Forget past January windows - Portsmouth lessons to be learnt from last summer's recruitment drive

With the January transfer window approaching, there’ll naturally be an expectation on the Blues to boost their squad quality.

Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 1:19 pm
Updated Friday, 20th December 2019, 8:42 pm
James Bolton

Extra reinforcements will be deemed a necessity to help kick-start a League One promotion bid that looked to be gathering momentum until Accrington unceremoniously stepped in the way.

Enough has been said about previous January transfer windows under Kenny Jackett’s watch.

The names Sylvain Deslandes and Lloyd Isgrove are just two pieces of business conducted by the Blues in this so-called window of opportunity that guarantee shivers down the spine.

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And as we all attempt to wipe their Blues existences from the memory once again, there’ll be a collective wish among the Fratton faithful that lessons will have been learnt from January spending sprees of recent years.

But it’s not just winter windows that provide food for thought.

Already, last summer’s recruitment drive has given reasons to proceed with caution.

Pompey brought in eight new faces between in the close season as Jackett aimed to assemble a squad capable of bringing Championship football back to the park.

Yet, looking at the minutes contributed by each of those new arrivals alone to the ongoing promotion bid, it’s fair to say more would have been expected.

John Marquis has featured in all 19 games played by the Blues in League One this term and has racked up 1,482 minutes to date, making him the exception.

Despite only scoring five goals in that time, he’s firmly cemented in the top third of players utilised by Jackett in the division this season – of which there are 21.

By the way, Ben Close tops the list with 1,605 minutes under his belt this season, with Christian Burgess (1,536) and Tom Nayor and Craig MacGillivray (both 1,530) close behind.

But looking at the rest, no-one has established themselves as a go-to man for Jackett.

Sean Raggett (899 minutes played), Marcus Harness (865), Ross McCrorie (787), Ellis Harrison (784) and Ryan Williams (755) have all had periods when they’ve been central to the manager’s plans.

But not central enough too see them remain on the pitch or picked from the outset as Pompey attempt to recover properly from a stuttering start to the season.

They all sit in the middle third when it comes to actual minutes played in League One this season.

And while nearly all of the above can rightfully point to injuries ruling them out of certain games, Harness (11), Harrison (11), Williams (9) and McCrorie (7) are the current top four players to feature in substitutions this season.

Then there’s the curious cases of James Bolton and Paul Downing.

Both have struggled for game time following their summer arrivals, with Jackett often overlooking them when recalls looked on the cards.

Bolton has totalled just 578 minutes of league football since his free transfer from Shrewsbury, despite being recognised as first-choice right-back upon his arrival.

Meanwhile, all of Downing’s 540 minutes all came before his last league outing against Burton on September 17.

He hasn’t been seen since in the division.

Only Jackett will know the real reason why all but one of his eight arrivals have featured so irregularly this season.

Maybe they just need time to adjust to their new surroundings or the expectation levels of playing for Pompey.

Or maybe the manager, in some cases, has already made up his mind that they’re not what he expected.

Whatever the reason, the evidence suggests there’s a risk with every signing made – regardless of the price tag or reputation.

And if fans expect potential January arrivals to hit the ground running and automatically fire the Blues to promotion, recent history suggests that won’t happen.