Paul Cook's transfer question to Pompey fans
It was a genuine question rather than a challenge.
‘Who should we sign?’ Paul Cook started out as the subject of the close of today’s loan window reared its head.
‘In fact, it’s a debate you should open out to your readers,’ he continued, with his Scouse tones rising ‘Who do YOU’S want?’
The topic was then turned over to the assembled local press to debate.
Assistant manager Leam Richardson loitered, ready to light-heartedly expose any failings in knowledge as his favourite subject of recent weeks resurfaced.
Liam Sercombe? Forget it. Oxford aren’t selling to a rival. Curtis Nelson at Plymouth? Been there since he was a kid. No chance.
Kemar Roofe? Come off it. Danny Gardner? Gone to a higher level. Caolan Lavery? Where do we start on that one...
Yes, playing at being Pompey boss might seem okay when you’re scanning the database of the latest edition of Football Manager.
The constraints of recruiting with nine games to go maybe presents one or two extraneous issues not on the radar of Blues fans, however.
And when you are attempting to do that in a responsible fashion for the future benefit of your 23-man squad, the test deepens.
It wasn’t meant to be a dig at his predecessors, but Cook feels he can see the remnants of the pressure to yield to new faces at PO4.
‘If you keep changing players,’ he added in yesterday’s back-page lead in The News, ‘I can guarantee we are not changing players for better ones. We are changing to appease people.’
Cook promised not to leave Pompey short with the play-offs a distinct possibility, however.
So Conor Wilkinson arrives to solve the end-of-season attacking dilemma being faced.
Michael Smith’s 93-day loan will be at a close before the final-day clash with Northampton, meaning he will be out of the equation.
That leaves Marc McNulty and Conor Chaplin as the out-and-out attacking options at his disposal.
There will be those who see Smith’s absence as an opportunity for Chaplin.
Despite appreciation of his raw talent, Cook was always going to want an extra body with the stakes so high.
Wilkinson’s addition drew an eerily-muted response yesterday, with his goal return of two goals from 24 games this season, no doubt underwhelming to fans.
In a poll with supporters, it’s likely Lavery would’ve featured prominently as the player they’d liked to have seen.
If only things were that easy.
Four goals in 13 appearances and a developing bromance with McNulty hinted at real promise in his stay.
With his contract up in the summer at Sheffield Wednesday, however, there was a desire to tie the 23-year-old down to a new deal – and make him a more bankable asset in the process.
Lavery, for his part, has taken the advice of running down his contract, allowing him greater freedom to move when it runs out.
The trade-off for that is spending the intervening period wasting in the cold at Hillsborough, instead of taking centre stage in the Blues’ charge for promotion.
The prospect of a goal-laden period at boosting his international hopes ahead of the European Championships for Northern Ireland, has done little to add any urgency to the issue.
Chief executive Mark Catlin stated he hadn’t given up on the striker, but Cook voiced less optimism over a player he feels could have made all the difference to his team.
With just over 24 hours to go to the loan window closing, the shape of Pompey’s squad for the final battle is completed. The deficiencies are there for Cook to see, but the answers perhaps less straightforward.