Portsmouth transfers: Why Championship trio have provided fans with much-needed lift, what next in Pompey's player hunt, and will any triallists get Fratton deals?

It’s been a whirlwind past few days at Pompey.

By Mark McMahon
Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 3:00 pm

Three signings announced, two departures confirmed, a new kit launched, a return to pre-season training in the bag, and 10 triallists invited as Danny Cowley’s plans for the 2021-22 season gather pace.

It’s been busy, busy busy as a result.

And that meant a catch-up with Pompey writer Will Rooney was a must as we look to take stock of the transfer business the Blues have recently concluded and where it leaves Cowley moving forward.

Sign up to our Portsmouth FC newsletter

Here’s the questions we put to Will and his responses...

Q Will, give us your assessment of last week’s three new arrivals – Clark Robertson, Shaun Williams and Ryan Tunnicliffe.

All three signings will be deals most fans would be happy with.

They’re three signings who all have Championship appearances behind them from last season and three players who have been promoted from this division before.

From left: Clark Robertson, Danny Cowley, Shaun Williams and Gavin Bazunu

I don’t think there’s been many negative comments, and considering there was a lot of talk about reduced budgets and it took a while for Pompey’s transfer business to click into gear, I think the first three senior members who have arrived, after Liam Vincent, are all positive.

Q All three players are Championship quality. Does that surprise you given the budgetary constraints we’ve heard to much about?

A little bit.

They were three signings over the course of a week and if they had maybe been a little bit spread over the summer, maybe I wouldn’t be as surprised.

But Danny Cowley quite clearly recognised them as players he wanted in as soon as possible. He’s got them in for pre-season.

Three good signings, as I say, three signings, who you would image, had admirers from elsewhere.

We know Clark Robertson had admirers, we know Shaun Williams turned down Championship interest and you’d imagine Ryan Tunnicliffe was in the same boat, so you get the impression Pompey have fended off a few rivals to land the trio.

You also get the impression that all three will play major parts in the promotion push.

Q What does the three signings tell us about Danny Cowley’s transfer plans moving forward?

I think he’ll still go and get a couple of non-league players who are going to supplement the squad, or youngsters who have been released from academies.

There might be a couple of League Two players who Cowley will decide to take a punt on, there could be a couple of established League One players as well.

As Cowley has already eluded to, recruitment this summer will be in the shape of a variety of players from all those types, and because he has three Championship players in, maybe now he might think “right, I can start going out and getting a couple of those non-league players who are going to supplement the squad, or the League Two players I want to take a gamble on”.

As I’ve said, it’s been positive so far.

And I think there might be a couple more Championship players who can still be prised to Fratton Park, given the three that have already arrived.

Is it naive to think that Williams and Tunnicliffe will be the preferred midfield partnership next season?

You’re probably looking at at least two more central-midfielders coming in if you go off the two for every position rule.

We know Cowley is interested in Joe Morrell, who has just finished the Euros with Wales, and we know he’s really keen to get that one over the line.

But the caveat is he's been really impressive for Wales at the Euros, and if his future is not at Luton, then you think that one would be difficult.

You’d imagine there would be Championship interest in him and we know Morrell would, preferably, like to stay in the Championship.

Although, we also know that if he had to drop down to League One, it would be Pompey (he’d like to join).

Accrington’s Matt Butcher is another one who Cowley has made enquiries about.

He would require a fee, but the manager has to weigh up whether that fee would be better used elsewhere.

But as a pair, Williams is more of a sitting midfielder, while Tunnicliffe is more box-to-box.

As an engine room duo, they do dovetail together, but we’d need to see how look together on the pitch now.

The ilk of those two does suggest, though, that they will be playing prominent roles in the next season.

Q Danny Cowley has spoken in the past about getting the spine of his team in place first before branching out and dealing with other areas of concern. Goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu is close. Will a new striker then be next?

We obviously know Jayden Stockley was a striker who was high up the shopping list – but one Pompey missed out on.

That’s also had an impact on Ellis Harrison (going to Oxford).

You would think Cowley would want another striker in as two is probably not enough.

Harrison’s had a couple of niggles throughout his time at Pompey so you can’t have just him and John Marquis as your options.

Whether it’s another target man to play up alongside Marquis or someone else, maybe a youngster who offers something a little bit different, I’d like to think one more striker will arrive.

Why? Because I don’t think there will be a lot of fans out there who would be comfortable with just Marquis and Harrison as the options heading into next season.

Q Will the Bazunu deal, when it’s completed, be regarded as something of a coup?

It sounds like there has been a hell of a lot of interest in him. Which is unsurprising, though – a full Republic of Ireland international, a Manchester City keeper.

And if Pompey can beat rivals for him, then that’s another one that will prove to be a good signing.

He played 32 times for Rochdale last season, which I think was a big learning curve for him.

When I spoke to one of the journalists up in there, he said it was a mixed-bag loan – but let’s not forget that he was 18, which is young for any player, let alone a goalkeeper.

But he would have learnt a lot from that. He was in a team that was under (relegation) pressure each week.

Going to Pompey, we might get to see his attributes better, maybe him on the deck a little bit more, playing out from the back and by all accounts he’s an absolute superb shot-stopper.

Q Ten triallists reported for duty on the first day of pre-season. We’re not allowed to name them, but how would you categorise them – potential first-teamers or players to supplement the squad?

I have to admit, I didn’t recognise most of them. But I think there were a few senior lads and a couple of youngsters.

If Pompey were to sign any of them then you’d think it would be among the youngsters category.

There’s not many senior players from the Championship who are out of contract and willing to go on trial.

I know a couple of years ago the likes of Gareth Evans and Ben Davies came down and won deals, but that was dropping down from League One to League Two, which isn’t scoffed at as much by players, plus they were joining a big club like Pompey and knew they could be a part of something.

So it’s going to be difficult and as Danny Cowley makes signings, these triallists are going to start leaving and will have to look elsewhere.

It’s a case of watch this space at the minute and let’s see how many face the Hawks a week on Saturday.