Pompey’s best-laid player plans bear fruit

Andy Barcham
Andy Barcham
11
Have your say

The battle plans were tentatively drawn up on the coach travelling to Walsall in January.

Today the result of that early endeavour is eight new signings and satisfied Pompey boss Guy Whittingham.

A total of seven players arrived before May was out – then Ricky Holmes joined on Friday.

Pompey’s League Two rivals are currently busying themselves in the free agent market.

In contrast, Whittingham is ready to put out the ‘house full’ signs after assembling a first-team squad of 17 this summer.

Assistant manager Steve Allen has been at the Blues boss’ side during their rush to recruit.

He is convinced they have stolen marches on plenty of free agents in the process, such as Andy Barcham, Joe Devera and Holmes.

It was a search which began at the turn of the year.

Allen said: ‘Ricky is our eighth new signing.

‘We have done a lot of our recruitment now and are comfortable with what we have done, so we are really pleased.

‘People have said that perhaps we should have held back and waited to see what was available.

‘But we chose to do a lot of our work early and have been proven right.

‘What you are finding now is there are a couple of players in League Two asking the top end and beyond what we are willing to pay, so we wouldn’t have got them anyway.

‘And the other end of it – I know this because my mates are managers – are players who wouldn’t be of the calibre Guy wants but are still asking towards the money we are paying.

‘We could have waited but would have lost Barcham, Holmes and Devera. We wouldn’t have got them, they would have gone.

‘So we had to make our mark, we knew what the budget was, we knew what we could pay.

‘We said to players “listen, this is what we can pay, do you want to come and play for us?” – and they did.

‘We started working on this in January. We had the list of who was out of contract and every time we were on a coach we sat down together and talked about players.

‘There were more than 600 on that list.

‘There are Premier League players so are we going to get a lot of them? No.

‘Are we going to get Championship players? Some of them like Sonny Bradley and Danny East.

‘What we decided to do was identify players with an age bracket between 21-26 so either they have a potential resale value for the club or they are good enough to bounce us through the divisions.

‘The eight we have signed fit in that bracket.’

Joining Holmes, Barcham and Devera at Fratton Park are John Sullivan, Tom Craddock, Romain Padovani, Bradley and East.

In addition, six of last season’s squad have re-signed, while Jed Wallace, Ashley Harris and Adam Webster were already contracted.

It takes the squad up to 17, plus the five development youngsters.

Allen added: ‘We know the players. We should do, that is our job.

‘Padovani was one out of the blue, the others we knew what we were doing.

‘Sullivan was a bit out of the blue because we weren’t expecting Simon Eastwood to go but Guy knew about him anyway.

‘We met Joel Grant of Wycombe, he hasn’t gone anywhere yet but he might end up going to Ipswich.

‘We spoke to Dave Winfield, then Matty Blair.

‘In terms of those we didn’t manage to get, that was it.’