Why Portsmouth's 10 mystery triallists are under anonymity - and deserve respect, not pre-judgement

As Pompey boss, Paul Cook felt the term was disrespectful.

By Neil Allen
Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 12:00 pm
Danny Cowley oversees Pompey's return to pre-season training on Monday. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 280621-21)
Danny Cowley oversees Pompey's return to pre-season training on Monday. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 280621-21)

They weren’t ‘triallists’, he reasoned, rather experienced professionals training with the club during pre-season.

A case of dipping the toe in the water – for both parties.

Michael Doyle was effectively a triallist, not that Cook – or anyone else for that matter – would dare apply the term in his presence.

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Released by Sheffield United, he trained with the Blues as he awaited a contract offer, which became a frustrating process.

At one point, he opted to walk out of Southampton Airport with his luggage, having turned up to travel to the Algarve on a pre-season bonding session.

Before checking in, he discovered there was still no deal, so instead pulled out of the trip and choose to return to the Midlands, but was training on the south coast again when the squad got back.

Similarly, Ben Davies, Gareth Evans, Ben Tollitt and Brian Murphy joined after trials, while Matt Clarke trained with the Blues ahead of a potential loan deal from Ipswich.

On Monday, Danny Cowley welcomed 10 triallists at their Hilsea training ground. By his own admission, it’s the largest number he’s ever had at any club.

Local media were allowed in to watch on the stipulation that names and faces of those present were not publicised.

Cowley is keen not to alert other clubs to their presence, thereby potentially losing their services before he has decided whether they possess Pompey futures.

Of course, among them would have been promising youngsters, maybe even favours to agents, perhaps others simply making up the numbers to allow 20 outfield players.

It happens. Not under Kenny Jackett, mind, but it’s how pre-seasons largely work.

Nonetheless, for the Blues’ head coach to ask for anonymity suggests there were members of genuine interest to him.

It works both ways, of course.

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For the 2012 pre-season tour to Marbella and Gibraltar, Michael Appleton’s squad were dominated by triallists and free agents, such were the club’s financial issues.

Among them were Brian Howard, Izale McLeod, Luke Rodgers, Simon Eastwood, Jon Harley and Mustapha Dumbuya.

However, for a while few outside the training camp were aware that there was also former Charlton and Leeds man Lloyd Sam present.

Tellingly, Sam had asked The News, which also attended the tour, not to release his name as he didn’t want to put off other potential clubs.

Unsurprisingly, he didn’t remain after the tour ended. The following month he joined New York Red Bulls and saw out the rest of his career in the MLS.

Certainly, of those in attendance at Copnor Road on Monday, there would likely have been players – and their representatives – keen not for their names to leak.

Everybody needs to look after their own interests, particularly in a summer in which there will be a surplus of players available through financial constraints brought about by coronavirus.

It remains to be seen how many of the 10 will still be present by the end of the week – or even have extended their stay to include the opening friendly at the Hawks on July 10.

Incidentally, for Cook’s pre-season opener at Westleigh Park in July 2015, he included six triallists.

For every Davies and Evans, there is a Callum Hassan.

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