TEAM PREVIEW: Portsmouth – Guy Whittingham believes Pompey have turned a corner

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It was another difficult season for Pompey last season, but now they are better placed than ever to recover and start looking upwards. Paul Cook knows how to get out of League Two and has brought in some fantastic players for this level.

Last Season: League Two (16th)

Manager: Paul Cook

 

Squad

GKs: Paul Jones, Michael Poke
DFs: Adam Webster, Jack Whatmough, Paul Robinson, Enda Stevens, Christian Burgess, Chad Field, Brandon Haunstrup, Snorre Nilsen
MFs: Johnny Ertl, James Dunne, Nigel Atangana, Danny Hollands, Adam May, Ben Close, Kyle Bennett, Kal Naismith, Gary Roberts, Adam Barton, Michael Doyle
FWs: Matt Tubbs, Connor Chaplin, Adam McGurk, Jayden Stockley

 

Transfers

In: Kyle Bennett (Doncaster Rovers), Kal Naismith (Accrington Stanley), Enda Stevens (Aston Villa), Adam McGurk (Burton Albion), Gary Roberts (Chesterfield), Christian Burgess (Peterborough United), Adam Barton (Coventry City), Michael Doyle (Sheffield United), Jayden Stockley (Bournemouth – Loan)

Out: Danny East (Grimsby Town), Joe Devera (Released), Ben Chorley (Released), Tom Craddock (Released), Nicky Shorey (Released), Wes Fogden (Yeovil Town), Bradley Tarbuck (Released), Dan Butler (Torquay United), Jed Wallace (Wolves), Craig Westcarr (Mansfield Town), Andy Barcham (AFC Wimbledon)

 

First Six: Dagenham & Redbridge (H), Plymouth Argyle (A), Crawley Town (A), Morecambe (H), Luton Town (A), Accrington Stanley (H)

Likely Lineup: (4-3-3) Jones – Webster, Burgess, Whatmough, Stevens – Dunne, Barton, Doyle – Bennett, Tubbs, Roberts

 

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A word from…Guy Whittingham

On promotion heartbreak There was a season they did it on goals scored instead of goal difference, that was a real tough one, you take it as it is once it’s done and look over the course of the season as opposed to just one game at the end of it. There was one game we were 5-3 up with two minutes to go and we drew 5-5, so we had ourselves to blame partly.

On returning in 1999 It is a little strange at first, obviously there are different people around the club, at the time it was Alan Ball who started everything and it was nice to be able to come back and play, but new managers come in and it never lasts long but it was nice to have two years back down on the south coast.

But things do change, the staff, the players and it was a very different club when I came back but nice nonetheless.

On the impossible job I came back in 2009, I did my pro license and worked with the reserves for a while, the Premier League had just started an U21 league and then over the next four years I became caretaker and then manager throughout two administrations.

When you’ve got a passion for the club like I had from playing for them and then coaching, you try and do what’s best for the club so for me it wasn’t about promotion; it was about getting the club’s name back in world football and people seeing the club in a good light. Making sure the academy was looked after, that was the future of the club as far as I was concerned, at the time we couldn’t buy players.

We had to try and develop our own, other people have other views and you end up losing your job. Some other managers go in and focus on the first team, results get you sacked but for me it was different, I felt I owed them something for giving me a playing career. I wanted to get the training facilities back but things didn’t go my way, I’ll never forget the experience though.

On players coming in and out During the second administration I was told we needed to get people off the wage bill, so come January we had to tell players they had to move on and then you’ve got players who don’t want to get injured to scupper a move away but also players who then lack motivation.

There was a game called off because we had so many ineligible players, it was like a trial day every day at training and that’s no way to motivate those that are already there, they just think ‘what the hell is going on?’ But it was a fantastic learning curve for everyone involved.

On what’s gone wrong I don’t know if the truth will ever come out but it seemed like too much went on wages, too much on transfer fees, trying to stay in the Premier League by bringing in players the club couldn’t afford with no clauses in case you get relegated.

Silly bonuses for if you get into Europe. I think the club had a bonus for Europe so when they won the FA Cup the players were getting bigger bonuses than the fee the club got for winning the FA Cup.

On turning a corner I think they’ve got a very good chance this season, it’s no coincidence that the team paying the biggest wages in the league have the best chance and from what I hear Portsmouth are doing that.

They’ve brought in some good players who won’t be cheap but you’ve got a good manager in Paul Cook who knows what he’s doing. Off the pitch, the club is now being run well, they’re bringing in the right players and they’ve got a terrific fan base. They know they’ll get fans through the gates but when I was there and we were in administration and we didn’t know how many fans would come.

I know now there are players at the club on much bigger wages than when I was there so I think it’s got to be promotion this year.

On Paul Cook As far as his record is concerned he’s the right man, he’s been successful in this league and he’s clearly got an idea of which players he wants, he’s brought those in and he’s got time to get them playing together.

But you never know, every team comes to Portsmouth wants to win and they want to show themselves and that’s always interesting, I’ll be really looking out for the home results because teams will always want to beat Portsmouth.

 

The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: With the squad the club have assembled and the manager they have put in charge of their recovery, it would be a huge surprise (and disappointment) if Portsmouth didn’t return to League One this season.

Key Player: Gary Roberts – Given his form with Chesterfield at this level under the same manager, it would be a big shock if Roberts didn’t replicate that form at Fratton Park. If he fires, Portsmouth have a superb chance of success.

One to Watch: Jack Whatmough – At just 18, the defender has been a regular part of the Portsmouth setup for a couple of years now. With 22 league appearances under his belt last season, the youngster can only go from strength to strength this season.

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