Realistic transfer targets that could replace Cameron Pring at Portsmouth this January

By Freddie Webb

Pompey desperately need to find a left-back to replace Cameron Pring in order to achieve automatic promotion.

The Blues have two squad slots available to them to sign players weakening the current squad.

Kenny Jackett is eyeing up a forward-thinking centre midfielder as his main transfer target but a left-back to replace Pring – recalled by Bristol City – and to create competition for Lee Brown is of equal importance.

Finding a capable replacement will be difficult. The strict EFL salary cap and the financial implications of Covid-19 are continuing to stifle the club, so the parameters for any signing are very difficult.

Only loans and cut-price players can be considered realistic targets but there are some potential gems available.

I’ll be grading every player discussed on how likely they are to sign for Portsmouth and how well they would fit into the side.

Steve Seddon – Birmingham City

Realistic – 2* Scheme fit – 4.5*

Okay, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. 

Steve Seddon would be an excellent replacement for Pring but it would require a lot of moving parts for the 23-year-old to return to Fratton Park.

Kenny Jackett told The News the club are pursuing both loan or permanent options but both options seem unlikely after Seddon’s recall from AFC Wimbledon.

According to the Birmingham Mail, Seddon returned to St Andrews to give Aitor Karanka more options; being particularly frustrated after one game where fullbacks Kristian Pedersen  and George Friend were both unavailable.

Highly-rated Pedersen is also under intense transfer speculation, with his departure likely due to his desire to play in the Premier League.

Seddon is the obvious replacement and one which many Birmingham City fans want given Pedersen’s apparent drop in form.

If available, Seddon is the best option for Portsmouth. His off-the-ball movement was key last season for getting the best out of Ronan Curtis and his crossing and set-piece delivery created a lot of chances.

Even with his lacklustre playoff performance against Oxford United, he’d instantly improve the side.

Although, Pompey cannot put all their eggs into one basket given there are other options potentially available to them.

Josh Earl – Preston North End

Realistic – 2.5* Scheme fit – 4*

Breaking into Preston’s starting XI in recent weeks, Josh Earl is in same mould as Pring and Seddon but with a more aggressive style of play.

Earl’s ability to get stuck in with and without possession caught the eye of manager Alex Neil after his first Championship start for Preston in over a year against Barnsley in December.

The 22-year-old’s high work rate, willingness to get forward and great stamina to cover defensive errors allowed him to make three subsequent starts in Neil’s 3-5-2 formation.

The Southport born prospect plays as a wingback but can adapt to a flat back-four, especially if he’s given licence to support the midfield.

His 3.59 dribbles per 90 with a 78.9 success rate puts him in the top 10 best dribblers in the Championship at left-back.

This willingness to drive at the opposition defence is akin to Steve Seddon and would allow Curtis and the rest of Pompey’s front four more space to make channel runs and create chances.

Earl is still a raw prospect though; his defensive analytics are below average for championship fullbacks and he will need to be marshalled in order to be reliable at the back.

But this rawness and defensive reliability can be developed upon, and it means Earl would potentially be available to Pompey if Alex Neil is keen on giving the young fullback more first-team football.

Matt Penney – Sheffield Wednesday

If Earl is unavailable, there are other similar fullbacks available.

Realistic – 4* Scheme fit – 3*

Matt Penney is a promising young wingback with a high ceiling.

The 22-year-old has barely featured for Sheffield Wednesday this season, only playing 203 minutes this season in the Championship and Carabao Cup.

But last season he was thrown in at the deep end, playing for St Pauli in Bundesliga 2, making 17 appearances and 13 starts.

In a difficult role in another country, Penney showed a lot of promise in his off-the-ball movement and defensive awareness.

He recovered the ball a third of the time in the opposition half, fitting Pompey’s counter-attacking style of football.

But out of his 4.74 dribbles per 90, he only had a 34% success rate.  Along with only one goal and assist in Germany, Penney does not contribute as much offensively as he should.

Even with these offensive flaws, Penney would be readily available if Jackett likes his defensive upside.

With Sheffield Wednesday struggling to pay players wages on time, any avenue to reduce the wage bill would be explored and loaning out Penney would a step in the right direction – a potential move to Swindon seems to be in the offing,

Tyler Blackett – Nottingham Forest

Realistic – 2* Scheme fit – 3*

Another club in a potential crisis looking to offload players is Nottingham Forest. 

The club have been on the managerial merry-go round for several seasons and when that is the case, there are usually plenty of players available on cut price deals.

Tyler Blackett could be one of them; a fullback with Championship pedigree and a strong defensive mindset.

He has made 110 Championship appearances for Reading after coming through Manchester United’s academy and represented England at youth level, an excellent CV given Pompey’s position.

And at 26-years-old, Blackett’s entering his prime and would be itching to play regular first-team football.

This progress has been hampered by new Forest manager Chris Hughton, as Blackett has barely featured in a squad with four left-backs.

His defensive stability, aerial dominance and crossing capabilities would be a great asset to Pompey this season and into the future if the side gets promoted.

However, the transfer on loan or permanent would have to go through many hurdles. 

The salary cap hinders Pompey’s chances of signing him, as Blackett signed a three-year Championship level contract in the summer of 2020.

Blackett would also want to drop down to League One for first-team football, a step which he may not make.

Connor Ogilvie – Gillingham

Realistic – 3* Scheme fit – 3.5* 

One defensive stalwart which might be more accessible is Connor Ogilvie from Gillingham.

The 24-year-old has been a mainstay at Priestfield since 2017 due to his consistent ability to win the ball aggressively and recycle possession.

Especially over the last two seasons, Ogilvie has stood out for being one of the most reliable fullbacks in League One in his own half.

His 6.8 defensive duels per 90 with a 64% success rate is impressive given he’s played 2150 minutes this season, a large sample size.

Additionally, Ogilvie regularly wins the ball when defending set-pieces, a requirement that Pompey defenders need in order to start counter-attacks.

He is in the top three for left-backs in League One at winning aerial duels, 7.44 per 90 with a 57.89% success rate.

Ogilvie’s defensive strengths are partially offset by his limitations going forward. 

Although he is 9th for left-backs in League One for expected assists, he does not cross very often – only 1.37 per 90 – and is only accurate 42.86% of the time. For context, Lee Brown makes a successful cross 45.1% of the time and makes 3.61 crosses per 90.

The former England U17 international is clearly a core player for Gillingham, but he only has six-months left on his contract.

A concerted effort from the Blues could secure his signature as Gillingham might want to potentially avoid losing him for nothing. 

Given the offensive improvements fans have seen from Lee Brown and the Blues tactical approach this season, Ogilvie’s weaknesses can be improved upon.

Arguably, on a cut-price deal, the Blues would be wrong to leave a player with Ogilvie’s skillset on the table.

Whatever Kenny Jackett decides to do, the left-back void has to be filled.

*All stats were gathered from the data platform Wyscout.

*Further transfers were discussed on the PO4cast.

Photo: Losing My Sight UK

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