Looking To The Future

Last updated : 13 March 2011 By Jim Bonner
Now that Championship safety is virtually certain and the play-off fantasies have died, it's time to look to the future and see what next season holds.

With so many players returning to their parent clubs and others out of contract, Steve Cotterill has a gigantic task of rebuilding the squad come the summer.

Here is the current state of the squad:

Contracted Players (Expiry date in brackets)

Jamie Ashdown (June 2012)
Aaron Mokoena (June 2013)
Liam Lawrence (June 2014)
Hayden Mullins (June 2012)
Dave Kitson (June 2013)
Joel Ward (June 2013)
Tal Ben-Haim (June 2013)
Nwankwo Kanu (June 2013)
Ricardo Rocha (June 2012)

Out of Contract

Hermann Hreidarsson
Danny Webber
David Nugent
Michael Brown
Richard Hughes
Nadir Ciftci
Tom Kilbey
Darryl Flahavan
Pete Gregory

Loan Returns

Greg Halford
Carl Dickinson
Ritchie De Laet
Jonathan Hogg
David Cotterill
Ibrahima Sonko

To Return From Loan

Marlon Pack
Perry Ryan
Ellis Martin

So, come the end of the season, Steve Cotterill will have just 12 players in his squad. This doesn't take into account that three of these players are youngsters who probably won't make the first team squad and Tal Ben-Haim is also unlikely to play for Pompey again.

Therefore, the manager will have just eight senior players to work with once this season is over. His first task will be to look at those players who are out of contract and see who might be persuaded to sign a new deal.

Richard Hughes, Michael Brown and Nadir Ciftci will be gone by Cotterill's own admission but it wouldn't surprise me to see Darryl Flahavan sign a new contract, so at least we'd have a backup for Ashdown.

It'll be touch-and-go whether Hermann Hreidarsson and Tom Kilbey sign new deals. The former's agent has stated that he has had offers elsewhere and may leave whilst the latter still may not be deemed good enough to play for Portsmouth.

I shall be optimistic and say that Hermann will sign a one-year deal and retire after the 2011/2012 season whilst Kilbey will be given a chance due to lack of squad numbers. So that brings the squad total to a theoretical ten players.

Given Danny Webber's injury problems, I think he may be let go if he can't get fit for pre-season which would be a shame as I think he could still do a job at this level.

The big question will be whether David Nugent decides to stay at Portsmouth or leave for nothing. He has said positive things in the press about signing a new contract but after being on such a high wage, would he accept vastly reduced terms?

I think this issue may ultimately be resolved in the summer and a Premier League club will snap him up on a free transfer, which would leave Steve Cotterill a huge gap to fill in the squad as Nugent has been one of our best performers this season.

Therefore, it seems that the manager is going to have to delve deep into the loan market once again to build on his (theoretical) ten senior players. Perhaps he could persuade the better quality loanees such as De Laet, Halford and Cotterill to return here, perhaps even permanently if it were financially possible?

As for Dickinson, Sonko and Hogg, I don't think you'd find too many Pompey fans disappointed to see them leave. The Stoke duo have come in for much criticism since their arrival and most of it has been justified whilst Hogg hasn't really shone either, so if I were the manager I would only look at borrowing these players again as a last resort.

With so little resources it seems like Steve's knowledge of the loan market and of players who have been released by other clubs come the summer will be severely tested.

And who knows whether the owners won't accept substantial bids from other clubs for the likes of Lawrence and Rocha? There doesn't seem to be any news on a takeover and my money would be on Chainrai and Kushnir staying for a while longer yet.

It looks like next season will be another bumpy ride, with survival being the main target once again.