Popular defender waits on Pompey future

Ricardo Rocha celebrates with Marko Futacs after the striker's winner against Doncaster Rovers
Ricardo Rocha celebrates with Marko Futacs after the striker's winner against Doncaster Rovers

Ricardo Rocha has been crowned the Northern Blues Supporters’ Group’s undisputed Pompey Player of the Year.

Only skipper Jason Pearce beat him in The News/Sports Mail fans’ vote.

Yet the popular Portuguese defender could be playing his last-ever Blues game this weekend.

As one of three out-of-contract members of Michael Appleton’s first-team squad, Rocha’s long-term future is under severe threat.

Administrator Trevor Birch wants to slash player wages by more than half in preparation for life in League One.

Although not one of Pompey’s highest earners, the terms of any potential new deal for the 33-year-old will have to be severely reduced.

That is if he is offered one at all.

Since arriving in the second half of the 2009-10 season, Rocha has gone on to make 75 appearances.

In the process, the cultured defender has established himself as a big Fratton Park favourite.

Michael Appleton is currently agonising over the contract situation as Pompey explore a wholesale clear-out to slash their £12m annual wage bill.

There is still much talking required and contemplating needed before definitive answers can be reached.

The fact remains, however, the trip to Nottingham Forest on Saturday could well represent Rocha’s Blues farewell.

Appleton said: ‘I think Ric has done okay this season.

‘He will probably say I am the first to point out he is the biggest culprit in terms of defending too deep at times.

‘He is getting on a little bit and won’t thank me for that – but I understand the situation from that point of view.

‘Regardless, Ric has had a satisfying season and can be reasonably pleased with the way things have gone.

‘He gives us a bit of experience and the fact he has played in different countries, different cultures, he knows when to play and when not to play.

‘What has helped Jason Pearce is the fact Ric’s biggest strength is he knows when to step in front of strikers and win that first one that goes into the striker’s feet. He does that quite well.

‘He won’t admit it because of his age, but I still think he has quite a bit to learn, even in the couple of years or so he has probably got left.

‘We have got Ric, Benji and Jamie (Ashdown) up at the end of the season and the budget is obviously going to be a lot different next year.

‘The players that do hang around will hopefully realise from a financial point of view they certainly won’t be able to earn the money they do at the minute.

‘Whether that is right for the club or right for them financially we will soon see.’

Appleton has sympathy for Rocha after recently attracting the ire of Southampton fans.

The former Spurs man prompted a furious reaction from the St Mary’s crowd when he lashed the ball and it struck a home supporter in the face during the first half of the St Mary’s clash earlier this month.

He was subsequently booked, yet went on to become a crucial figure in the 2-2 draw.

Rocha’s Blues boss, though, has come to the defence of his player over that controversial incident.

Appleton added: ‘I must say, in his defence, he didn’t actually mean to kick the ball into the crowd. He meant to kick it against the advertising boards.

‘I told him that, like any good defender, he missed the target!

‘I’ve got to say, though, he never actually meant to do that. He’s not like that – not in the slightest little bit.

‘I watched it over and over again because I felt it was right to see what had happened and you can tell Ric’s just trying to kick the ball into the boards because he was frustrated.

‘He’s a very calm, level-headed lad.’