Urgent assistance required '“ yet Pompey hunt continues

A Mexican peasant village terrorized by bandits enrol the assistance of a group of gunslingers.

Saturday, 17th December 2016, 9:30 am
Former Pompey players Ricky Holmes, Miles Story and Craig Westcarr Picture: Joe Pepler

The Magnificent Seven would gloriously succeed against the oppressors, at much personal cost.

Elsewhere, Operation Amnesty require volunteers for a virtually-suicidal Second World War mission to Brittany.

The 12 brave men assigned were convicts eager for pardoning – and the Dirty Dozen subsequently triumphed in the gallant line of duty.

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How Pompey have required similar heroic characters since tumbling into the Football League’s bottom division.

Help was long been wanted. Hired hands, bounty hunters, mercenaries, basically anyone who can ride to the rescue and earn the adulation of a grateful Fratton faithful.

Yet, following three-and-a-half seasons, the Blues remain in League Two, their aspirations unfulfilled and congratulatory bunting still in the packet.

So far, 104 players have been employed to save the day, with bags of coins ballooning into war chests as the club become increasingly desperate to fund victory.

Conscriptees from the Premier League, recruits from foreign fields, enlistees with lower-division know-how and draftees from the Academy gold mine. Yet, to date, none have succeeded in the assignment set out before them.

Since August 2013, escape from League Two has proven beyond a procession of players. Not forgetting four different managers challenged with masterminding them effectively.

That’s 104 players used by Pompey in League Two – and still counting.

As ever in football, the necessary solution is to bring in even more players, while some fans would welcome a managerial alteration.

Regardless, the circle continues – recruit, dump, recruit, dump. With still no guarantee of a promotion prize.

Alarmingly, while potential people’s champions are always welcomed, Fratton Park clearly possesses a fear factor to enfeeble many.

Mentally it debilitates, while expectations apply the chokehold to prompt many to tap out. Pressure can cripple as well as inspire.

That can be the only rational explanation for such an inordinate amount of players still to lead the Blues into the promised land.

Certainly, the law of averages dictates not all to represent Pompey at this level lack ability or mental strength.

Granted, there have been miserable failures, people abject in their displays and bereft of the capability required to secure promotion.

Many will not be fondly remembered by the Fratton faithful, yet have still succeeded in finding another footballing employer.

Pompey may have stood still, yet players continue along a career conveyor belt, albeit, for some, an escalator descending into non-league.

There are exceptions, naturally, others have emphatically demonstrated their quality since departing.

Take Ricky Holmes, cast out to Northampton, yet proved to be the inspiration behind their 2015-16 title success before moving to Charlton for a reported £675,000.

Yet for all his talents, and they are considerable at this level, he could not sufficiently lift Pompey during one-and-a-half seasons at Fratton Park.

AFC Wimbledon are presently 10th in League One, with former Pompey players Paul Robinson and Andy Barcham serving as the spine.

The pair were discarded by Paul Cook before the start of last season as he ripped up a side having achieved the lowest finish in the club’s history.

Winger Barcham was surplus to requirements, while Robinson informed he would not be first-choice following the arrivals of Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke.

Neal Ardley swooped for both, utilising their presence to win promotion through the play-offs at the expense of Plymouth Argyle.

Elsewhere, Jed Wallace and Adam Webster were handed Championship homes in deals worth a combined figure of around £1.5m.

Yet not even their precocious talents could influence a Pompey promotion-winning side.

In Scotland, Aberdeen possess former Blues loanees Jayden Stockley and Miles Storey, both this season featuring in the Europa League campaign of a club also sitting third in the Scottish Premiership.

Such names provide testimony that Fratton Park has witnessed players blessed with genuine ability during these dark League Two days.

Similarly, few can argue the competence of David Connolly, Patrick Agyemang, Nicky Shorey, Ryan Taylor, Trevor Carson, Wes Fogden, Simon Ferry, Danny Hollands, James Dunne, Matt Tubbs, Nigel Atangana, Caolan Lavery, Marc McNulty and Ben Davies.

All departed for various reasons, yet, conceivably, were comfortably capable of featuring for a side with League Two promotion aspirations.

Which brings us to Cook’s present squad, currently in fourth spot before today’s visit of Hartlepool.

The backbone of the team also featured in last season’s play-off charge – now they remain on course to better that, no question of that.

The quality is there, the experience present, while many League Two bosses and players have publicly credited it the division’s strongest squad.

Supporters, not unreasonably, want to see the playing set-up strengthened when the transfer window next month opens – and there will be changes.

Since arriving in May 2015, Cook has handed out 43 Pompey debuts. Any replacement would inevitably bring with it a flood of fresh arrivals.

Irrespective of who is serving as manager, the Fratton Park player turnover remains dizzyingly high in the search for salvation.

Perhaps May 2017 will herald 11 heroes to at last conquer League Two.