Teenage Kicks: Pompey's strength in depth shines through
My first game of this season was Tuesday night's EFL Cup trip to Coventry City.
And despite the result, the match highlighted the depth in Pompey’s squad.
Cook made 11 changes to the side which faced Carlisle, yet the Blues still put in a competitive shift and came away with a draw in 90 minutes.
The stand-out performer had to Amine Linganzi.
The debutant looked beyond comfortable in midfield and in one performance demonstrated why he should earn a longer contract.
The phrase ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ springs to mind and Linganzi showed why he is internationally capped.
He won possession, kept it better than most and advanced with the ball, starting attacks.
The one-month contract was supposed to stay firmly in the days of the grim 2012-13 season but Cook has used temporary deals to his advantage.
I guess a big part of being a football manager is manoeuvring your budget and Cookie has done that – by allowing big-earner Paul Jones to join Norwich, he has managed to bring in Liam O’Brien, Noel Hunt and Linganzi.
Of course, quality over quantity is always important.
But a big squad is good with these new loan rules, so letting one go and bringing three in seems a shrewd move by Cook.
The trip back from Coventry was slightly sweeter considering we had witnessed a very rare sight – a Pompey goal directly from a free-kick.
Take a bow Kal Naismith. Out of nothing the transfer-listed makeshift left-back surprised us all by curling the ball past the keeper and not over the wall. Pace on the ball was key.
As we saw against Northampton last season, Naismith can certainly hit the ball.
I believe, however, it’s best for both parties Kal continues to seek employment elsewhere.
A talent, for sure. He might even go on to be a top player elsewhere.
But it is a case of right player, wrong time for the Blues.
I cannot see how he can get past Carl Baker, Gary Roberts, Kyle Bennett, Gareth Evans or Milan Lalkovic for those attacking midfield positions.
That free-kick would have well and truly put Naismith in the shop window.
The Football League will be now well aware of his shooting ability.
Credit to Alex Bass, too, more than held his own and made some decent saves on his professional bow.
Remember goalkeepers develop more in their mid to late 20s, so Bass has got a long way to go but there were promising signs.
As for Adam Barton, who captained the side, I am still torn as to whether he should play centre half.
In my opinion, he is the most technically-gifted player in the squad.
However, I’m not sure if he is physical enough to play centre-half.
He was pushed around a bit at the Ricoh Arena.
But I cast my mind back to Ipswich and AFC Wimbledon away last season and he was sublime in that role.
Adam May and Ben Tollitt also shone at times, supporting Cook’s continued faith in the pair.
It wouldn’t surprise me if both leave on loan because they are ready for regular football.
The Coventry game was a great insight into the depth of our squad.
Players will get frustrated at a lack of game time this season but I hope Cook is telling every one of them they must be patient because they will be needed.
You may play only five games between now and April but a few injuries could see you in for the final stretch and then scoring the goal that earns promotion.
It’s a team effort, the squad need to know that because it is a long season.
– Ben Sturt is a 17-year-old Pompey season-ticket holder. He is also the youngest member of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust’s Next Generations group, which tackles all issues that may concern younger Pompey fans.