The reasons why Aiden O'Brien will not wear a Portsmouth shirt next season as ex-Millwall and Sunderland man opts for Shrewsbury Town move

There was a phrase Danny Cowley continually returned to when speaking about Aiden O’Brien’s Pompey future.

By Jordan Cross
Thursday, 30th June 2022, 5:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th June 2022, 5:27 pm

‘We’ve made an offer which we perceive to be a good offer to Aiden,’ the Blues head coach stated of the striker who established himself as the surprise hit of the season, following his January arrival from Sunderland.

It didn’t take those fluent in manager-speak too long to translate the second half of the Pompey boss’ revealing statement, on what had been tabled to the striker.

O’Brien had waited for a deal after impressing with five goals amid 17 all-action appearances over the second half of the season, and, when it arrived it probably wasn’t to his taste.

This, after all, was a man who’d no doubt been handed a very presentable contract when moving to Sunderland from Championship Millwall two years ago.

After making plenty of noises over wanting to make Fratton Park his permanent home, the trail went cold with the Republic of Ireland international. It wasn’t hard to reach a conclusion why.

O’Brien arrived, at best with a shrug of indifference from supporters hoping for something sexier as the January window came to a close.

Aiden O'Brien has joined Shrewsbury.

Yet within four games the Fratton faithful had a new darling, as O’Brien returned three goals and performed with that blend of quality and honest endeavour Pompey fans love.

So, no doubt, Cowley knew he was treading a delicate path when it came to deciding his future.

Yes, the Blues boss liked O’Brien and yes he would have been a useful asset, but just how badly did he want him?

Cowley has laid down a very clear profile of what type of attacking addition he wants this summer. First, a sizeable physical presence is required, and then a player with the electric pace to help Pompey counter in a way they couldn’t last term.

Did O’Brien fit into either of those categories?

‘I think we made an offer and are actively looking to improve the squad, ‘Cowley said.

‘So the offer can only stay there while we’re still looking to improve the squad.’

The suspicion is the Pompey boss already knew the outcome to this particular transfer tale at that stage, with no word of any developments.

It seemed there were three broad reactions to news of O’Brien signing a two-year deal at Shrewsbury today.

There were those who were simply outraged, with that sentiment compounded by the reality their team are starting their pre-season games without a senior striker.

Then there was the element who believed the ex-Millwall man was taking the money, and a superior financial offer at New Meadow to what was put his way at PO4.

Finally, came the group who were happy to reflect it was good while it lasted, but was it realistic to think a man who came off the bench more than he started had a key role to play moving forward?

All three probably had a point to some degree, but it feels like the weight is with the latter section of Pompey's fanbase.

Would fans be prepared to accept not being able to go the extra mile to tempt back, say, George Hirst next season to land O'Brien?

Or how about not being able to get Marlon Pack over the line, to seal a deal for a player who was popular but in all reality not going to be central to proceedings.

These are the questions Cowley has to consider as he attempts to reshape his squad.

He has to weigh up where he can get the best bang for his Pompey buck. Or, to put it another way, value people within the framework of his budget.