Unfortunate Ellis Harrison's Portsmouth promise was unfulfilled after Ipswich arrival, yet new Fleetwood striker warrants some sympathy
Pompey’s recruitment in the summer of 2019 proved costly in several contexts – yet perhaps Ellis Harrison can consider himself unfortunate to be tainted.
Granted, the Fratton faithful were entitled to expect more from a £425,000 signing from an Ipswich side exiting the Championship.
The striker’s return of 20 goals hardly warrants value for money, having been identified as a player equipped with the capabilities to drive Kenny Jackett’s side to promotion.
Yet while Harrison was a far more natural fit for the Blues boss’ favoured 4-2-3-1 system, he was condemned to a largely back-up existence behind subsequent £1m arrival John Marquis.
Indeed, the ex-Bristol Rovers man represented a more mobile Oli Hawkins, possessing pace in addition to aerial power, the ability to hold up the ball, and desire to bring team-mates into play.
However, of his 84 appearances for Pompey, more than half arrived from the bench, with Marquis usually preferred as the lone forward.
Just once did Harrison start more than three successive league games – a six-match spell from December to January 2020 during his opening campaign.
That statistic alone compounds a frustrating south-coast stay for both player and club, culminating in last week’s departure for Fleetwood for an undisclosed fee.
While the outcome would have satisfied all parties, Pompey and Harrison was an unfulfilled association. It simply didn’t work out.
Although the hard-working Harrison’s goal output was not good enough and he lacked a sustained run in the team, primarily the issue blunting his effectiveness was injury.
During his time at Fratton Park, the striker missed 27.54 per cent of Pompey’s fixtures through injury, illness or suspension.
It’s an awful availability record which goes a long way towards explaining many of the reasons behind his ongoing absence from the starting XI.
Damaged knee ligaments sustained before the head coach’s arrival in March 2021 dictated the forward never featured under him last term.
There was a September hat-trick at AFC Wimbledon in the Papa John’s Trophy, sparking a run of seven appearances in eight matches in all competitions.
Then another set-back – Harrison injured his left ankle against Sutton United in the same competition. It sidelined him for another eight games.
It wasn’t always like this, of course. Harrison was absent from just six squads as he made 39 appearances and scored 10 times during an encouraging maiden season in the curtailed 2019-20 campaign.
However, over the subsequent 18 months, there would be just 45 more outings, with 10 further goals.
He left Fratton Park with 43 substitute appearances – as opposed to 41 starts – 10 yellow cards and one red, and 20 goals.
Harrison was a lively dressing room presence and hugely popular figure among his team-mates, forming a particularly strong bond with Marquis.
As a strike partnership they rarely operated together, yet off the pitch were inseparable, living near each other in Chichester, and regularly meeting up for Sunday lunch with their young families.
The pair represent around £1.5m of striking talent purchased by Jackett in the summer of 2019, following the exits of Matt Clarke and Jamal Lowe.
It hasn’t worked out for either, yet perhaps Harrison can be credited with extenuating circumstances.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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