Portsmouth transfers: Why Cowley's 2021 rebuild is being hampered by Blues' 2019 summer outlay
Pompey are still paying the price for Kenny Jackett’s summer of 2019 recruitment drive.
That’s a view shared by Pompey writers Will Rooney and Neil Allen, who believe the contracts handed out to those players who signed that close season will be impacting Danny Cowley’s current transfer plans.
The Blues invested heavily in the team that summer, with John Marquis, Ellis Harrison and Marcus Harness all arriving for hefty fees, and Ryan Williams, James Bolton and Paul Downing coming in on free transfers.
Five of the six remain at Fratton Park, with Williams set to leave at the end of this month on a freebie.
And all five will be among Pompey’s existing top earners at a time when every penny counts in Cowley’s squad rebuild.
The new head coach is operating with a tighter budget than what his predecessor enjoyed that year.
The departures of Craig MacGillivray Tom Naylor, Jack Whatmough, Charlie Daniels, Williams and Ben Close – other big earners – will have provided some wiggle room as he goes about looking to put his stamp on the side.
But the general consensus is Cowley will remain financially hamstrung because of existing, long-standing player agreements.
Speaking in the latest episode of Pompey Talk: The Podcast, Rooney said: ‘It's not the players' fault but you do look back to that summer after Jamal Lowe and Matt Clarke left.
‘Obviously, Ellis Harrison came in, had a good first season but didn't really do it last season.
‘John Marquis (arrived), obviously the top earner, cost £1m.
‘Paul Downing - a three-year deal, won’t be on a bad wage whatsoever and James Bolton was given a three-year-deal as well.
‘You've got those four players and then I can't imagine Sean Raggett being on a poor wage after coming from a Championship club.
‘So there's not a lot of wiggle room at the minute when you factor in how many players you need, especially if you want to pay transfer fees for some of them.
‘It must be hard to balance and is like spinning plates, I suppose, at the minute for the Cowleys.
‘They must decide where the priorities lie, and as I've said before, if they could shift some players on I'm sure they would to free some budget up, especially in a summer like this where finances are tight. It's going to be tough to do that, though.
‘But those are the cards they've been dealt unfortunately, and they've just got to get on with it.
‘To be fair to Danny Cowley, he hasn't really moaned too much about his budget.’
Pompey are, of course, open to selling some of their existing assets, with Ronan Curtis – who signed a lucrative new deal back in February 2020 – drawing admiring glances from the Championship.
But moving others on might prove harder, especially given their current salaries.
And that’s led Allen to question whether Jackett used the money at his disposal wisely.
Our chief sports writer said: ‘If Pompey sign John Marquis for £1m, then you've got to give him decent pay.
‘You know, you’re not going to give him low pay, you pay £1m for a player and you give him decent pay. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.
‘Paul Downing – a lot of clubs wanted him, including Doncaster Rovers. You've got to give him decent pay. That's how it works.
‘And if you are paying £425,000 to Ipswich for Ellis Harrison, who played the previous year in the Championship, then you’ve got to give him decent pay.
‘That's not the fault of the chief executive or the club, that’s how it works.
‘That's why those players are on decent pay and, as Will says, it all goes back to that summer of 2019.
‘Did Jackett use the war chest effectively? No.
‘And in years to come we'll question that transfer window, just like we question every January transfer window under Jackett, because they were terrible!’