What became of last summer’s missed Portsmouth targets?

By Frankie Rudland

Whether you love it or hate it, there’s something oddly addictive about the cloak and dagger nature of the transfer market.

Each summer, Twitter usually plays host to hundreds of people ‘in the know’, drawing on their top secret network to tip them off about transfers that are on the brink of completion, and we as hopefuls soak it all in despite the voice of reason telling us that we’re being duped.

Whilst we will never know the true extent of who our clubs have coveted, or indeed if there is any element of truth in half of what we read, we do occasionally get a glimpse into some of the botched transfers and missed targets.

Just shy of a year on, some of the names that were once punched into YouTube and Google by internet scouts will have become a distant memory – but what became of them, and are they another ‘one that got away’?

Ryan Tafazolli

Matthew Clarke’s inevitable departure coupled with Whatmough’s ongoing stint on the treatment table meant that there was a seismic chasm left in the Portsmouth back lineheading into last summer.

Tafazolli was reportedly identified as a man capable of plugging the gap, with the towering defender proving a shining light in an otherwise leaky Peterborough back line in seasons past.

However, as is often the case when a lower league star is out of contract, Championship clubs began to circle, and the Blues lost a tug of war to Hull City who managed to secure Tafazolli’s services on a two-year contract.

Since then, Tafazolli has struggled to establish himself as the main gatekeeper in the Tigers’ defence, making just 5 starts all season.

At 28 years-old, the Southampton academy graduate may wish to seek regular football away from the KCOM stadium, possibly affording Pompey and other League One suitors another chance to bolster their defensive ranks.

Verdict: Jury’s out

Tom Lockyer

Unfortunately, it was rinse and repeat in Portsmouth’s pursuit of Tom Lockyer. The Welshman had amassed experience beyond his years whilst at Bristol Rovers, clearing 250 appearances for the Gas by the age of 24.

Subsequently, it was always going to be a struggle luring Lockyer away from the Championship and towards a PO4 postcode, even with former Rovers teammate Lee Brown putting in a good word.

Unsurprisingly, it was newly promoted Charlton who took him off the market on a free transfer, solidifying their back line in preparation for a tough season in the second tier.

Almost a year on and Lockyer has cemented himself as a regular starter with the London outfit, playing all but 3 of the Addicks’ league games.

Despite Charlton’s recent struggle for form, it seems as if Lockyer has certainly proven himself as a player that belongs in the second division of English football.

Verdict: One that got away

Curtis Tilt

Portsmouth’s interest in Tilt was long-documented, and when a deal failed to materialise for the former Blackpool man you would have been forgiven for assuming that the Championship had once again proved a greater lure than the South Coast.

But surprisingly the Seasiders managed to cling on to their prized asset, well, until January at least. Rotherham eventually completed a deadline day move for the wantaway Tilt, capitalising on an uncertain contract situation to strike a deal.

Tilt has only managed to turn out once for the Millers since switching allegiances before an international call up and eventually coronavirus halted his new beginnings.

However, based on what we’ve seen of the Jamaican international in seasons past, Rotherham have bagged themselves a classy ball playing centre back that was at one point the heir to Clarke’s throne.

Verdict: One that got away

Harry Souttar

Kenny Jackett was rumoured to be keen on bringing Stoke’s Aussie giant down south after he had impressed on loan at Fleetwood in the previous season.

The Potters, however, were not so enthusiastic, opting to ship Souttar back to the Fishermen for another season under the stewardship of Joey Barton. 

Souttar has certainly shown both Jackett and Pompey what they have been missing, turning out 34 times in the league, becoming almost talismanic for Fleetwood as they have launched their own promotion push.

To add further insult to injury, Souttar recently enjoyed a productive March, scooping the EFL’s award for Young Player of the Month before nicking the equaliser against the Blues at Fratton Park in a 2-2 draw.

Verdict: One that got away

George Edmundson

Portsmouth made an early attempt to take one of their primary targets off the market in June last year, submitting an acceptable bid to Oldham which was believed to be around the £600,000 mark.

However, Scottish giants Rangers proved too much of a challenge as the 22-year old eventually snubbed the Blues to join Steven Gerrard in his quest to dethrone Celtic from the top of the SPL

Whilst Edmundson would have been a key cog for Pompey this season, he seems to be ‘one for the future’ for Rangers, having only made 7 league appearances for the Gers this season.

However, the centre-half has impressed when called upon, notably in Rangers 1-0 Europa League triumph in Braga, and has given both Gerrard and Rangers’ fans positive encouragement that there is more to come.

Verdict: Jury’s out

Dan Barlaser

Portsmouth have sniffed around products of Newcastle’s academy on more than one occasion, with Jackett almost pulling off a loan move for Sean Longstaff before his rise to fame with the first team.

On this occasion it was fellow midfielder Dan Barlaser that had piqued his interest. The former Accrington loanee instead opted for Rotherham, as many on Portsmouth’s longlist did, signing on for another season of development in English football’s third division.

Unfortunately, it was another missed opportunity for the Blues as Barlaser has enjoyed an exceptional season with Rotherham, earning himself a place in The Athletics’ League One Team of The Season alongside Coventry’s Liam Walsh in central midfield.

The loanee has established himself as the Miller’s main technician and something of a lucky charm, with Rotherham only losing 6 from 27 matches when Barlaser has played.

Verdict: One that got away

Marc Pugh

After 9 years at fellow south coast residents Bournemouth, Marc Pugh found himself in an unfamiliar position as a free agent.

The Cherries legend was reportedly the subject of interest from Portsmouth, with the Blues once again having to sell the prospect of a promotion push to tempt a target away from the Championship.

Understandably, Pugh decided to remain in the second flight, signing with QPR on a one-year deal.

With the best part of the season gone, Pugh has already racked up 27 league appearances for the Hoops, contributing 2 goals and 3 assists, and while he may have lost a yard of pace, he has still proven a useful signing.

His experience and class would have certainly aided Portsmouth’s promotion push, but for the wage packet that a player of his pedigree would command, failing to land him may have been more of a positive than it first seemed.

Verdict: Blessing in disguise

Gary Mackay-Steven

Mackay-Steven is in the same bracket as the Erik Huseklepp’s and Aiden McGeady’s of the footballing world, if you looked them up on YouTube, you would think they were in contention for the Ballon D’or. 

The former Celtic man was on the verge of bringing his skill circus to Fratton Park last summer, with the transfer widely reported as all but done.

That was until the bright lights of the Big Apple lured the Scotsman to opt for the MLS instead. The 28-year-old penned a deal at New York City FC, citing the opportunity to play in America as the chief factor in his decision.

Since switching continents, Mackay Steven’s displays have been fairly underwhelming, managing just 1 goal and 5 starts on the east coast last season. At 29-years of age the winger has hit poor form at a bad time in his career, and those that once tried to push a deal over the line might now be breathing a slight sigh of relief.

Verdict: Blessing in disguise

Chuks Aneke

Of all the summer targets, this was the one that every Pompey fan was praying to see announced. With Andy Cannon yet to blossom, the number 10 role was very much vacant with a natural tenant not found in the previous campaign.

Available on a free transfer, it was always going to be a hard task for the Blues to pry the former Arsenal man away from the Championship and towards Fratton Park. 

Ultimately Pompey’s efforts were again futile as Aneke put pen to paper on a deal with Charlton, following in the footsteps of fellow target Lockyer.

Whilst Lockyer has been a hit, Aneke has very much been a miss for Charlton this season. His lowly haul of 2 goal contributions is a shadow of his tally in previous seasons.

Lee Bowyer is also yet to hand his new signing a league start, with all his 11 outings coming from the bench, with Aneke’s fitness being noted as a key reason for his frequent omission. 

Had Portsmouth tempted the skilful attacker to sign on the dotted line, it may well have been for a wage that surpassed the form he has shown this season.

Verdict: Blessing in disguise

Joe Newell

Pompey made efforts to sign both of Rotherham’s out of contract wingers last summer, succeeding with Ryan William and failing with his counterpart Newell. 

After seasons of dipping in and out of the Championship with both Peterborough and the Millers, Newell instead decided to head north of the border and join Scottish side Hibernian.

It has been a mixed bag of a season for Newell in Scotland, whilst he’s laid on a productive 6 assists for his team-mates, he has also suffered two stints on the side-lines with ankle and calf issues.

Whilst this season’s showings are not enough to draw a solid conclusion on whether Newell would have been a hit down south, his track record in League One suggests he would have been a strong addition to the Pompey squad.

Verdict: Jury’s out

Freddie Ladapo

It seems Rotherham and Portsmouth must have co-written their transfer lists last summer, with both sides vying for the same pool of players.

Bizarrely, Portsmouth had all but beaten their chief rival to the signing of Ladapo on this occasion, agreeing a reported fee of £500,000 with relegated Plymouth for his services. 

Yet almost as quickly as news had broken about the potential incoming, the deal was off, with the strikers’ wage demands being tipped as the chief reason for talks falling through leaving the Millers to once again nab their man.

Ladapo had a hall of 19 goals on his CV from the previous season, and he was well on track to match it again in this one.

The former Crystal Palace forward netted 14 times in League One including a double at Fratton Park, once again proving the existence Sod’s Law. 

Whilst Pompey may well have been wise to avoid being held to ransom, they certainly missed out of a fine finisher in Ladapo. 

Verdict: One that got away

Matt Godden

Darragh MacAnthony swiftly put an end to Portsmouth’s brief flirtation with Matt Godden when he slapped a £750,000 price tag on the forwards head.

Despite plundering a respectful tally of 14 goals in the previous season, the signings of Toney and Eisa rendered Godden surplus to requirements at the Posh.

Although Jackett wasn’t completely sold on Godden’s capabilities, Mark Robins was, shelling out the asking price to land the forwards’ services for the 2019/20 season. 

The common expression ‘hindsight is a beautiful thing’ springs to mind when assessing Godden’s maiden season at Coventry.

Although most Portsmouth fans agreed with Jackett in his decision to swerve the deal last summer, Godden’s current 14-goal haul has proved the Portsmouth masses wrong.

The former Stevenage man has been scoring for fun in a Coventry shirt, matching his tally from the previous season in 12 less games.

Godden has also continued the running theme of missed targets netting against Pompey, bagging both home and away against the Blues.

Questions remain as to whether Jackett’s favoured style would have suited the Sky Blues’ hitman, but nevertheless he’s shown himself to be the clinical striker that Portsmouth have sometimes lacked this season. 

Verdict: One that got away

Lawrence Shankland

Many Pompey fans would have been blissfully ignorant to Shankland’s exploits in the second step of Scottish football, but a quick bit of googling soon revealed the true extent of the abilities of Ayr’s striking sensation. 

Both Portsmouth and Sunderland made efforts to bring the 34-goal free agent to their respective cities last summer, but in a bizarre move Shankland snubbed both clubs to sign for Dundee United and remain in the Scottish Championship.

Whilst Portsmouth and Sunderland will both have to wait to find out whether they will get a crack at promotion, Dundee have already sealed theirs, with many thanks to that man Shankland. 

The Scotsman picked up where he left off last season, grabbing 24 goals in 26 league matches to propel United back into the Premiership. Both clubs will be left kicking themselves that they couldn’t convince Shankland to bring his golden touch south of the border.


Verdict: One that got away

Photos: Getty Images

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