In limbo: How Portsmouth's first summer transfer impacts on Fratton future of 'highly talented' Zak Swanson

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Jordan Williams’ unveiling as Pompey’s first summer signing fills the right-back vacancy in the Championship playing squad.

Yet it also reignites questions over whether Zak Swanson will be around to challenge him.

Swanson’s Fratton Park future is not straightforward and, ominously, remains unresolved with under a fortnight to go before the pre-season return.

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The Blues unquestionably rate the former Arsenal youngster, regarding him as ‘high potential’. They have also been largely impressed with his first-team displays during an encouraging two-year stay.

Zak Swanson produced a man-of-the-match display against Spurs in the FA Cup in January 2023. Picture: Getty ImagesZak Swanson produced a man-of-the-match display against Spurs in the FA Cup in January 2023. Picture: Getty Images
Zak Swanson produced a man-of-the-match display against Spurs in the FA Cup in January 2023. Picture: Getty Images | Getty Images

Ominously, however, the club are comfortable with not activating the option to extend his stay for another 12 months, thereby running the gamble of potentially losing him.

Pompey have rationalised they instead prefer to negotiate a new, longer contract. Regardless, surely few can swallow these as positive developments, let alone the player himself.

As talks continue and Swanson’s Pompey future remains locked in limbo, in the meantime a new right-back has arrived at Fratton Park. Not unreasonably, with none previously contracted to the Blues.

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Williams is just 11 months Swanson’s senior and has featured 166 more times in first-team football, of which two seasons have come at Championship level.

In fact, the newcomer made more appearances for Barnsley last term than the ex-Arsenal man has managed in his entire career. Incidentally, Swanson has started just 19 matches in the Football League.

Once regarded as the young pretender to Joe Rafferty, now there is little significant age difference between Swanson and Williams, although a huge gap in experience is maintained.

Of course, Swanson’s chief problem at the Blues has been his worrying injury record, spanning largely John Mousinho’s 17 months at the club.

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Having started the head coach’s opening three matches, following a 2-1 defeat at Peterborough in January 2023 he was sidelined for the remaining 20 matches of the 2022-23 campaign.

The 23-year-old returned for 2023-24 and there were 14 appearances until he sustained a groin problem against AFC Wimbledon in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy in December.

Ruling him out of another 15 fixtures, he returned for the League One title run in, dislodging Rafferty from the starting XI on three occasions.

However, the groin issue returned against Barnsley in April, forcing him off the field in the 31st minute to be replaced by Rafferty as the Blues dramatically claimed promotion with a 3-2 triumph.

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Roughly speaking, Swanson has missed around 37 games through injury during his two-year stay at Fratton Park.

Irrespective of undoubted ability - and we all remember his magnificent display against Son Heung-min in the FA Cup - that availability is a huge concern.

Considering Swanson has so far featured 44 times for the Blues and turns 24 in September, questions over his robustness and physicality are inevitable, particularly from within Fratton Park.

Compare that to Williams, whose 216 career appearances consist of 172 Football League outings, including a loan spell at Bury, and one League Cup fixture for Huddersfield.

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Pompey, of course, require a right-back rival for Williams as they embark on their first Championship season in 12 years.

Yet whether that is Swanson, whose contract expires after June 30, remains unclear.

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