The crucial recruitment lessons Portsmouth simply have to learn in January

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They say past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.

If that’s applicable when it comes to the January transfer window, the notes of Auld Lang Syne will be sending a cold, wintry chill down the spine of Pompey fans when the new year marks the opening of the mid-way pit-stop for playing business.

Fortunately, all the recent noises from the Blues hierarchy point to lessons being learned from recruitment at what is set to be another crucial juncture in the club’s campaign in 48 days.

Eric Eisner, when addressing the Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference at the start of the month on the topic, underlined the need for ‘quality players who were fit and ready to play from day one.’

If that was a statement which indirectly referenced the difficulties faced last January, it was one dealt with more directly by chief executive Mark Catlin as he outlined the policy this time around.

‘We brought in six last January and, on paper, they looked very good,’ Catlin said, as he spoke to The News today. ‘In reality, did it work out for all of them? No. But last year was more about squad strengthening.’

Mark Catlin, Eric Eisner and Andy Redman in discussions. (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images)

Mark Catlin, Eric Eisner and Andy Redman in discussions. (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images)

‘The strategy this year is not about strengthening the squad, because our squad is very strong. It’s strengthening a couple of key areas.’

There’s no doubt the transfer window in question dealt a heavy and, in the eyes of some, terminal blow as Pompey’s season eventually ran out of steam.

Some of the criticism over what unfolded could be justified. Other factors were out of the club’s control.

Of the six players who arrived, only Omar Bogle could forward an argument for making any kind of significant positive impact amid four goals in 14 appearances.

Eric Eisner, second left, and Mark Catlin, right, have stated Pompey are focussing on quality over quantity in January. Photography by Habibur Rahman

Eric Eisner, second left, and Mark Catlin, right, have stated Pompey are focussing on quality over quantity in January. Photography by Habibur Rahman

It was the loss of Ben Thompson which delivered the biggest dagger through the heart of promotion ambitions, however.

When the Millwall man was recalled by his parent club in January, Pompey lost the division’s best midfielder.

That, of course, proved the pre-cursor for two winless months in the league. In a season where three points separated Pompey from automatic promotion it’s not over-simplifying the analysis to say it made the difference.

Make what you want of Jackett and his suitability for the job, but no one should be questioning his diligence and work ethic right now.

The Pompey boss has acknowledged the impact taking eight loan players had on his squad last term and, with the Eisner’s backing, took steps to avoid a repeat by focussing on permanent recruits, with just Ross McCrorie and Sean Raggett arriving as temporary deals.

Soon, getting the right talent in is going to be a critical factor in the way this season is headed.

An assessment of Pompey’s current squad show 25 players with personnel to more than adequately cover all positions, even if we wait to form a definitive verdict of the summer’s new faces.

The right-back position remains an ongoing issue, however, with five players used there and none, so far, nailing down the role after Nathan Thompson’s exit.

But it’s unlocking Pompey creativity which may well prove the key to accelerating ambitions in the new year.

It could be levelled Jackett’s squad still doesn’t possess a natural number 10, a player to load the bullets for John Marquis to pull the trigger in the way James Coppinger did at Doncaster.

Remedying that area and possibly some additional midfield energy may trump the right-back issues amid the January minefield.

When it comes to recruitment and squad planning there’s little doubt the 31-day sprint through January presents significant issues for buying clubs.

But Pompey, as those who call the shots have intimated, know they simply have to negotiate those pitfalls successfully.

In a period where a successful injection of 'quality' will be mandatory if the season is to perpetually accelerate as now required, it can make the difference.