'We had to be ruthless': Why Portsmouth's other title-winners axed half of their squad

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They dropped four points all season, but half of the Blues’ remarkable title-winning squad have now been shown the door.

And boss Jay Sadler is adamant he must be ‘ruthless’ as he evolves Pompey Women into a competitive Championship team.

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A total of 10 players have departed this summer, including Leeta Rutherford and Dani Lane, regular starters in their National League Southern Premier Division triumph.

Title triumphs for Pompey’s men and women team were celebrated on Southsea Common last month. Picture: Jason BrownTitle triumphs for Pompey’s men and women team were celebrated on Southsea Common last month. Picture: Jason Brown
Title triumphs for Pompey’s men and women team were celebrated on Southsea Common last month. Picture: Jason Brown

Others are Evie Gane, Kelci Bowers, Tierney Scott, Jess Smith, Mia Adaway, Ella Wild, Ali Hall and Mia Smith.

It reflects John Mousinho’s similar post-season handling of his squad, with Joe Rafferty and Sean Raggett among 10 leaving in the aftermath of promotion glory.

Yet Sadler believes such difficult choices are essential as he strives to assemble a group of players capable of surviving in the Championship.

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Pompey Women’s head coach told The News: ‘Next year the jump from the National League to the Championship is probably the biggest it has ever been in the women’s game.

‘In terms of the matches, it will be day and night. Next season is relentless, you’re playing top opposition week in, week out and we obviously want to be competitive. Physically the levels are so different and we also need players of pedigree.

‘We have kept 50 per cent of the group. A number of the players we said goodbye to didn't play a high amount of games. They were obviously big decisions and difficult ones.

‘If I’m being honest, we had to be ruthless and realistic. Realistic when I look at it from a playing point of view and the quality of players we need at the next level in terms of physical, stature and the mental side of it.

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‘But also ruthless when you look at it from a personal point of view, because I built a real solid friendship with a lot of these players. 

‘We had face-to-face conversations at the training ground. It was difficult, there was a lot of emotion in the room from both parties, saying goodbye to people who have essentially helped win you the league title - then you’re saying goodbye to essentially bring in someone in their place.

‘It’s never easy, it’s the ruthless side of football that I probably haven’t been exposed to, but you have to otherwise you stay still.

‘We are probably going to bring around 10 players in total - of which 5-7 may be permanent signings - and then look to dip into the loan market and get some top Super League quality players to add that X-factor and competition to the squad.’

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Jay Sadler's Pompey Women claimed Southern Premier Division title success.Jay Sadler's Pompey Women claimed Southern Premier Division title success.
Jay Sadler's Pompey Women claimed Southern Premier Division title success. | Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

In the case of Rutherford, it is a particularly heartbreaking departure for the Pompey fan.

Now aged 37, the midfielder started 21 matches, weighing in with five goals, after returning from south-coast rivals Southampton.

Sadler added: ‘Leeta is Miss Pompey Women and has been phenomenal. She was the big leader in the dressing room, she was fantastic.

‘But we also need to be realistic and look at how much game time players would have. If we are offering full-time contracts, we need players we believe could play a large majority of the season.

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‘Leeta is going to be a huge pair of boots to fill because we’re going to have to bring in a player we believe will play a lot of games, but also understand the football club and bring those leadership qualities.

‘They don’t come easy to find, but we are taking that calculated risk.’

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