Pompey boss on the look out for the right stuff

Christian Burgess
Christian Burgess
  • Pompey first-team squad contains 17 players
  • A right-back in addition to central midfielders and strikers are needed

A NEW right-back remains Paul Cook’s overriding priority on the eve of Pompey’s pre-season return.

At present, the Blues’ squad numbers 17 – clearly still short in personnel and positions.

Peterborough defender Christian Burgess will sign upon his return from holiday in Egypt, strengthening the central-defensive area.

In addition, Adam Webster has penned his new two-year deal.

The fact is the 20-year-old has turned out for the Blues more times as a full-back than in the centre of defence.

But Cook is eager to recruit a specialist right-back. And with his current first-team squad completely lacking that option, the pursuit continues.

No such issue, of course, at left-back, where summer recruit Enda Stevens is currently the sole candidate and will be given that responsibility.

In the meantime, at least Pompey’s boss appears well-stocked in the centre of defence, albeit once Burgess is signed off.

Despite Jack Whatmough expected to return before Christmas from his cruciate knee ligament injury, it leaves him with Paul Robinson, Webster and Burgess.

Johnny Ertl can also operate there, while Danny Hollands has stood in on occasions.

However, the duo themselves face an uncertain future at Fratton Park, along with James Dunne.

Cook has plenty of central-midfield options, even before he has recruited in that specific area.

Michael Doyle remains on the radar, while the Blues missed out on Jimmy Ryan, who preferred to remain in League One with Fleetwood.

Ben Close and Nigel Atangana also operate in that part of the field, leaving the Blues with five central midfielders presently on their books.

Pompey’s boss is well aware numbers require pruning before he can pursue his own targets, with the presence of Ertl, Hollands and Dunne most under the microscope.

Of course, new recruits Kal Naismith, Gary Roberts and Kyle Bennett are attacking midfielders, set to operate in the three behind a lone striker.

Increasing competition there is Andy Barcham, who is seeking to prove his fitness following an injury-hampered previous two campaigns.

His versatility across the three could be invaluable and provide several options to the manager.

In goal, Paul Jones was the undisputed number one last season, making 52 appearances and, on the whole, impressing.

Substitute keeper Michael Poke still has a year to run on his existing deal, ensuring that area is not in need of urgent attention.

Meanwhile, the Blues require at least two players in striking positions.

Reigning League Two golden boot holder Matt Tubbs remains, along with rookie Conor Chaplin.

Cook does prefer the 4-2-3-1 system but knows he needs to add new faces to this position.

Tom Craddock has been invited back to train, but more striking bodies are required as the squad takes shape.