Why Webster's Pompey exit makes sense
THE PROMISE was the sale would fund the rebuilding of the team in the close season.
The news brought a degree of angst, but most of the Fratton faithful could see it was a move which made sense for all concerned.
We’re not talking the impending exit of Adam Webster to Championship side Ipswich Town here, though.
The year is 2002, the month is March and new Pompey boss Harry Redknapp has just cashed in his most bankable asset.
Leading scorer, Peter Crouch, had just made his England under-21 debut after a campaign in which he’d bagged 19 goals for his struggling side.
But the £5m Aston Villa offered for the 6ft 7in hitman was too good to turn down – especially when it could fund ‘five or six quality recruits’.
Fast forward 14 years and the parallels with Webster’s expected departure to the Tractor Boys are there to be made.
By the time the season kicked off against Nottingham Forest in August, Shaka Hislop, Eddie Howe, Hayden Foxe, Arjan De Zeeuw, Matt Taylor, Carl Robinson, Deon Burton, Vincent Pericard and a certain Paul Merson were all in Redknapp’s starting XI.
Crouch’s exit had gone a good way to funding the charge which ended with his former side making it to the Premier League in record-breaking fashion.
Now, Matt Clarke is set to arrive with Pompey’s coffers swelled by well in excess of £500,000 as the lad from West Wittering departs.
Those who know Webster will be disappointed to see him go.
It’s incredible to think the defender is now the club’s longest-serving player at the age of just 21.
But then Pompey fans were given their first sight of Webster when he was aged just 16 years and nine months in 2011.
Russian side FC Rostov were the opponents in the friendly at Fratton Park, when he was introduced in the 72nd minute.
Steve Cotterill rated Webster highly enough to give him his league bow at West Ham in the Championship days after his 17th birthday.
It’s only this season, however, he could justifiably call himself a first-team fixture at Pompey.
A total of 21 outings arrived in League One before he was farmed out to Aldershot for most of the 2013-14 campaign.
Webster picked up 18 appearances last term but was often used in a right-back position where he appeared ill at ease.
It was only at the end of the season he really began to purr under caretaker manager Gary Waddock.
Those performances were noted by the incoming Cook, with scouting reports making it back to him of the languid lad at the back who’d chime perfectly with his footballing ideology.
Working at close quarters with Webster only reinforced Cook’s initial impressions.
His ‘Rolls Royce’ of a defender swept into his team this term with a series of cool and unflustered displays.
Two of the 35 appearances came early on against Championship opposition in Derby and Reading.
His comfort against opposition from a higher level was underlined in two fine outing against Ipswich at the start of the year. Now we see the significance of those stand-out efforts.
So the lad who was spotted on a Blues summer holiday course by stalwart Paul Hardyman is now set to leave the club he’s spent his life at.
A quiet but likeable fella, the boy who used to run a mile from interviews had begun to come out of his shell this term and match the maturity of his displays on the pitch.
In the aftermath of the play-off disappointment last weekend, Cook voiced his desire for a shake-up and promises in The News tomorrow he’s not frightened to make big decisions to action his squad surgery.
Webster’s exit now affords extra manoeuvrability in the rebuilding. Decent fees for a Caolan Lavery, Marc McNulty or Eoin Doyle can be shelled out.
Like Crouch back then, it’s a move which makes sense.
And like Crouch back then, hopefully there are celebrations 12 months on from Pompey cashing in a prized asset.