The intensifying questions surrounding ambition of Portsmouth’s owners
Lee Brown served up a cracking story to readers on Monday.
The defender’s suggestion we’ll see the true extent of the ambition of Pompey’s owners this summer sparked plenty of debate and drew plenty of traffic to Portsmouth.co.uk.
Why? Because, put simply, he was saying what we were all thinking.
A day on and a grenade of a follow-up was lobbed into the Fratton ether by Kenny Jackett, as he announced his playing budget for next season was to remain at its existing level.
As many supporters noted, it appeared Brown quickly had his answer.
It may be a stretch to picture any of Jackett’s measured and professional delivery as incendiary, but again this story landed with a bang.
Unsurprisingly, the reaction has been a strong one with a fair degree of frustration at the development surfacing.
As the left-back himself noted, a sentiment Pompey are heavy-hitters financially at this level continues to circulate among the wider football community. It’s not the case.
‘We’ve got a good budget, but it’s not “moneybags Portsmouth,’ Brown said, when speaking about the club’s financial position.
‘The people behind the scenes know that. The fans who come every week know that.’
Having an American billionaire at the helm can paint a contrary picture of the situation, however.
It’s important to note Michael Eisner has always championed a prudent approach to the club’s development, since undertaking his sales pitch ahead of Pompey’s takeover two years ago.
Likewise, son Eric regular takes to social medial preaching growth ‘brick by brick’, and is in on the joke when he receives some light-hearted bantering over a catchphrase he now owns.
Similarly, Jackett tows the party line and his public reaction to the news was as diligent as ever, when inviting the local media along for a post-season debrief at Roko on Tuesday afternoon.
Privately, though? You’d forgive a degree of frustration at the situation.
The most recent publicly-stated Pompey playing budget was £3.2m last June. It’s known that figure has increased and now lies north of £4m, although cards are understandably kept to the chest when talking of exact details.
Ten summer signings and bringing in players like Omar Bogle amid the six January recruits makes it obvious enough there’s been a leap, but hardly one into the League One financial stratosphere.
For example, the financial figures for League One clubs in 2016-17 show a total of 11 sides with wage bills in excess of £4.4m - offering a degree of context if you’re looking for it.
Pompey have been able to offer money for transfer fees under Eisner’s stewardship in the past, most notably the £1m-plus pursuit of Mo Eisa last summer.
That will not have changed and Jackett has confirmed, as you would absolutely have expected, funds generated by the expected departure of Matt Clarke and any of the other prized assets generating interest by suitors will go back into the recruitment pot.
Jackett’s oft-repeated statement it’s not all about wages continues to be a generous sentiment, though.
Because when you are speaking with players, like Tom Lockyer for example, who have multiple clubs from League One and above interested, being off the pace with what you can offer puts one arm behind the manager’s back in negotiations. That remains the case even for a club of Pompey’s appeal.
Coming off the back of the play-off failure and January dealings which could’ve, but came up short of putting the promotion argument to bed, the murmurings of discontent over the playing budget remaining in a state of flux are becoming more audible.
The scenario adds more fuel to the Pompey conspiracy theorists, who have their doubts about whether the owners wanted promotion and to reach a Championship terrain where the financial battle lines dramatically alter.
The reality is they desperately wanted that success of course, but if Brown today sees the news of a playing budget freeze as a sign of lack of ambition it would be tough to counter such a view.