Key departures will hurt Portsmouth - but Blues are better equipped to put wind up League One rivals

Just like a typical British summer, there’s been plenty of highs and lows on the Pompey front since last season came to a disappointing end.

Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 7:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 11:48 pm

Matt Clarke’s decision to seek sunnier Premier League climes in the form of a big-money move to Brighton initially had Blues fans feeling under the weather.

A condition not helped by Nathan Thompson’s well-forecasted intention to leave Pompey out in the cold when it came to his future away from Fratton Park.

There has, of course, been a raft of incomings on the arrivals board as manager Kenny Jackett attempts to give his Blues squad a healthier glow for the challenges ahead.

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Seven in total - James Bolton, Paul Downing, Ellis Harrison, Sean Raggett, Ryan Williams, Ross McCrorie and Marcus Harrison - have been flown in as the Blues turned the heat up on their transfer business.

But just like any hot spell of activity, there’s sure to be a storm lurking on the horizon.

Cue the Jamal Lowe transfer saga that looks increasingly likely to jet stream the unsettled winger all the way to a reunion with former boss Paul Cook at Wigan.

There’s no doubt Jackett will add to his attacking options when, rather than if, Lowe completes his protracted move to the Championship side.

Pompey manager Kenny Jackett

But the wide man’s departure will represent a third key player to move away from Fratton Park in as many months - not the ideal preparation for a third campaign in League One that’s hardly quenching the fans’ thirst for Championship football.

That’s a massive blow, with Clarke and Lowe, unquestionably, Pompey’s prized assets going into the summer months.

However, the Blues’ chances of fulfilling their promotion ambitions this term should not be written off by their defections. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Indeed, the Blues squad Jackett is building - and let’s not forget there will be at least one more arrival upon Lowe’s exit - is arguably better equipped for the job at hand than last season’s outfit that finished fourth - six points behind champions Luton.

Marcus Harness is one of seven new arrivals at Pompey this summer

Last year’s arrivals of Craig MacGillivray, Lee Brown, Tom Naylor and Ronan Curtis - plus the short loan spell of Ben Thompson - undoubtedly gave Pompey the additional capabilities they needed to build on the previous campaign’s eighth-placed finish.

However, the loan arrivals of David Wheeler, Andre Green, Joe Mason, Omar Bogle, Lloyd Isgrove, Viv Solomon-Otabor and James Vaughan often negated their impact.

Not one made a success of their time at Fratton Park, either because of injury or the inability to stamp their authority on their new surroundings.

That severely limited the manager’s options, both in terms of his starting XI and substitutions, and contributed to the fatigue clearly felt by his tried and trusted players at the business end of the campaign.

Jackett used his full quota of subs in only 29 on the Blues’ 62 matches in all competitions last season, with the manager failing to call on a third sub in those three decisive games against Sunderland and then Peterborough at the end of the 2018-19 term.

He clearly had little faith on those left at his disposal to change games for him.

Of the new batch, only McCrorie and Raggett are loanees.

And already the signs are the former could be better than Ben Thompson and is set to become a fans’ favourite.

The only understandable worry that leads to is the possibility of Rangers replicating Millwall’s actions and recalling McCrorie back across the border early.

Nevertheless, five of the seven new boys represent permanent transfers, which should stand the Blues in good stead moving forward.

They’ll be committed to the cause and won’t be distracted by any talk emanating from their parent clubs or the insecurity a loan move often generates.

Also, while only Harrison (believed to have cost around £450,000) and Harness (close to £1m) required fees, Bolton, Downing and Williams come with good reputations, with Pompey seeing off stiff competition for their signatures.

Harrison, meanwhile - despite failing to get off the mark in pre-season - no doubt makes the Blues a different proposition in the attacking third.

And as for Harness, well, Pompey appear to have landed a gem and he will no doubt have fans on their feet as soon as the season kicks off.

Both will surely be in the starting XI for when Pompey kick-off the season at Shrewsbury on Saturday - that automatically enhances the Blues as an attacking force, irrespective of Lowe’s circumstances.

McCrorie is likely to join them, in the middle of the park, bettering Pompey’s presence in the engine room with his all-action style.

And that leaves the defence as the only department arguably weakened by the summer departures.

Although, it would take a brave man to tell Downing, Raggett, Bolton, Anton Walkes and Christian Burgess - the players keen to fill the void left by Clarke and Thompson.

The Blues’ calculated business this summer also means the bench is sure to be a lot stronger.

Jackett’s aim is to have a top-quality squad of 24 players at his disposal, all capable of producing promotion form when and if called upon.

There’ll be some disappointed faces in the stand on a Saturday as a result, with the manager now boasting a set-up bursting with quality.

Let’s not also forget what a daunting prospect for rival defenders a refreshed Ronan Curtis will be.

His formed tailed off in the second half of last season as 18 months of continuous football took its toll.

However, he’ll be raring to go after an extended summer break and determined to build on his growing reputation in only his second season in the Football League.

January arrivals Andy Cannon and Bryn Morris will also have points to prove following disappointing starts to their Fratton Park careers.

Meanwhile, Louis Dennis caught the eye in pre-season and is all of a sudden back in Jackett’s thoughts.

The evidence suggests there’s certainly reasons to be positive following the departures of key personnel over the summer.

The heat will be on Jackett & Co over the coming weeks and months as they attempt to return the Blues to the Championship.

And while the manager will be keen to cool those expectations, there’s no denying Pompey are capable of putting the wind up their rivals and blowing them away.They still have all the hallmarks to cause a storm in this season’s League One dog-fight.