Why no official exit announcement from Portsmouth? How long will door be left open? How's the Cowley recrutiment drive going? - Neil Allen answers key transfer questions

It’s all gone rather quiet at Pompey as the pace with which Danny Cowley conducts his Blues overhaul slows down.

By Mark McMahon and Neil Allen
Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 4:00 pm
From left: Craig MacGillivray, Danny Cowley and Tom Naylor
From left: Craig MacGillivray, Danny Cowley and Tom Naylor

There's nothing to suggest that the four out-of-contract players who rejected fresh Fratton Park terms have had a change of heart, or are back at the negotiating table talking to the club.

Likewise, there’s been no official announcement confirming their exits.

There’s no sign of any new arrivals on the horizon yet either, leaving us all eagerly anticipating what’s to come from Cowley’s revamp.

Sign up to our Portsmouth FC newsletter

So as the waiting game continues, we thought we’d seek clarification on some of the burning Pompey issues that are already proving key features of this summer’s transfer merry-go-round.

And who better to provide the answers than our chief sports writer Neil Allen.

Here’s what he had to say to some of the questions we posed him...

Q Why have the club not officially announced the departures of Craig MacGillivray and the four players – Tom Naylor, Jack Whatmough, Ben Close and Ryan Williams – whom we are told are set to leave Fratton Park?

In the instance of Craig McGillivray, he was not offered a new deal, nor did the club opt to trigger the clause in his contract, which renders him a free agent when his contract expires at the end of June.

However, they have not ruled out a return to the negotiating table and keeping the Scot. Although, that remains highly unlikely.

Instead, MacGillivray is expected to move elsewhere, with undoubted interest in him – including from clubs like Charlton.

The situation with Whatmough, Williams, Naylor and Close is a little different in the fact that all four of them were offered fresh terms, albeit on reduced terms.

Pompey would like them to stay but there is a growing acceptance that they won’t.

But, again, they’re not closing the door on retaining the four.

Having said that, they are now expected to leave Fratton Park, with Mark Catlin and Danny Cowley both admitting publically Pompey are looking for replacements in their respective positions.

Q How long with the door remain ajar?

They – Whatmough, Naylor, Close and Williams – have missed their deadlines, the club have admitted they’re looking elsewhere and haven’t specified how long they will be considering them for.

Q You said that Pompey are ploughing on without these players, but how is that process going?

Danny and his brother Nicky are clearly putting a hell of a lot of work in behind the scenes, staying until all hours at the training ground.

And I know for a fact they often have to get takeaway meals to eat at the training ground because of the time they are spending down there.

They are putting everything into this recruitment drive.

They obviously need around 10 players, considering the amount of departures and the natural squad strengthening that’s needed – and they know this is a pivotal summer at Fratton Park.

It’s just about getting the deals done now.

They’re putting everything into it and every single one of us is now waiting on the outcome of all that endeavour.

Q Much has been said about Cowley’s budget this summer. How much are they hamstrung by it?

An important aspect to remember is the players who remain at the football club.

Obviously, a certain number have left, including respective big-earners, but you’ve also got some big-name players who remain and are under contract for another season at least.

For example, John Marquis, who was bought for £1m and is Pompey’s top earner, is still there, as is Ellis Harrison – who Pompey bought for £450,000.

Paul Downing is another one they had to beat off clubs to sign two summers ago, so there’s clearly some sizeable wages still being taken up in that budget.

Having said that, the budget has been described as competitive, although less than the previous season under Jackett without a wage cape due to the financial situation at all football clubs.

It’s, therefore, down to the Cowleys to somehow juggle that to bring in around 10 players, which is going to be a real tough task.

Q Did Cowley underestimated the challenge he faces at Pompey or is he revelling in the test facing him?

Danny Cowley is an incredibly positive and infectious character.

He and his brother Nicky have grasped the opportunity provided by this football club from the moment they willingly arrived for basically a 12-game audition.

And they certainly knew the challenge that lay ahead.

They knew the squad they inherited, they’ve chosen the players they want to retain and release – now they’re setting upon transforming it.

No doubt, Cowley thinks there’s a massive, massive challenge ahead but it’s one he’s revelling in.

Q We know Pompey are open to offers for some of their contracted players. How many could we realistically see leave?

Ronan Curtis remains the most likely to depart – and one who will generate the most money.

Without question, he is Pompey’s most bankable asset.

They would like to keep him but you have to be realistic and the player himself is looking towards the Championship – and there is interest from the Championship.

Pompey in the past have sold off playing assets to strengthen their squad. That will again be the case with Curtis.

There is an acceptance within the club that he may depart this summer.

But also, there’s an excitement that any money he can bring in could be used to strengthen the squad, which really appeals to Cowley.

Make no mistake, Cowley desperately wants to keep Curtis. He’s a big fan and Curtis has an outstanding record at this level.

But there’s also realism that the sale of their star assets could help revolutionise this playing squad in the battle for promotion.