Isle of Wight   Pompey Supporters Club
The Chairman & Old Sage's View on Being a Pompey Supporter, Life & Everything Else  ...

We’re a little more than three weeks to go the start of the season and the suggestion is that for the first part of 2019/20 are business is done! I certainly hope that we are bluffing on that score. 

Having reached the play-offs you would think that a little bit of investment might push us over the line this year, not to mention a few ground improvements that might including boosting the overall capacity by even a few hundred as well as improving facilities in other parts of the ground other than the South Stand. This is especially as everyone involved with the Club knew that the fans would return in similar numbers as last year...this time we had to put a ‘cap’ on the number of season ticket holders; that, I believe, makes us unique outside the Premier League. 

That said, you start to get concerned when the owners talk about ‘brick by brick’ and ‘sustainable growth’; our manager talks about being ‘competitive’ (that has a mid-table ring about it to me) and our CEO talks about the importance of maintaining  the wage structure because the possibility of upsetting some of our players. 

So here we have an extraordinarily well supported football club, for this level, with no real debt with the alleged ambition of getting promoted to the Championship. We’ve sold an outstanding central defender for a fee of around £4 million (less 20% going to Ipswich). No problem really. Matt Clarke deserves his chance, although you would question the wisdom of moving to Brighton other that it’s reasonably local and the money will be astronomical compared with what he was earning with us. Good luck to the guy.  

Somebody must have got in Thompson’s ear and told him what a great full-back he is and how Championship clubs will be queuing up for him. That’s unlikely in my view but the real irony is that he’ll probably get a better deal with most clubs in League One than he will at Fratton. Thompson going shouldn’t be a significant problem especially when we’re well covered in that area. 

So three weeks ago or so our playing budget was theoretically boosted to the tune of something north of £3 million; something we need to invest wisely. To date the business is, at best, a little underwhelming. 

·         Out of contract James Bolton a ‘free’ from Shrews to replace Thompson. Only 24 and supposed to be solid and dependable having made 61 appearances in the last two years. Not a bad deal as he didn’t cost anything.

 

·         Ellis Harrison (reported to be £450,000), well he may do well returning to this level but you can’t ignore the fact that last season he scored just one league goal for Ipswich and was plagued with injuries.

 

·         Downing is a journeyman pro at this level and should do a more than adequate job at the back. He’s experienced and may well show the sort of leadership qualities we need, like Brown and Naylor. Didn’t cost anything.

 

·         Williams should prove to be an asset because of his experience and versatility but he’s an awful long from being a prolific goals corer. Another out of contract, bargain basement job whose already injured.

 

·         Finally there is Raggett who is supposed to be a quality defender but has to be held together with gaffer tape! A loan deal was, on this occasion, the only sensible way to proceed.

 

·         Finally there is the slightly eye opening loan deal for the kid from Rangers, yet another holding midfielder. You have to be impressed with this one except it is what it is, a loan deal (we’ll never sign him) and then there is the problem of a possible recall and international breaks where we’ll now lose at least two players; him and Ronan Curtis.

 

Overall it’s difficult to get over excited about this lot, especially when you add in Cannon and Morris. It certainly appears to be a quantity over quality exercise! I suppose you have to be impressed that Mark Catlin has brought in anyone at all when we normally shy away at the mention of a fee and we refuse to go outside our wage structure for any player. 

I wouldn’t be too unhappy with that if we hold onto Jamal Lowe and went out and spent some real money on a quality midfield player and a proper goal scoring striker. So we’re told we’ve got the money to bring in a couple of marquee signings but we can’t do that because if you spend up to a £1m player he’s likely to want wages that reflect that value...shocker!! 

Now you might expect to hear that type of argument from your owner(s) or Chairman, a Board Member or even you CEO but when it comes from your own manager you begin to despair. Instead of having a manager whose knocking down doors trying to achieve the best possible squad he can put together we’ve got Kenny Jackett who should be doing all he can to lay his hands on the maximum resources to ensure that this time around we don’t fall at the last fence after leading the race for most of the way around. It’s a ridiculous situation. 

In modern football better higher performing players earn the most money but even if they don’t want to breach such an outdated approach you can get round it by signing-on fees, appearance money, playing bonus and suchlike. Nobody is asking us to over commit, just make the appropriate level of investment that your income will permit. One thing is for sure is that with last season’s average gates, merchandising, the EFL windfall, the sale of Clarke and everyone and more renewing their season ticket the Eisners are doing very nicely indeed. Do they think we are fools or do they simply not understand football in this country?!! 

At least, try to make it look like we are trying to win promotion or admit that we’re trying to do it on the cheap. What is the point of debating the value of Lowe when we have no intention of spending the money on a quality replacement(s). We should exercise his twelve month extension and pay him the right money on the understanding that if we fail to win promotion this time he can leave next summer. 

I think we’ll continue to be strong at the back if only because we play a system (religiously, week in week out) that involves a back four and two holding midfielders; possibly conceding less goals than we did last season if Naylor and McCrorie gel and Raggett stays fit. Subject to fitness you’d play Curtis and Lowe every week and continue with the same tactic of humping it down the field for them and the new boy Harrison to chase. 

It’s not a strong league. Sunderland seem to be struggling to find new investment and the only club that seems to be investing is Peterborough...indeed we’ve got two clubs that’ll kick-off with a minus points tally!! For us it should be a case of opportunity knocks but unfortunately I have grave doubts.

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Please note that the views expressed in this column are my personal views not those of IOWPS



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