The deadline day potholes which trapped Pompey fans

As Adam Webster looked out the window, he could have been excused for double-checking the surroundings.

Saturday, 6th February 2016, 9:30 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:40 pm
Adam Webster was the subject of made-up transfer gossip on transfer deadline day Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey’s players were in the throes of the six-hour drive to their Lancaster hotel ahead of the following day’s fixture with Morecambe.

That morning, Paul Cook’s chosen 18-man squad had boarded the team coach at their Copnor Road training ground for the arduous M6 trek.

Except, according to social media, Webster was not actually present.

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Instead, we were told by Twitter, he was off to Peterborough. It soon sparked alarm among those enlightened by such secret goings-on.

Transfer deadline day – hijacked by Sky-sponsored hysteria, ably assisted by a rampant social media.

It’s a pothole-ridden environment where any deviously-placed nugget of information can blossom into a fully-fledged fact.

Suddenly rumours spouted by wondrously-knowledgeable Twitter accounts with a picture of an egg are embraced and passed off without query or a scrutinising eye.

Webster represented a perfect case in point.

At 1.03pm on Monday, Joe Hunt delivered a Twitter claim which ensured the Pompey defender’s future was the most talked about subject among the Fratton faithful, until the legitimate signing of Michael Smith.

Hunt, from Copnor, posted: ‘Adam Webster to #Peterborough according to my uncle who works in the medical department, not sure on the fee tho’.

A mere three minutes later and he added: ‘Was surprised when I saw Webster didn’t travel to Morecambe but this must explain it’.

The bonfire had been lit – and the billowing smoke blinded many a social media inhabitant.

Hunt’s initial Tweet was favourited 15 times and retweeted another eight as word spread of a controversial departure for London Road.

In reality, the 19-year-old had dreamt up the rumour for his amusement. It had no grain of truth.

The subsequent outcry over this Twitter-led transfer spilled onto almost every Pompey-supporting forum, message board and Facebook group. The News was also contacted in the scramble for answers.

Webster learnt of it four hours into his coach trip, upon receiving a Tweet from one Blues fan pleading with him to stay. Others followed.

Rarely on Twitter these days, the 21-year-old elected not to give public credence to what he regarded as a ridiculous claim.

Although, a number of team-mates latched onto the scenario to mock him during the remainder of their journey to Lancashire.

Still, the rapid snowballing of the idle rumour caught even its grand instigator by surprise.

Hunt, who last season played two matches for Pompey’s under-18 side, explained: ‘I didn’t expect it to go off like that!

‘The idea was to have a bit of fun, a few of my mates were in on it and loved what happened.

‘I think it was when I said he hadn’t travelled to Morecambe that people thought Webster was definitely going.

‘I did a similar thing last year, putting out Leroy Lita was coming to Pompey. On that occasion I claimed my uncle worked in Pompey’s medical department. It was all rubbish.

‘On the Express FM Football Hour somebody phoned in and asked whether Webster was leaving and I thought “Blimey!”.

‘Mind you, I didn’t manage to get it on talkSPORT. I tweeted them but they didn’t come back to me.

‘The Tom Nichols one wasn’t me, though.’

Hunt was not the lone voice spreading deadline day misinformation.

The Fratton end season ticket holder took advantage of a gasping audience thirsty for the transfer lowdown – and highlighted social media’s obvious shortcomings.

Before the advent of the Webster farce, Tom Nichols was a rumour generated by @Transferswatch on Twitter.

Posted at 11.21pm on Sunday, it stated: ‘Peterborough, Brentford & Portsmouth are all chasing Exeter Tom Nichols. Portsmouth are thought to be the favourites.’

Upon examination, suspiciously the account had been created only minutes earlier, its faceless nature also a giveaway.

Twitter is brimming with accounts parading under the pretence of being agents in the know, eager to kindly pass on prized titbits to the public. Overwhelmingly, they are fake.

The link with Nichols soon metamorphosed into a fact as some Blues followers debated the striker’s credentials and whether Paul Cook should focus elsewhere.

At 1.15pm on Monday, Peterborough unveiled the 22-year-old, signed for an undisclosed fee.

Incidentally, Nichols was never a consideration for Pompey.

Cook did, however, recruit Smith on loan, the news broken by BBC Wiltshire Sport at 4.34pm. The arrangement was officially confirmed by Pompey almost three hours later.

The club were also in for Stefan Scougall, a potential loan from Sheffield United which toed-and-froed up until the 11pm deadline.

The fate of Matt Tubbs was similarly unpredictable, before remaining at Fratton Park for the time being, while Paul Jones joined Crawley Town on a month’s loan.

As for other Twitter rumours about Pompey signing striker Ishmael Miller, the source was a familiar one.

‘That was me as well,’ added Hunt.

‘I always sign him on career mode on Fifa so thought he would do as another made-up rumour. He’s actually available so was a realistic one!

‘I had a Huddersfield Town fan message me saying “You are in for a shock if you think Miller is what you need!”

‘Then one of the co-presenters on Express FM mentioned about hearing rumours Miller was coming – and I was laughing my head off.’

You just couldn’t make it up.