Kenny Jackett's Achilles heel - but Portsmouth promotion will be influenced by January signings

Pompey’s January transfer window participation under Kenny Jackett has largely been unable to boost or bolster their League One standing.

Tuesday, 29th December 2020, 1:00 pm
James Vaughan made just two Pompey starts - and 11 appearances overall - after joining in the January 2019 transfer window on loan from Wigan. Picture: Joe Pepler

Last season, admittedly, did buck the trend, lifting the Blues four places – yet still resulted in play-off defeat.

Nonetheless, recruitment at this stage of a campaign has mainly failed during Jackett’s three previous seasons at the helm.

An effective window this time around would seal a Championship return for Pompey. It’s as simple as that.

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The second-placed Blues do not necessitate an overhaul, nor would they be allowed to through salary cap and squad-size restrictions.

A little fine-tuning, a spot of strengthening, with one or, possibly, two fresh faces maintaining the immense promise which presently exists.

There are no glaring problems, no wretched injury list or potential loan recall of a star performer as previously suffered in Ben Thompson.

Connor Ronan showed glimpses, but overall failed to make an impact after arriving on loan from Wolves in the transfer window of January 2018. Picture: Joe Pepler

History, however, reveals January has not been a strong point at Fratton Park since returning to League One.

Widely perceived as a difficult window for all clubs, certainly that has proven to be the case for the Blues.

During Jackett’s maiden season in 2017-18, his side were encouragingly placed sixth heading into 2018, inspired by Brett Pitman’s goals.

However, the final match of the year resulted in victory over Northampton – and a broken leg for Danny Rose during a freak drop-ball incident.

Critically, the influential midfielder was never replaced during the remainder of the campaign as they finished eighth.

Jackett brought in Sylvain Deslandes and Connor Ronan on a double loan arrangement with Wolves just three days into the window.

Deslandes was poor, reflected by being substituted in his two appearances, despite playing at left-back.

Ronan was a teenage attacking midfielder who showed glimpses of skill and ability, certainly one to earmark for the future, totalling 17 appearances.

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Yet physically there were questions and he never quite lived up to his billing. Now aged 22, he is presently on loan in Switzerland.

The final days of the window saw Anton Walkes arrive on loan from Spurs, which later became a permanent deal.

While keeper Stephen Henderson returned and sustained a serious injury on his second debut, marking a swift exit.

Having entered January in the play-off positions, the highest Pompey would reach was seventh. They ended up eighth.

In 2019, the Blues showed more ambition in transfer dealings as they sought to preserve top spot in League One.

Andy Cannon and Bryn Morris were low-key purchases, very much unknown quantities, whose impact that season was hampered by injury.

Yet the loan arrivals of Omar Bogle and James Vaughan excited on paper, while Viv Solomon-Otabor was perceived as a gamble but potential matchwinner.

Lloyd Isgrove completed the six and must be regarded as one of the more bizarre Pompey transfers, never making an appearance.

Still, Bogle started brightly, collected injury and then fizzled out, echoing an unfulfilled career.

As for Vaughan, he was handed just two starts and told to return to parent club Wigan to train, with Solomon-Otabor was erratic and off-side.

Pompey, top of the table for three-and-a-half months, finished fourth and lost in the play-offs to Sunderland.

Last January, the Blues were ninth and transfer window business was completed in the opening seven days.

Reeco Hackett-Fairchild came from non-league, but Steve Seddon had League One experience, while Cameron McGeehan was a huge statement of intent.

Seddon was excellent, filling a left-back position so wrecked by injury, adding dynamism and attacking impetus, although Hackett-Fairchild made just one appearance.

As for McGeehan, he was solid rather than spectacular. There were two goals, while he should never be set upon for missing that decisive play-off penalty.

Perhaps the talented player would have made more of an impact in this present Pompey system, rivaling Andy Cannon’s role.

The impact of Seddon and McGeehan did at least improve Pompey’s placing, rising to fourth before the season was curtailed by coronavirus.

So here we are, second in League One after 19 matches and heading into 2021.

Promotion could well depend on this January’s recruitment, even if a mere tinkering is required.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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