January Transfer Window Roundup!

Published: 01/02/2023

By Joe Wood

Rich Hughes has had his first transfer window now, with full control of the deals in and out. We’re going to take a look at the deals that were done over January and assess what we at the 1898 think of them on an A-F grading system.

Starting with the Outgoing:

Josh Griffiths – Recalled by parent club – C

Starting with a tricky one here, as it wasn’t really Pompey’s decision for Griffiths to leave. Griffiths had the unenviable task of trying to replace Gavin Bazunu, who had made himself somewhat of a Fratton favourite in a very short space of time. Unfortunately, unlike Bazunu, Griffith’s had a defence short on confidence and a fan base that were short on patience. A few shots went in that he maybe would think he should have done better with and he looked uncertain with corners that were placed on top of him. Not an unsuccessful loan spell by any means but with West Brom struggling for goalkeeping, a recall was always on the cards.

Michael Morrison – Released – A

This gets an A purely because of the speed of making the decision. Morrison had been perfectly fine, if a little slow, but in recent weeks his head had definitely been turned by his former club Cambridge Utd. Given the current state of flux Portsmouth found themselves in, the idea of a first choice centre half and senior pro not being fully committed to the club was less than ideal. A lot of credit has to go to all parties in this deal for getting it done with minimal fuss and without drama.

Josh Koroma – Loan terminated – A

One of the most frustrating players I’ve ever watched in a Pompey shirt in recent times. When he is on form, he looks far too good for the defenders against him, but all too often he cuts a figure of someone that would rather have been at home on the sofa than asked to press high up the pitch. The skill is there, of that there is no question, but the application in a Pompey shirt was clearly lacking. Once again, kudos to Rich Hughes for identifying this and having the bravery to send him back to Huddersfield.

(An aside here, we hope he figures it out, he seems like a nice kid from all of the interviews, but there is a real concern that he will be one of those non league footballers that baffle you as to why they’re playing against semi pros in the National League) 

Onto the Incoming:

Ryley Towler – £30-70k Bristol City – A

Pompey paid Bristol City a fairly small fee for a young centre back with potential. This signing optimises everything that has been preached over the past 12 months about a Director of Football bringing in, young, quality players to either develop with the team, or sell them on for a profit. In his first couple of games with the club, it became evident that he was extremely comfortable on the ball, something that the Blues sorely lack amongst their existing crop of centre halves. At just 20 years old, he looks set for a long and successful career in the football league, be that at Pompey or further up the football pyramid. A superb signing.

Matt Macey – Loan from Luton Town – B

The recall of Josh Griffiths, whilst being a shock to the fans, probably didn’t come as that much of a shock to the club, as they used Griffiths in his last available game before recall, in the Papa John’s Trophy against Bolton. Matt Macey came in from Luton almost inside the week, and was thrown straight into the mix against Exeter. First thing to note about Macey is, he’s huge. He is an absolute mountain of a human that towers above almost everyone at 6ft 7in. He commands his box incredibly well and communicates so well, that you can hear him from the stands. The fact that Hughes was able to put this deal together so quickly, and gain a player with Championship level games under their belt this season, is a good sign. The only reason this gets a B and not an A is because it isn’t a permanent deal.

Di’shon Bernard – Loan from Manchester United – B

This was a deal that was completed on transfer deadline day and came out of the blue slightly. Bernard has championship experience, not unlike Macey, and is highly rated by Manchester United. A good indication of that is his contract which doesn’t run out until the middle of 2026. Bernard is a quick, strong, athletic defender who is comfortable on the ball. This is a loan move that very much feels like it’s trying to shape the way Portsmouth are going to play moving forward. The centre backs have already been challenged by John Mousinho to get comfortable defending 1 v 1, and all of Bernards attributes point to him being able to do just that.

Paddy Lane – £250k (rumoured) from Fleetwood Town – B

There has been a lot of noise about the Eisner’s not being willing to put their hand in their pocket to fund transfers, but this is one that does go some way to refuting that. Lane had been somewhat put of favour since the arrival of Scott Brown at the Highbury Stadium, and Pompeys offer of an estimated £250k was too good for the Cod Army to turn down, who appeared to be in the business of selling anything that wasn’t nailed down on deadline day. Paddy Lane is another signing that fits the mould of young, promising footballer and can play multiple positions in midfield and up front. A current Northern Ireland international with a bright future, this deal was another that had no preamble and was completed with minimal fuss.

The ones that got away…

Jevani Brown – Exeter City – C

Jevani Brown was a problem for both Sean Raggett and Ryley Towler when Pompey played Exeter at Fratton Park. His pace and power in behind the defence caused the Blues backline several problems, and looking at the numbers he’s putting up this season, they weren’t the only defenders that found him a handful. Pompey were reportedly in dialogue with the Grecians for their frontman throughout most of deadline day but ultimately couldn’t agree on a few for the Jamaican international. He is out of contract in the summer, so his market value would have been lower than usual, but a now deleted tweet seemed to alude to Brown coming into a fair amount of money as he compared himself to the wolf of wall street, this now looks increasingly likely that it refers to a contract extension with the southwest club.

Some fans might make the argument that Pompey should have paid the money if he was their target. However, if Exeter were already in the process of extending Brown, then that skews the value of the deal, and it would appear that the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement.

The reason this gets a C, is purely because the approach should have been made earlier. The fact Portsmouth need another wide man/forward is not new news, and could have been targeted earlier in the window, potentially before an extension was on the table, altering his value.

Bailey Wright – Sunderland (Loan) – D

This one got out into he public domain and started the conversation about Portsmouth looking for a defender. A solid centre back for sure but not really fitting the mould Pompey are looking for going forward into the future. It’s entirely believable that Wright was someone that Pompey would very much liked to have brought in, but this would have felt very much like we were doing more of the same in loaning older players to give them some game time in a lower division, when what we really need is hungry youth players. Whether it was Portsmouth that pulled the plug on this move or if it was Sunderland, the fact it didn’t happen is a good thing, the fact it nearly did, is not positive.

In summary, this was always going to be a difficult window for the club and Rich Hughes to navigate. The moment the Blues relieved Danny Cowley of his duties, the next month was thrown into turmoil as priorities, rightly, changed to finding a new Head Coach. Given the evolving circumstances and the business that got done during this time, it’s impressive that Portsmouth managed to exit the window with a better squad than they entered with, and really during a transfer window, that’s all you can really ask for.

Overall grade: B