Boss: Squad is crucial to success

Guy Whittingham has some tough decisions to make before the Oxford game Picture: Joe Pepler
Guy Whittingham has some tough decisions to make before the Oxford game Picture: Joe Pepler

For the first time in his Pompey tenure, Guy Whittingham has some tough questions to answer – and they are exclusively football matters.

Last season he wrestled with the problem of an exodus of players who didn’t want to be at the club, monthly contracts, cutting costs and finding a way to somehow get through last season with a host of loans and short-term signings – and all that with the threat of liquidation hanging over the club’s head at every turn.

But Whittingham, at long last, now faces the difficulties that other football managers normally face.

And this week is make-your-mind-up time for the Blues boss ahead of the start of Pompey’s League Two campaign.

In goal, is it Phil Smith or John Sullivan?

At right-back, Yassin Moutaouakil or Danny East are both pushing for the call.

In central midfield, it’s two from Johnny Ertl, Simon Ferry and Romain Padovani.

Out wide, Andy Barcham, Ricky Holmes and Jed Wallace are in the frame.

And up front, Tom Craddock, Ryan Bird and Ashley Harris are pushing their claims against David Connolly and Patrick Agyemang.

Of course, all this is based on a 4-4-2 formation and everyone being fit and available.

Whittingham is relishing those decisions, but knows some of his new recruits will be disappointed this weekend.

He has, however, assured his troops that everyone of them has a major part to play for the Blues as the 2013-14 season rumbles into life.

‘The players have got to realise that you are not successful because of your first 11 – you are successful because of the squad that you have,’ said Whittingham.

‘They will have to be patient like all players have to be at certain times and bide their time.

‘If they are not in the team and they think they should be, they have to prove it to me and the rest of the coaching staff.

‘And when they get their chance, they have to take their opportunity and stay in the side.

‘I will listen to everybody’s opinion – Steve Allen, Alan McLoughlin, Alan Knight and Andy Awford but, ultimately, it will be down to me to make the right decision.’

The Pompey boss has undertaken a major rebuilding project over the summer and admits he is still unsure how his team will fare with so many new faces in the squad.

But he will get the first genuine pointer when his side host Oxford on Saturday and admitted he is excited at the prospect.

Whittingham said: ‘I’m not sure nervous is the right word. I think I’m looking forward to the start of the season.

‘You have those butterflies in your stomach as it gets closer and closer because you just don’t know what sort of squad you have put together yet.

‘You don’t know until the actual nitty-gritty starts.

‘You think you have done right and you’ve got a good squad together. You back yourself.

‘But you never quite know so it will be an important few days leading up to the game to put some finishing touches on a few things.’