Guy: Smith will be first-team threat

Phil Smith has penned a new one-year deal with Pompey
Phil Smith has penned a new one-year deal with Pompey

After more than five months and 26 games on the bench, Phil Smith is still awaiting his Pompey debut.

But Guy Whittingham believes the keeper is inching ever-closer to finally making the breakthrough.

Smith has been the surprise name among those players the Blues boss is eager to retain during his extensive squad building.

Smith arrived at Fratton Park in December, having been without a club since leaving Swindon last summer.

The 33-year-old spent the remainder of the campaign on the bench as back-up to Simon Eastwood, although he did start in the IBV friendly last month.

Nonetheless, Smith, along with Patrick Agyemang, were the first players to pledge their futures to Pompey.

Yassin Moutaouakil signed yesterday on a one-year deal, while Eastwood will follow suit on Tuesday having been away on holiday since the end of the season.

And with both of next year’s keepers in place, Whittingham believes Smith is going to be pushing hard for a first-team spot.

He said: ‘Phil has signed for a year.

‘We see a lot of him in training and he has really started to push Eastie in the past couple of months.

‘We kept with Eastie because I felt he deserved it with what he had been through this year here.

‘There was a sort of thought over whether we played Phil in the last game of the season but I thought Eastie deserved to be where he was.

‘We agreed with Phil that he was going to be with us next year fairly early on because him and Eastie work well together.

‘They also work well with Alan Knight and I think that combination of goalkeepers who get on well but will also challenge each other is very important.

‘Phil is only 33, he’s had experience of getting promoted from that league with Swindon and he’s a good trainer.

‘He is there to be a challenge for Simon because you definitely need that competition.

‘He’s a very good communicator as well and if you have a younger back line you need to make sure you have that experience behind them.

‘And I think he is also still interested doing his coaching qualifications.’

Smith previously spent six seasons at Swindon, making 132 appearances.

While at the County Ground he won a League Two winners’ medal under then-boss Paolo Di Canio in 2011-12.

Yet at the end of that summer his contract was not renewed and Smith struggled to find another club until Pompey came in for him.

He has penned a one-year deal, while Eastwood will next week put pen-to-paper on a three-year contract.

David Connolly has been offered terms and indicated he would be interested in staying, although nothing has been agreed.

Johnny Ertl is currently backpacking in the Philippines and out of the country for the next three weeks, delaying him signing.

Ricardo Rocha is another Pompey are looking to keep and the club are currently awaiting a decision from the veteran.

In addition, Dan Butler is in line for a new deal, with his existing first-year professional forms having now expired. He is expected to sign next week.

Others out of contract include Liam Walker, Sam Sodje, Shaun Cooper and John Akinde, with Whittingham mulling over their future roles – if any – at the club.

He added: ‘There are no developments on Connolly at the moment.

‘There’s not much change from Ric, either.

‘I don’t think he is in too much rush to make a decision so we will keep that one on the backburner knowing that is a possibility, but also, if it is not, we will have to think about something else.

‘Johnny Ertl is out in the Philippines so we haven’t heard from him.

‘I think he wants to stay and we want him to stay, so I’m sure we can reach an agreement.’