The truth about Portsmouth and Millwall's Ben Thompson
There’s something about Ben Thompson.
One look at the midfielder’s enough to make Pompey fans weak of the knees, their minds awash with memories of the lad from London running games as their team cruised to the top of League One three years ago.
It’s a personal view, too. It’s probably not too much of a stretch to say we’re going back to the Premier League days of Andres D’Alessandro, Lassana Diarra and Sylvain Distin since a single player’s approach has sung to individual preferences of how a game is played.
There’s a beautiful simplicity to the 25-year-old’s football, married with the kind of honest graft and drive which separates winners from the pack. Intoxicating stuff.
A debate was raised in the local press in the wake of Pompey’s automatic promotion hopes combusting after being four points clear at Christmas, back in 2018.
Was it over-simplifying the issue to say losing Thompson that January was the reason for failure, as things fell apart? The consensus in the end was, no, it wasn’t.
But the constant mentions of the Millwall men to Pompey? Well, as much as the notion tantalises, isn’t it all getting a bit tiresome now?
The past five days has seen the perennial Thompson transfer talk surface once again, sparked by Lions boss Gary Rowett speaking on his future as he enters the final year of his existing agreement.
That kicked on this Monday as Pompey returned for pre-season training and The News were welcomed into the club’s newly-acquired Roko base to see things unfold, before Danny Cowley kindly fielded questions on just about every issue imaginable.
Naturally, Thompson was one of those with the Blues coach talking as freely as he could on the topic, without contravening the manager’s commandment which decrees thou shalt not speak about players contracted at other clubs.
‘We know Ben – Ben’s a really good player,’ Cowley explained. ‘He’s a player with huge energy, an infectious enthusiasm and a really good timer and arriver.
‘Ben’s someone we know well, but we’re respectful that he’s a Millwall player.
‘We know he’s someone who’s a Championship player on Championship wages with a Championship contract.’
It’s in that final sentence where anyone wanting to know where Thompson to Pompey really stands today can garner their most revealing insight.
The Blues’ interest in the player is long held and it was only nine months ago the club were within a whisker of getting a deal over the line, with things so advanced discussions over how to announce his arrival on social media were aired.
It’s clear now, too, admiration of Thompson has straddled the managerial change from Kenny Jackett to Cowley - but to how great an extent?
When asked about a potential move, the Pompey boss went on to speak generally about the difficulty in landing contracted Championship players in the club’s current position.
Clearly, what Thompson is currently earning in the second tier is beyond what Cowley’s current budget can to stretch to, making a loan the most viable prospect.
Yet with his agreement winding down at The Den, it’s also clear maximising their income would make now a more preferable time to sell, if he is indeed to leave his childhood club and get the regular football he craves.
Perhaps Pompey’s best hope then would be to sit tight, and hope when a relatively stagnant market does begin to flow a deal is lubricated as they aim to finance deals for players in his area of the pitch - such as Sheffield Wednesday’s Josh Windass.
Yet, it’s still a leap to see how a club offering competitive League One wages could bridge the gap to accommodating what Thompson could command - especially against the current financial backdrop.
Yes, Pompey were able to agree a substantial fee with Preston and offer a very handy contract to Jayden Stockley in League One terms, before he opted to move to Charlton.
But even if the Blues are tabling personal terms in the region of £5,000 per week for premium targets, they could still be blown out of the water by League One rivals incredibly offering double that kind of money in some circumstances.
Cowley may have been able to bring in three second-tier additions last week, but out-of-contact Championship players represent a different financial commitment to those tied down.
And, of course, the man identifying the targets isn’t afflicted with Thompsonitis like the rest of us.
You get the feeling Cowley is always going to leave the door open to a potential deal, should one present itself between now and 11pm on August 31. After all, Pompey have a lot going for them if a Thompson move was to open up in the coming weeks.
But is it one which is dominating the long days he and his staff are putting into getting deals over the line? It doesn’t necessarily feel like it.
Yes, love is blind and, as we’ve seen in recent days on social media, inspires strong emotions. But perhaps we should all try our best to see where things really stand over a Thompson romance being rekindled.
Or better still listen to the Pompey boss when recently talking about the chances of landing one of his prime summer targets. ‘I don’t get my hopes up,’ he smiled. ‘That way I don’t end up disappointed.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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