The Axe Swings

Last updated : 18 May 2015 By Jim Bonner

If the Portsmouth squad was a tree then Paul Cook hasn't simply swung the axe at it but taken a chainsaw to it whilst wearing a Leatherface mask after nine out-of-contract players were officially not offered a new deal today.

Wes Fogden, Joe Devera, Ryan Taylor, Dan Butler, Ben Chorley, Tom Craddock, Nicky Shorey, Danny East and Bradley Tarbuck have all been told to find new clubs with only Adam Webster being offered a new one. Ben Close has also had his contract extended.

In addition to this Gary Waddock and Paul Hardyman have been dismissed from the coaching staff along with head of recruitment Andy Melville and lead strength and conditioning coach Louis Langdown. Leam Richardson and Ian Foster are expected to be named as part of Paul Cook's backroom staff in the very near future.

As far as the player cull goes, not many would have expected nine of the eleven players to not have their contracts renewed but it seems the new Portsmouth manager has a ruthless streak.

Chorley was one of the worst defenders this club has ever seen, Shorey was clearly going through the motions as retirement beckons, Craddock was always injured, East never quite looked good enough despite his versatility and Tarbuck never made a name for himself whilst on loan so the decision to bin them is completely understandable.

It has to be said that Butler produced some terrible performances defensively this season but also showed his potential going forward and so hopefully Cook won't regret releasing him and all Pompey fans will surely wish him all the best for the future.

Taylor wasn't initially released as talks were ongoing whilst the other eight players had already been told they were no longer required but it has been decided not to offer him a new deal, although it's probable that wage demands and possibly contract length impasses played their part.

It's a shame he won't be staying as he managed to become a popular player and scored his fair share of goals towards the end of the season. However, the decision to let him go makes sense from Cook's point of view as Taylor isn't a player who fits into his passing football philosophy and he will never be picked as a lone frontman ahead of Matt Tubbs. Oxford are likely to pick him up now.

Devera would have been a solid, dependale defender to keep as a squad player but again, he isn't known for playing football on the deck and Cook probably has better defenders in mind to replace him with. Besides, Johnny Ertl could be seen as just as capable a defender as Joe and his contract runs for another season yet.

In my view, the biggest possible mistake Cook has made is letting Fogden go. He may have missed virtually all of this season because of injury but if he can return to full fitness then he is a quality player on the ball at League Two level and one of the few creative midfielders in the squad who has now been discarded. It's slightly disappointing to see him leave.

With Jed Wallace certain to leave the club, Paul Cook's squad following his cull is now at 16 players of which two of them are academy youngsters Alex Bass and Adam May. Like the most recent managers before him, the current man in charge certainly has a lot of recruiting to do in what should be a busy summer.

He looks set to raid his old club for players with midfielders Jimmy Ryan and Gary Roberts on his radar. Kyle Bennett of Doncaster had already spoken to Cook last Thursday about a potential move south and that move could progress this week.

It's going to be the most interesting pre-season since, well, a couple of years back when the squad had to be rebuilt back then!