Usually, losing your club’s captain and most talented player would be a blow for any football fan. However, Marc Wilson’s proposed transfer to Stoke, which is expected to go through by Monday, could be the exception.
Wilson was made captain by Steve Cotterill last month, possibly with the incentive of keeping the highly-rated youngster on the club’s books, as the new boss looked to build his team around the Irishman. But now, with Pompey still looking to raise cash to fund the CVA, Wilson looks set to seal a deal worth a small amount in terms of actual money, but one that will see the south coast side acquire some excellent additions to their meagre squad. Dave Kitson and Liam Lawrence have been offered as makeweights in the deal, which clearly proved too much for the club to turn down. The side will miss a player of Wilson’s quality – he has been the shining light for most of their opening games this term in his favoured defensive midfield berth – but sacrificing him for the aforementioned pair seems an excellent deal for the Blues.
Kitson has never settled in the Potteries since his big-money move two years ago. His £5.5m price tag was Stoke’s biggest-ever outlay, but he never got near the heights expected of him. Instead, he failed to register even a single goal in his first season, and returned to former club Reading on loan in March 2009. He was granted a second chance under Tony Pulis the next season and scored two goals early on in the campaign, only to be usurped by James Beattie and Ricardo Fuller in Pulis’ favoured strikeforce. Farmed out on loan again at Middlesbrough last season, his Stoke career was over before it had even begun in many respects. Despite his large 6ft 3in frame, he never did become accustomed to to Stoke’s aerial style of play.
But few would doubt the flame-haired striker’s quality. His scoring record at Reading was better than one in three despite a dodgy injury record. For such a big man, he’s got tremendous touch and a clever football brain, meaning he was the perfect link-up man for Kevin Doyle, who starred at the Berkshire club alongside Kitson. Indeed it’s easy to visualise Kitson and David Nugent linking up to similar effect, with the latter’s outstanding movement the perfect foil for Kitson’s vision and intelligence. Both players have an excellent Championship status and would undoubtedly be one of the most feared strike-forces in the division.
As for Lawrence, he’s just what the side have been missing. Despite Wilson’s quality, he occupies the only position Pompey aren’t short of options in – defensive midfield. However, Lawrence is very different. The Ireland international can play wide right or centrally and his passing and general quality on the ball is exactly what Pompey have been missing going forward. He has the authority and ability to dominate a midfield along with the flexibility to give Cotterill the option of playing anything from a flat four across the middle to a diamond formation. Indeed, if the deal does go through, Cotterill would be expected to change from his preferred formation. Having stuck rigidly to the 4-5-1 system, through necessity more than anything, he now has the players to go 4-4-2.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this deal but its one that could shape Pompey’s season. They are in desperate need of some quality throughout the side, especially in attacking areas, so a striker and forward-thinking midfielder of the ability of Kitson and Lawrence can only be a good thing. The loss of Wilson will be a shame, but it looks like a deal that’ll suit all parties. Pompey get two excellent players in exchange for one, Stoke get their man and lose two backup players, while Wilson gets Premier League football. Also, Kitson and Lawrence get first-team football once more after being frozen out at the Britannia Stadium.
It’ll also mark the umpteenth bit of business the sides have conducted between each other in recent months, with Ibrahima Sonko, Carl Dickinson, Asmir Begovic and Florent Cuvelier all making the switch between the clubs. Stoke do have their Pompey connections though with academy director Steve Martin and skills Coach David Wright both having worked with the Blues. Of all the deals mentioned above, this one represents Pompey’s best bit of business yet.