Rocha nears Blues return

Ricardo Rocha is close to returning to Pompey
Ricardo Rocha is close to returning to Pompey

Ricardo Rocha’s proposed return to Pompey has gathered pace.

The popular Portuguese defender has now agreed to join up with the rest of the Blues squad for training early next week to allow caretaker boss Guy Whittingham to assess his fitness and to discuss a possible new contract.

The 34-year-old centre-back left the club over the summer but Whittingham acted quickly in a bid to bring back the fans’ favourite.

And with the loan additions of Peterborough winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Swindon striker Paul Benson, Whittingham’s rebuilding plans are already taking shape, although he still faces the difficulties of staying within his 20-man squad limit.

Whittingham said: ‘Ric wants to come back and help us out.

‘He’s a great character and the fans love him because of what he is and the way he has played for us for the past few years.

‘He hasn’t been at a club training week in, week out and that is something we need to assess. But he is willing to come over and do us a favour so hopefully he will be here next week, which is great.’

After the recent departures of Luke Rodgers and Josh Thompson on loan until January, Whittingham swooped for Mendez-Laing and Benson to bolster a side that has struggled for goals of late.

Benson, 33, has a decent scoring record, with three this term and 96 career league goals from spells at Dagenham & Redbridge, Charlton and Swindon.

Whittingham said: ‘Since we lost Wes Thomas, we haven’t had the right sort of partner for Izale McLeod and we’re hoping Paul Benson can come in and do that.

‘He has scored goals and has the know-how of playing in this league. I’m looking forward to seeing him bring that to the side.

‘I first saw Paul play at Dagenham & Redbridge a few years ago and really liked him then.

‘I have kept an eye on where he’s been since then. He was part of Swindon’s promotion campaign and he’s got a great work ethic as well.

‘That’s the type of player you need up front in this league.’

The 20-year-old Mendez-Laing is an exciting winger who started his career at Wolves, before a £100,000 switch to Posh last summer.

He can play on either flank and Whittingham is hopeful he can add some flair and natural width to the side.

The caretaker boss said: ‘He is very quick and direct. He likes playing left or right and is somebody that will hopefully excite the crowd when he gets on the ball.

‘He’s got lots of energy and he’s a young kid. I’ve spoken to a few people about him and they said he is a real talent so we’re looking forward to having him play for us.

‘He’s quick and pace always frightens defenders.

‘We need someone who gets on the ball and gets the crowd on their feet. We’re hoping he might be able to provide that for us.

‘They will both go straight into the team for tomorrow – that’s the point of bringing them here.’