Reported Portsmouth, Derby, Bolton and Birmingham striker target ends £300,000 transfer speculation by committing future to Champions League hopefuls

Lee Bonis has signed a new three-year-deal at Larne    Picture: Andrew McCarroll/Pacemaker PressLee Bonis has signed a new three-year-deal at Larne    Picture: Andrew McCarroll/Pacemaker Press
Lee Bonis has signed a new three-year-deal at Larne Picture: Andrew McCarroll/Pacemaker Press
Pompey were reportedly among a host of clubs keeping tabs on Irish League goal machine Lee Bonis.

Derby, Bolton, Blackpool, Wigan, Birmingham and Dundee were also credited with interest in the 23-year-old, whose 15 league goals helped Larne secure a first Northern Ireland Premiership title in their 134-year history.

A move across the water appeared inevitable and the natural next step for the £300,000-rated striker, who, last month, had also earned his first call-up to Michael O’Neill’s senior international set-up.

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Not now, though, after Bonis signed a new three-year deal at Inver Park that will keep him in his native Ulster until 2026.

That will come as a blow for those clubs on this side of the Irish Sea who were reportedly vying for his services. Not so much for Pompey, however, who were quick to dismiss any link and are happy with their new-look striking options following the arrivals of Christian Saydee from Bournemouth and Australia striker Kusini Yengi.

Indeed, last week, John Mousinho officially declared the Blues’ striker hunt over following Yengi’s move from Western Sydney Wanderers for an undisclosed fee.

It remains to be seen where League One rivals Derby, Bolton, Wigan and Blackpool take their respective striker searches between now and the end of the transfer window - although the Rams have since signed Conor Washington, while Wanderers have completed a permanent deal for Southampton’s Dan Nlundulu.

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For Bonis, though, his primary focus is firmly on Larne as they bid to make it into the Champions League group stages with a first-round qualifier against HJK Helsinki on Wednesday night.

Welcoming the news – plus fellow striker Andy Ryan’s decision to commit his future to the Reds, boss Tiernan Lynch said: ‘We are delighted to see both players commit their futures to the club.

‘As a club, the transfer windows give us the opportunity to strengthen our squad and bring new players in, which we’ve done and will continue to do where possible, but it’s also a chance to take stock with players already at the club.

‘Andy and Lee have been in fantastic form and we were keen to sit down them this summer to see if they were open to extend their time at the club.

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‘Both players have really enjoyed their time here and it was a very straight forward conversation which led to them both putting pen to paper, either side of the weekend.

‘At different stages, we have seen speculation around the future of both players and these new contracts gives both them and the club stability to know where they will be playing their football next season.

‘Overall, this a great boost for everyone going into our first Champions League campaign.’