Roll up, roll up for the Championship bargains of a lifetime

Anthony Gardner, a free transfer this summer, keeps an eye on Ritchie de Laet while playing for Crystal Palace
Anthony Gardner, a free transfer this summer, keeps an eye on Ritchie de Laet while playing for Crystal Palace
Curtis Main in action for Pompey against Reading under-23s in last season's Checkatrade Trophy. Picture: Joe Pepler  PompReading PPP-160510-131550001

Pompey question: Will you attend the Fulham under-21s Checkatrade Trophy game?

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The bargain hunting has begun.

Except, Steve Cotterill’s company credit card has been cut up.

Still, the Blues boss is continuing window shopping in his drive for steals of the century.

There are certainly plenty of them about in the free transfer market.

The likes of Nathan Tyson, Nathan Ellington, Marlon King and Anthony Gardner immediately catch the eye of the football fan.

Unsurprisingly, there will be a clamour among managers to grab hold of players of this calibre as soon as possible.

Or what about Alan Quinn, Kevin Lisbie, Michael McIndoe, Willo Flood, Joe Murphy or David Mirfin?

Enough bargains there to whet anyone’s appetite in what is a prized time for any right-minded shopper.

Amid it all, Cotterill is unable to fight his way through the doors or muscle his way into the check-out queue.

The agonisingly long wait for the Fratton Park takeover to be thrashed out between the current owners and Convers Sports Initiatives has seen to that.

While the club’s future remains in limbo, Cotterill’s recruitment plans must stay firmly on hold.

Inevitably, it is a frustrating time for the Blues boss and fans alike, eager to see the squad of eight players signed up for next season added to.

That agony has been increased by the sight of Pompey’s rivals being given a head start in the sales as the free agent list is rifled through.

Most Championship clubs have now published their retained list.

That register has been repeated on the PFA website, providing enough coverage for all parties across the country to gauge their interest.

Cotterill can still look but, unfortunately, he cannot touch.

At least a certain David Norris has already been reserved by Pompey.

Even then, there must be concerns how long the midfielder can be earmarked for Fratton Park before somebody else barges their way in and whisks him away.

In the past week, Brighton’s Glenn Murray has been linked with Crystal Palace on a free transfer.

The striker banged in 22 goals for the Seagulls this season during their march to the League One title, but he is out of contract having declined to pen a new deal.

There are others like him who are certainly not short of admirers.

With contracts not officially up until June 30, that represents the day when bargain hunters can make their moves.

But while publicly matters may seem quiet on the transfer front, behind the scenes deals are being completed by the day.

Verbal agreements, pre-dated contracts – there are ways and means of getting signings finalised before the end of June.

There is plenty of fervent activity going on out there below the surface, agents the busiest of all as they attempt to meet heavy demands.

In the meantime, Cotterill is understandably keeping his shopping list close to his chest.

After all, he is in no position to declare his hand just yet.

Instead, he must wait before getting his targets over the line.

There are certainly many prime players to chose from who could do a sterling job for any ambitious Championship side.

Nottingham Forest have not managed to retain Tyson – a pacy striker who can also play out wide and has an impressive goalscoring record with Wycombe.

Coventry are fighting to convince King to remain at the Ricoh Arena, with a new deal long since tabled.

The Sky Blues’ player of the season, he scored 13 goals in 29 games this season and was seen as vital to their future.

Ellington cost Watford a club-record £3.25m when he joined them almost four years ago – but has now been released.

He has lost his way in recent years but has an impressive pedigree which has seen him score goals regularly in the Premier League.

Then there is Gardner – a former club-record signing for Hull whose career has been blighted by injuries.

A one-time England cap, he made 29 appearances on loan at Crystal Palace this season. There are many more, too.

Scottish international Garry O’Connor, former Premier League striker Lisbie, pacy winger Craig Fagan, one-time Pompey triallist Stephen Jordan, highly-regarded Scunthorpe defender Mirfin and ex-Celtic midfielder Flood all spring to mind.

Meanwhile, Bradley Johnson at Leeds already turned down Pompey during the last transfer window.

Others such as Coventry keeper Kieren Westwood and Cardiff’s Jay Bothroyd are surely destined for the Premier League rather than other Championship surrounds.

So many, rich pickings. And, much to Pompey’s disadvantage, they are already flying off the shelves.