Starts of Matt Clarke and Jamal Lowe at Derby and Wigan underlines step up Portsmouth will face if they enjoy Championship return
It’s the Promised Land Pompey aspire to reach in the very near future.
The land of milk and honey where the Blues have spent a large part of their history and where many supporters believe the club belongs – the Championship.
After suffering play-off semi-final defeat at the hands of Sunderland in May, Pompey were shackled to another campaign in League One.
And with Kenny Jackett’s men sitting 16th following a stuttering start to this term, a vast improvement is required if the Blues are to convince fans they can go up.
On the whole, performances have been disjointed, with Jackett recently switching to a 4-4-2 formation in a bid to turn around the Blues’ fortunes.
But the departures of Matt Clarke and Jamal Lowe in the summer also have to be factored in.
Failure to reach the Championship meant former prized assets left to fulfil their ambitions of playing higher up the Football League ladder.
Clarke heading for pastures new was inevitable and earned a switch to Brighton for almost £4m.
He’s subsequently been sent on loan to Derby for the season – a stepping stone to plying his trade in the Premier League in the future.
Lowe, meanwhile, got his desired switch to Wigan for around £2.5m after a protracted transfer saga.
The pair were classy League One operators, with berths in the PFA League One Team of the Season underlining their peers recognised they were among the best the division had to offer.
Pompey fans almost unanimously agreed they were ready for the step up.
But the reality is both haven’t exactly made a seamless transition to life in the second tier.
The financial environment of the Championship being a whole different stratosphere to League One is well documented.
It’s not just in terms of wealth were there’s an enormous gulf, however.
Clarke and Lowe’s early-season form highlights how significant the step up in quality is.
After a scintillating debut against Huddersfield, it appeared Clarke would fulfil what so many Blues supporters predicted.
That hasn’t been the case since, though.
The centre-back has made eight subsequent appearances and been an unused substitute three times.
Nevertheless, the long-term injury to Richard Keogh presents Clarke the opportunity of a sustained run in the Rams’ line-up and it'd be daft to say he won’t thrive.
In terms of Lowe, he’s featured regularly for Wigan.
Despite being a wing wizard for Pompey last term, finishing as 17-goal top scorer, he’s featured in the No10 role under Paul Cook.
He’s yet to break his goal duck, however, and has recorded a solitary assist in 12 outings for the 19th-placed Latics.
Compare that to when both started featuring in the third division after the Blues claimed the League Two title – they comfortably made the grade.
The aim for Pompey this term is to still clinch promotion, with Jackett convinced there’s ample time for his side to build momentum.
Regardless of when it happens, the Blues will be entering a new ballpark both on and off the field if they ever do go up.