Prized asset in no-lose situation

Jed Wallace, left, has been a key figure for Pompey since his emergence into the first team in the second half of last season Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace, left, has been a key figure for Pompey since his emergence into the first team in the second half of last season Picture: Joe Pepler
Picture: Ian Hargreaves

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There’s a joke currently doing the rounds among many of Pompey’s players and staff about the construction of the Jed Wallace training ground.

Dressing room humour at its sharpest and a tongue-in-cheek reference towards the windfall the club could receive should the teenager be on his way.

How the players crave their own training home to replace the current location at Furze Lane, which has a surface regarded by those who use it most as not quite up to scratch at present.

Not that Wallace’s team-mates are particularly blessed with insider dealing over his future. Privately, he is uncertain over the precise details of his next move himself.

Nonetheless, the issue of the midfielder’s contract remains a constant topic among those he plays alongside, just as much as it does the supporters so eager for him to stay.

After today, Whittingham’s men have eight matches before the transfer window reopens and the bolt is slid away from the door to potentially allow their prized asset the opportunity to depart.

It’s a crucial period during which the team can testify it is a realistic promotion force readily equipped to clamber out of League Two at the very first attempt.

Failure to display such credentials and Wallace will undoubtedly depart – either during January or, more riskily for the club, when his contract has run its course next summer.

The youngster signed from Lewes in August 2011 is destined for higher divisions in English football and clearly has no wish to linger in the bottom one for any longer than 12 months.

Nor should he. As a player in form and in demand, there are plenty of suitors out there coveting his talents.

What’s more, he has League One pedigree, having impressed there during the second half of last season.

Whittingham himself has conceded that if Pompey cannot progress out of the league this season then he will lose Wallace.

The facts at this moment in time are Wallace has already rejected two contract offers from the Blues, effectively putting the ball back in their court.

One of the issues inevitably remains over money, with chief executive Mark Catlin unprepared to break the wage structure to keep the club’s brightest star.

At it stands, Wallace is one of the lowest-paid members in the first-team squad – that due to the development contract he is still on.

When the club naturally enforced the option for an additional 12 months in April, it was for the same pay, as stipulated by the existing deal.

Remarkably, in the year 2013, the teenager had featured in every single match up until his suspension for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy fixture at Newport earlier this week.

That’s a sequence of 40 consecutive matches, of which just three appearances came as a substitute, scoring 10 goals in the process.

Yet his pay is significantly less than nearly all of his team-mates who also turn out regularly for the first team and, in some cases, have failed to match his form this season.

The result is Wallace would have to be catapulted above the club’s top earners – a scenario Catlin is unwilling to agree to bearing in mind the lessons of the past which have to be learned.

Breaking the strict wage ceiling this early into the regime would be a dangerous game for the chief executive to play.

Not that the midfielder is solely motivated by money, that must be made abundantly clear.

Finances are merely one aspect of his consideration to remain at Fratton beyond this season.

He is fully aware of the identities of those currently monitoring his progress and the facilities and league standing they can offer in comparison to his current employers. In addition, allowing himself to become a free agent next summer would open the doors to plenty more interested clubs.

David Connolly revealed in The News recently that two unnamed clubs have sounded out his opinion on the qualities of Wallace and whether he would be a worthwhile pursuit.

The veteran striker is as straight-talking as they come and if he is lauding his team-mate’s credentials, then he will be listened to.

As a former Wolves player, you can reasonably speculate they may be one of the clubs involved.

Certainly, as an ambitious League One side, they would fit the bill.

Still, there have so far been enquiries from two different parties to Pompey – both met with the standard negotiation response of not wanting the player to leave and being a key figure of the football club moving forwards.

As it stands, though, there has been no official bid for Wallace put in front of the Catlin.

When there is, it creates a tremendous quandary to those currently running the football club of whether to cash in during January. In doing so, likely hindering a promotion push.

Alternately, they can retain Wallace until the end of the season in the hope he can lead them out of League Two – and miss out on a transfer fee if unsuccessful.

The latter would prompt a Football League tribunal to set a compensation figure in recognition of Pompey’s development and training input should he then move on.

Those familiar with the process have estimated it could be in the region of £200,000 to £250,000.

Regardless, in accordance with Football League instructions, half of the figure would have to be used to pay off legacy debts.

The same would apply to any transfer fee received in January.

In the meantime, Wallace has continued to put in hard-working performances, seemingly not distracted by the ongoing questions over his future.

It’s a no-lose situation for the midfielder who finds himself in the rare position in football of being able to dictate his next move.

As for the Jed Wallace training ground, it certainly has a rather nice ring to it.