Abused by Portsmouth fans on dark day, but statement signing Cameron McGeehan is here to deliver promotion and will be embraced for doing so
Okay, so we didn’t get off to the most pleasant of starts...
But the path of true love rarely runs smoothly. It’s not where you were, it’s where you’re at. True perfection has to be imperfect, and all that.
And if Cameron McGeehan proves to be the signing he could potentially be, his relationship with Pompey fans may well be about to blossom. So let’s start again.
Supporters had already started preparing to roll out the welcoming committee for the 24-year-old after being paired with Barnsley in the FA Cup on Monday night, when news of his fast-accelerating move to Fratton dropped.
It’s a piece of business which fired a message to League One rivals, make no mistake, one which shows Kenny Jackett’s stated desire to bring in players who can make a sizeable difference now to his side’s promotion bid wasn’t just transfer window lip service.
From the manager’s perspective and indeed through a footballing prism there’s nothing not to like about Pompey’s third piece of January business. But from a fans’ view, well, there’s a bit of a back story.
We won’t linger on the events January 2, 2017, but for the few who are unaware the then Luton midfielder left Fratton Park on a stretcher with a broken leg and the ire of the home crowd ringing in his ears after a challenge with Michael Doyle.
The details of the incident don’t need regurgitating here, but suffice to say from whatever perspective you had - and there’s a few - it was a fairly ugly affair, and wounded by criticism from Hatters boss Nathan Jones Pompey fans mobilised in defence of themselves.
Fast forward 24 months and a change of manager at Barnsley has put paid to McGeehan’s hopes of regular Championship minutes at his current club, following 14 appearances this term - but just two sub outings since Gerhard Struber became manager in November.
Perhaps the more telling appearance stat is the 44 games the Northern Ireland international got under his belt as the Tykes won promotion last term. A return supplemented by six goals.
Or when searching for indicators of the quality of McGeehan’s signing, maybe look to the fact he was seen as one of the lower league’s brightest prospects when emerging at Luton, a status underlined by the constant chatter about sides being interested in securing his services.
If not that, then the Championship outfits who were said to be keen on bringing in the forward-thinking midfielder this month may help to convince over the weight he could add to his new side’s bid to go up.
Stoke, Cardiff and Charlton were among the number of clubs reported to keen on bringing in the ex-Norwich trainee, but it was Pompey who found a way to get the deal done - an encouraging sign in itself, especially when promotion rivals like Rotherham were also batted off in the process.
But perhaps most heartening is the player’s willingness to make PO4 the sixth stop-off of his professional career. McGeehan clearly wants to be a Pompey player.
Just to befuddle the emotions of the Fratton faithful even further, in the wake of his signing it then emerges the player’s mum grew up in Portsmouth and his nan lives in Portchester. Blimey, he’s pretty much one of our own! Well, Kingston upon Thames has actually been McGeehan’s home for his upbringing but suffice to say his connections with the city run deeper than most were aware.
The ultimate judgment, of course, will lie on the pitch over the coming months and there’s little doubt the schemer’s arrival bolsters Pompey in an area they needed strengthening.
Within the framework of the 4-2-3-1 Jackett has predominantly gone with this term, an injury to either Ben Close or Tom Naylor leaves options looking light in the midfield positions. McGeehan also possesses the right kind of forward-thinking instincts which would meld well with what Pompey can call on there.
For much of the season, too, Jackett hasn’t been able to settle upon a natural fit for the ‘10’ position with the likes Gareth Evans, John Marquis, Marcus Harness and Brett Pitman utilised and Andy Cannon, until recently, largely overlooked for the role.
An ‘all-round central midfielder’ is how the Pompey boss described McGeehan’s attributes, with a nod to the defensive work he can also bring to his new side. Conor Chaplin, a team-mate of his at Oakwell until this week, also talks well of the kind of attributes the new face will add to the set-up.
So encouraging signs and a player who satiates the appetite for meaningful additions this month to show the club are serious about making it to the Championship. McGeehan without question falls into the category of a statement signing at the level Pompey currently inhabit. Now we wait to see if potential can be fulfilled.
Twelve months ago Jackett’s side were embarking on a bleak run of form which put paid to their hopes of automatic promotion.
It was the loss of Ben Thompson which had everything to do with that, as the midfielder’s return to Millwall proved the catalyst for two months and eight League One fixtures without victory. Those who feel Thompson’s presence in the middle of the park has never quite been replaced, present an argument which certainly has its merits.
If McGeehan is able to deliver that same dynamism, there’s every chance the end result will have him feeling a lot more at home within the confines of PO4 - where he will be embraced with open arms.