The uncertain future of the £1.4m Portsmouth strikeforce meant to secure Championship return as Oxford United close in

They were the expensively-acquired strikeforce earmarked to fire Pompey into the Championship.

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 5:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 5:40 pm
Ellis Harrison can't believe it as Sunderland take the lead against Pompey in March 2021. It could prove to be his final Blues match. Picture: Joe Pepler

Yet, two years on, the Blues remain in League One.

As for Ellis Harrison and John Marquis, one is on his way out, while the other’s Fratton Park future remains unclear.

It was the summer of 2019 when the pair were recruited by Kenny Jackett for fees totalling almost £1.5m.

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Harrison was the first through the door in June – with Marquis arriving 41 days later.

It’s a time difference which gives credence to the none-too outrageous theory that Harrison was meant to serve as Jackett’s first-choice striker in his favoured 4-2-3-1 system.

The subsequent signing of Marquis to cushion the exit of Jamal Lowe to Wigan delivered a grand statement to League One, yet, in truth, never quite fitted the manager’s playing preference.

While the strike duo hit it off spectacularly away from the pitch, on it they failed to gel and, ultimately, never succeeded in delivering Championship football.

Tellingly, they lined-up in the same starting XI just 15 times in two seasons. Clearly Jackett himself struggled to match them.

During their first season in 2019-20, there were occasions when Marquis was asked to serve as a number 10, operating off his close friend. The repeated experiment was not a success.

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Jackett came to learn that pairing them impacted upon the effectiveness of his team, eventually only turning to the formula in times of urgent need.

In fairness to Harrison, he was the greater natural fit in Jackett’s Pompey, essentially a more mobile Oli Hawkins.

Excellent work-rate, very good in the air, the talent to retain possession and bring others into play, an unselfish attitude towards the team – yet there simply were not enough goals.

The description, of course, fits both Harrison and Hawkins. It perhaps partially explains while some Blues followers never took to either.

Of the former Bristol Rovers man’s six goals in an injury-interrupted season last term, four of them arrived from the penalty spot.

Another point in mitigation of Harrison’s Pompey career is that, unlike Marquis, he spent long spells on the bench.

In 70 appearances, 32 were racked up as a substitute, thereby impacting upon his return of 16 goals for the Blues.

In contrast, during this second Fratton Park spell, Marquis has started 76 matches so far, more than double Harrison’s haul.

Incidentally, Marquis totals 34 goals – also more than double Harrison’s record.

Nonetheless, there can be no doubting the ex-Doncaster man possesses greater potency to register goals when the duo are compared.

Danny Cowley is prepared to do business for a player who has never featured under him, having damaged knee ligaments before the head coach’s arrival.

As for Marquis, scratch beneath the surface of his 34 goals in 103 games and, in truth, he has still to convince, struggling for form and effectiveness within the team.

It remains to be seen whether Cowley will also be willing to let his top earner depart during the ongoing close-season clear-out.

Quite a fall from grace for the strike pairing bought two years ago to haul Pompey out of League One.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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