Appleton lifts lid on Rocha and Ashdown departures
Michael Appleton has lifted the lid on his surprise decision to let both Ricardo Rocha and Jamie Ashdown leave Fratton Park.
The first-team pair have been told their contracts will not be renewed when they expire this summer.
It effectively brings to an end the Pompey careers of two players who have featured for the club since the Premier League years.
Ashdown represents the club’s longest-serving player, having arrived in the summer of 2004, while the experienced Rocha has been a firm fans’ favourite since he came to the south coast in February, 2010.
However, Appleton has revealed that the need to start afresh and drive down wages was crucial in his decision to release both.
And the Blues boss insisted it was in the best interests of the club’s future.
He said: ‘I have nothing against the boys in terms of performances, but from my point of view I have got to make the decision on what is going to be best for the football club.
‘To be fair, I think the players knew what was going to happen straight after the final game when I spoke to them all.
‘At that time, I told them we would all be doing different things next season. I just think it is a time for a change for everyone at the football club. I have pretty much said that for a long time now.
‘It is the chance for people around the place to go to pastures new. That’s just how it is.’
Rocha was named players’ player of the season in recognition of his displays during his 35 appearances this term. In total, the Portuguese played 76 times for Pompey and also started the 2010 FA Cup final.
The cultured defender has proven to be a tremendously-popular figure among the Fratton faithful but, at the age of 33, Appleton believes it is time for Rocha to move on.
He added: ‘Ricardo has played the majority of the games since I came in and took control last year.
‘He has been great. I’ve had a good relationship with him and would like to think he feels the same.
‘I wish him all the best for the future.
‘I realise Ricardo is at an age where I am sure he can play for another two or three years – and do a good job wherever he goes.
‘But I am just looking for something a little bit different.
‘League One is a league where you have to be a dominant and a big player, especially defending from set pieces and corners.
‘I am looking to bring more of a youthful player into that role with a little bit more stature.’
Ashdown played 21 games this season and finished strongly after coming in for new West Ham signing Stephen Henderson.
He had spoken of his desire to remain for a ninth season at Fratton Park and was instrumental in signing up many of his team-mates to pledge money to the Pompey Trust in their bid to buy the club.
The 2010-11 campaign was unquestionably Ashdown’s finest, an ever-present in Steve Cotterill’s side and scooping a host of fans’ player-of-the-season trophies.
However, Appleton has decided to let him go after 123 club appearances, leaving Pompey without a goalkeeper on their books.
The Blues boss said: ‘Jamie has been at the football club for a long time and played at the Premier League and Championship level, but I’ve got a budget I have to be careful with.
‘For him to stay at the club, he would have to take a big, big drop in his wages.
‘I still think he can play in the Championship and attract a much better wage than I would have paid him.
‘Jamie would have liked to have signed, I realise that, but I am going down a different route and wish him all the best.
‘I will be surprised if there are not numerous offers for him because he is a good keeper who has shown what he can do.’