bolton is one of three right-backs in Pompey's existing 13-man squad. Picture: Graham Hunt/ProSportsImages
James Bolton is one of three right-backs in Pompey's existing 13-man squad. Picture: Graham Hunt/ProSportsImages
There are foundations in place, yet Danny Cowley’s summer rebuilding programme will be constructed upon shaky ground.

Presently, 14 contracted players remain at Fratton Park following the post-season purge of a side which finished eighth in League One.

They include three right-backs, no central midfielders, a winger with no League One minutes, two bit-part defenders, and two players recovering from long-term injury.

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In addition, Ronan Curtis has his heart on a Championship move which will be sanctioned this summer should the price be right.

Hardly an impressive backbone underpinning a squad requiring around 10 new additions during what will be an exhausting recruitment drive for Cowley.

Pompey’s head coach finds himself with three right-backs in James Bolton, Callum Johnson and Haji Mnoga.

The Blues have activated a 12-month option to keep Mnoga and now have plans to send him out on loan for regular first-team football.

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The future of Bolton looks bleak, however, as he grows increasingly frustrated with a lack of involvement reflected by a return of 53 games in two seasons.

Undoubtedly Callum Johnson is regarded as first-choice right-back, with his consistent displays in a maiden Fratton Park season earning him third place in The News/Sports Mail’s Player of the Season.

Over at left-back, Lee Brown has been another automatic selection, enjoying a fine season last term, while fighting off the challenges of Cam Pring and Charlie Daniels.

He has now been joined by Liam Vincent, an 18-year-old with seven senior appearances at Bromley behind him and seen as one for the future.

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The goalkeeping pool has seen the removal of Craig MacGillivray, Duncan Turnbull, Taylor Seymour and loanee Lewis Ward, in addition to goalkeeping coach John Keeley.

That leaves just Alex Bass, who has now recovered from two broken legs and been earmarked by Cowley as a player he regards highly.

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In the centre of defence, Paul Downing and Sean Raggett are still here, with both suffering contrasting fortunes at the season’s end.

Downing re-emerged from the wilderness to return to the league side after 19 months away, starting the final two games.

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While Raggett’s ever-present tag was removed in the last match against Accrington, with Downing and Jack Whatmough were preferred for the crucial fixture.

No doubt Raggett will be questioning whether he fits into Cowley’s plans as a consequence, while Downing must be keen to know whether this is just temporary respite for him

The centre of midfield has been shorn of Andy Cannon, Ben Close, Tom Naylor, and loanees George Byers and Harvey White. No-one remains.

At least there are options on the flanks with Michael Jacobs, Marcus Harness, Curtis and Reeco Hackett-Fairchild.

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Even then, Curtis is keen on the Championship, while Hackett-Fairchild has yet to make a league appearance for the Blues.

Indeed, the former Bromley man is an intriguing one, having struggled to shine during a loan spell with a Southend side relegated from the Football League.

As for Jacobs, he’s coming back from knee surgery following a season wrecked by persistent injury absences, limiting him to 22 outings.

Finally, John Marquis and Ellis Harrison are up front.

Since their arrival in the summer of 2019, totalling around £1.5m in transfer fees, they have been part of two failed promotion bids.

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Harrison has struggled for goals, with 16 in 70 appearances, while Marquis has netted double that – 32 times – yet been woefully short of form for long periods.

Whether a third promotion bid can once again centre around the pair as main strikers has to be questioned.

Still, we can all agree – this is going to be quite some challenge for Danny Cowley.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

There’s a shake-up going on at Fratton Park and you don’t have to miss a thing.

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