Thriving Fratton failures offer Pompey food for thought

It's a case of Friends Reunited this Saturday.

Thursday, 27th October 2016, 11:00 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 12:39 am
Cole Kpekawa, right, in action for Barnsley in the Championship

And old acquaintances have been a talking point at Pompey over the past couple of weeks.

James Dunne and Adam McGurk lie in wait at the Abbey Stadium this weekend.

A glint in Dunne’s eye as he talked about the game during post-match duties in the U’s win at Exeter, told you the countdown is on for him.

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And McGurk has racked up nine appearances for former Blues midfielder Shaun Derry’s side since he added the Irishman to his squad last summer.

So, Pompey fans will be entirely justified in having that familiar feeling of foreboding.

That, of course, arrives with the fear a former player is set to return to haunt them. An oft-repeated process down the years.

These days, though, that is more or less a weekly feeling.

With the turnover of players at Fratton Park in recent years, there’s a fair scattering of those who’ve worn royal blue knocking around League Two.

Most of them have been involved in three aborted efforts at setting Pompey on a path forward in the community era.

So, to varying degrees, they have been associated with not delivering at Fratton Park.

Yet, many of them are enjoying success away from the spotlight they found themselves in with the Blues.

And it’s not restricted to the fourth tier of English football, with those jettisoned or seen as Fratton failures thriving in League Two and, even the Championship.

Taking a look at the top of League One illustrates the point. There we see AFC Wimbledon in flying form and incredibly on a run of a single loss in 14 games.

At the heart of the Dons’ success are two former Pompey men who departed a little over a year ago: Paul Robinson and Andy Barcham.

There was a fair amount of angst at Robinson’s departure and Paul Cook would quietly accept now he could have done with his experience at the back last season.

Few tears were shed at Barcham’s departure, yet he’s gone on to make 17 appearances and score four goals to help the Dons to sixth in the table.

Two places above them in the table lie Sheffield United, who are 10 games unbeaten.

A key component in the Blades’ upturn in fortunes is a certain Kieron Freeman – a much-maligned player who cut a far-from-confident figure at Pompey.

Cole Kpekawa became a figure of fun after an ill-fated loan spell until April last year. He’s made eight appearances in the Championship for Barnsley this season.

There was little consternation at Ryan Taylor’s exit (16 appearances for Oxford), while Ricky Holmes’ departure divided opinion (15 appearances for Charlton), with both playing regularly in League One.

North of the border, Aberdeen are flying high in the Scottish Premiership with Jayden Stockley and Miles Storey in their ranks.

Storey hit 13 goals last term for Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Adam Barton is with Partick.

In League Two, John Marquis has six goals at Doncaster but was seen as an underwhelming loanee three years back.

Elsewhere, Jake Jervis and Sonny Bradley are central figures at table-toppers Plymouth.

Paul McCallum has six goals with Leyton Orient and Rommy Boco five goals for Accrington.

The likes of Dan Potts (Luton), Alex Wynter (Colchester), Lee Holmes (Exeter) and Trevor Carson (Hartlepool) also play regularly, while John Akinde is smashing it up for Barnet but was a mess here in 2013.

Were any missed when they left Pompey?

Jed Wallace and Adam Webster were banked assets, while circumstances impacted on Marc McNulty and Caolan Lavery extending their Pompey careers.

The rest, though, have proved their worth after failing to gain lift-off at Fratton. And that raises some interesting questions.

Is it the environment of expectation here which hurts them? Is it their inability to handle a club of Pompey’s size?

If so, are the current crop of players able to show they are any different?