Pompey boss ‘excited’ as deal draws closer

Brian Howard is set to play for Pompey against Gibraltar on Friday
Brian Howard is set to play for Pompey against Gibraltar on Friday

Michael Appleton has revealed his ‘excitement’ at tempting Brian Howard on to Pompey’s pre-season tour.

Now the Blues boss is hoping he can keep the former Barnsley midfielder for good.

And the chances of him doing that have been boosted with Luke Varney on the brink of joining Leeds.

Pompey have also agreed a compensation package with Leicester for Marko Futacs.

Their departures should finally see the Football League give Appleton the green light to make additions.

Howard is one of 11 triallists currently in Benahavis for the 10-day Spanish training camp.

A free agent after his Reading contract expired this summer, the 29-year-old would represent a coup in League One should he join Pompey.

While the Blues try to seal the deal, Appleton is delighted to have Howard in southern Spain.

And he is convinced the former Southampton apprentice can be a prize recruit for the season ahead.

The Pompey boss said: ‘Brian is not only a very, very good footballer but you have only got to spend a couple of hours in his company and see him around the other players to see he is a top, top bloke.

‘He is a voice on the training field and a voice off the training field. If we can get the likes of Brian Howard then I think we could be in for a good season.

‘It’s exciting for me, but I am not getting too excited. I just want to physically do my job and sign players.

‘The stumbling block is not able to put a contract in front of them.

‘I am sure there are Championship clubs out there who are aware of Brian but I have tried to sell this club to him and what the future holds.

‘I have asked him not to look at it as a short-term thing over the next six months or 12 months. I asked him to look beyond that and what Portsmouth could bring over the next two or three years.

‘I genuinely think we could be really successful if given the opportunity.

‘Unless someone comes in at the last minute and blows us out financially, I think we are in as good a position as anyone to try to do something with Brian.’

Howard had been expected to play against the Hawks on Saturday, alongside fellow triallists Jon Harley and Mustapha Dumbuya, only for the fixture to be washed out.

The midfielder will get another opportunity on Friday night against Gibraltar as he looks to show his ability to Pompey fans.

Appleton added: ‘Last year Reading were a settled side. They never had many injuries, especially in the midfield area. Brian got himself out on loan at Millwall towards the end of the season and did very, very well in the Championship.

‘He has got a lot of quality on the ball and can play off the striker. His best position at times almost could be a quarter-back role in front of the back four.

‘He brings balance, he’s a left-footed central midfield player and is also very good in terms of a leader on and off the pitch.’

Varney will be the next player out of the door as he moves to Elland Road.

Pompey have also finalised a payment from Leicester for Futacs because the striker is under the age of 24 and was offered a new deal before choosing to go to the Foxes.

Administrator Trevor Birch said: ‘It’s all ongoing.

‘There are a couple who are closer now. It’s a case of discussions of clubs, discussions with agents and players.

‘It’s all going on.’