Have Portsmouth got money to spend this summer as the go up against Ipswich Town, Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton Athletic and Co? The answer is finally here
There seems to have been two broad responses to the news Pompey have missed out on prime target, Jayden Stockley, this summer.
There’s the camp who are frustrated, and view the development as the latest irksome annoyance in a summer which has failed to spark to transfer life. And this at a time, of course, when remedial work is required on Danny Cowley’s squad.
There’s then the group, many whose opinion of the striker has been formed, in part, by a mediocre loan spell in royal blue six years ago, who are collectively shrugging their shoulders at Charlton being the side to claim the 27-year-old’s signature on a three-year-contract.
Whatever your take on the events of the past 48 hours or so, the pursuit of the Preston North End striker has served to shine a light on a matter foremost on the minds of fans this summer.
Have Pompey actually got any money to spend on players?
Such is the mindset of football fans that, even in a week when the owners have shown themselves to be good for ploughing an additional £10m into the cash drain that is Fratton Park, it’s the subject which is foremost in their minds.
It’s fair to say the manner in which the events surrounding Stockley developed has served to ruffle a few feathers, among those working to action the overhaul we all know is required.
Pompey felt they were well placed to bring in a player who ticked the boxes in terms of the physical, selfless striking addition Cowley requires, and everything was pointing towards a positive conclusion. The reality, as we all now know, is the Blues were never leading the race to snare Stockley, and in all probability, were used as stooges to drive up his earning power in a Machiavellian game of transfer cat and mouse.
Stockley’s supposed preference for a return close to his Poole roots was said to be a key weapon in the Blues’ negotiating armoury, with the fear the Blues could be blown out of the water by wage offers they couldn’t go up against.
Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday, who continue to talk big League One money despite being under a transfer embargo, were the sides who came to mind on that front.
But, after both sides agreed a fee in the region of £450,000 for the former Exeter man, it’s believed Charlton topped the Blues’ offer of wages of around £5,500 per week and a healthy signing-on fee not too far short of six figures.
So from believing they were in the driving seat and no doubt one of the couple of players Cowley felt they were ‘advanced’ in negotiations with when speaking to The News last week, Pompey could be justified in feeling more than a little vexed at how the saga played out.
This, of course, is the reality of transfer negotiations and the myriad factors which influence a deal reaching a successful conclusion.
Which is why the man who would be most justified in feeling infuriated is sanguine about the whole affair.
The head coach spoke privately last week about not getting his hopes up over Stockley or any other business, to assure he’s not left with a sense of anti-climax if things panned out in exactly the manner they did.
But as the dust settles from the Stockley narrative and he assures himself of a place as public enemy number one on future Fratton visits for the foreseeable future, what can we garner from what took place?
Well, firstly, there must now be a sense of reassurance for those who had their team marked down as scrabbling around the bargain basement for their recruits this summer.
The money Pompey were looking to both pay in terms of fee and then commit to wages is undoubtedly very competitive at League One level.
It may not reach the bonkers five-figure weekly salaries you hear are on the table for some players, and there will be no apology from the key decision makers at PO4 for that fact.
Nonetheless, it serves to shine a light on where things stand in a summer where so much has been said about the club’s spending power.
Yes, the revenue being lost by Pompey over the past 15 months has been oft stated. And with good reason.
But now some context has been afforded how that impacts Pompey’s playing budget.
What is clear is the spending level hasn’t been hacked from standing somewhere between £4m-£4.5m pre-Covid and salary cap.
Of course, with Cowley now looking at possibly double figures in terms of signings this summer, not all arrivals will be in the premium category afforded Stockley
Still, those who chose to conflate Pompey looking for a smattering of non-league signings as the club looking to stock up on players on the cheap, now have their answers.
It's evident, however, the oft-spouted phrase from managers about ideally having their business done for the first day of pre-season training isn’t going to take place here.
Pompey are returning to work in 12 days with 14 players to work with at present. The first pre-season fixture at Hawks is in 24 days.
We’re not quite in the realms of Steve Cotterill having six first teamers in 2010 yet or Michael Appleton signing a whole squad on the eve of the season a couple of years later just yet, but it appears the head coach will be doing his business at breakneck speed when a stagnant market eventually comes to live - as it must.
So not ideal for Cowley, but at least we’re all now clearer on how things stand, and the fact he’s going to tackle a transfer frenzy with his rivals in competitive fashion. Even if it did take Pompey being jilted to realise that.