Conor Chaplin: My Barnsley mate Cameron McGeehan has joined the best club in the world - and can bring Portsmouth success

With inevitability, the reference was glowing, emphatic in its rubber stamping of Fratton Park as a footballing destination of flawless character.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 10th January 2020, 5:00 pm

Cameron McGeehan sought advice on whether to consent to a Pompey loan deal, an arrangement consisting of dropping into League One for the remainder of the campaign.

Close friend Conor Chaplin was the obvious confidante, a Barnsley team-mate able to provide precious insight garnered from a 16-year association with the south-coast club.

Those words must have been persuasive, Tuesday marked the unveiling of McGeehan, a capture attracting an excellent response from supporters heartened at the calibre of their second January transfer-window capture.

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Chaplin believes the central midfielder could represent a game changer in Pompey’s push for a Championship return.

Although he did concede he was perhaps the worst person to consult on the prospective charms of the Blues.

The Fratton favourite said: ‘Cam asked me what Pompey’s like and I said “mate, to be honest, I am probably not the right person to ask because I am just going to be so biased!”

‘It is genuinely the best club in the world, such a good club, such good people, he was probably best off asking other people. I’m going to have blue-tinted glasses on.

Conor Chaplin heads for Cameron McGeehan after scoring for Barnsley against Charlton this season. Picture Tony Johnson.

‘It is an unbelievable club, an absolutely unbelievable club.

‘I don't claim to be born in Portsmouth or anything like that, but raised 35-40 minutes up the road it remains my local team, probably bang in the middle of Portsmouth and Brighton.

‘It is still my local team, there’s no getting away from that. Through getting tickets in the academy, I used to watch all the games as a kid, the Premier League, Championship and League One.

‘The manager (Kenny Jackett) wanted me to stay, he tried everything he could to get me to stay, but the decision I made was solely for my career.

Pompey new-boy Cameron McGeehan Picture: Portsmouth FC

‘I wouldn’t necessarily say I gave Cam advice, but he asked me what the club was like. He knows the affiliation I have with it.

‘I told him it would be a great move, Pompey have a superb chance of going up and I think he’ll make a real difference.

‘I’m really good mates with him, he’s probably one of my closest mates at Barnsley, and it has been an option for a little while. There was Championship interest as well, he was weighing everything up.

‘He’s made the right decision!’

Conor Chaplin won the League Two title with Pompey in 2016-17. Picture: Joe Pepler

McGeehan’s availability had surfaced since the Tykes’ appointment of Gerhard Struber as manager in mid-November.

Embroiled in a Championship relegation battle, the Austrian boss has sought to reverse their fortunes, with the 24-year-old subsequently handed two appearances since then.

Tellingly, the midfielder made just one of the past nine squads, while was not included in any of the five most recent.

His decreasing first-team involvement was a far cry from the summer, when the former Norwich man was handed a new two-year deal by the Tykes ahead of their Championship return.

There were 10 league starts and two goals before November 9, featuring in the same team as Chaplin.

Now McGeehan has been presented with a fresh challenge.

Conor Chaplin celebrates scoring at Ipswich in the FA Cup in January 2016

Chaplin added: ‘He is all action, likes to get stuck in and wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s a passionate and full-blooded player, which obviously Pompey fans tend to like.

‘Cam is an all-round midfielder, he has so many goals in him, a real box-to-box player who likes to play football and is good at second balls.

‘The way we’ve played at Barnsley this season has changed a bit through different managers, but we have played a 4-2-3-1 at times and a 4-4-2 – and he can feature as a sitting midfielder or number 10.

‘I can see him in a sitting two, but if he does, he needs the licence to go and get forward to get the best out of him. He is too dangerous in the opposition's box to keep out of it, he has a good nose for where the ball’s going to drop and gets himself into good goalscoring positions.

‘I also believe he can play as a number 10, especially the way Kenny plays, getting the ball forward quickly, his teams don’t tend to have build-up play and the manager loves crosses into the box.

‘I think Cam will do really well, he’s someone with a lot of quality and a proven track record, including promotions with Luton and Barnsley. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on how he does.’

Chaplin is in fine form for the Tykes this season, particularly under new boss Struber.

With eight goals in his past 11 appearances, the 22-year-old is spearheading their fight for survival, with the South Yorkshire club presently three points adrift of Championship safety.

Last weekend he netted in their 3-1 success at Crewe, representing progress in the FA Cup.

An emotional homecoming for the striker whose affiliation began as a six-year-old and progressed into the first-team ranks to amass 25 goals in 122 appearances before his August 2018 departure for Coventry.

Chaplin added: ‘I was back in Worthing, out for a drink with my dad, and watching the cup draw on the BBC iPlayer.

‘The problem was it was 30 seconds behind the actual Cup draw – and I had the Barnsley group chat to keep me updated!

‘Liverpool were also in there at the end and, while that would have been an unbelievable fixture for us, selfishly I probably wanted Pompey more! They know that, I talk about the club enough.

‘It’s a long way to come down south for the match, but it’s different for me compared to a lot of northern lads. It's coming back home, so I’m not really too bothered about the journey. I’m more than happy with Pompey over Liverpool.

‘I’ll be up against mates such as Ben Close, Gaz Evans and Christian Burgess, but keep in touch with quite a few of the lads to be fair.

‘Closey is someone I’ve known for ages, he’s one of my best mates in the game. I ring him after every match, we chat about my game, we chat about his game, and we also spoke following this draw.

‘It will be good playing against him, I can’t wait – and I can’t wait to be back at Fratton Park.’