Following my previous post referring to the depth of Paul Cook’s squad, the Pompey manager has since strengthened even more with the signing of Marc McNulty from Sheffield United.
The Scotsman will remain at Fratton Park until January after being signed on an emergency loan, and has already made his debut for the club after coming off the bench against Macclesfield in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Born in Edinburgh, McNulty spent much of his youth playing at academies such as Celtic and Hibernian, before earning a professional contract with Livingston aged just 16. Financial problems saw the Scottish outfit demoted to the Scottish Third Division in the year that the 23-year-old signed, however in his five-year spell at the club he enjoyed successive promotions, which saw the club rise as high as the Scottish Championship.
McNulty’s performances were certainly recognised and his 41 goals in 96 appearances for the club did not go unnoticed. Sheffield United came knocking on the door and in May 2014, he signed a three-year deal for a fee thought to be between £90,000 and £125,000. It could be said that McNulty was already highly regarded among Pompey fans before even kicking a ball since, during his first season at the Blades, he scored the winner against Southampton sending them into the League Cup semi-finals. This wasn’t just the only time that McNulty proved himself against higher opposition during the course of the season. He was also on target against Queens Park Rangers in the third round of the FA Cup for his ninth goal of the season, with it being just January at the time.
Therefore, it seems as though Paul Cook has done a great deal here and, with the striker being given the number 10 shirt, he looks likely to feature heavily in the upcoming games.
However, it must be questioned what implications this has for last year’s top goalscorer in League Two. Matt Tubbs was the first name on the team sheet for the remainder of last season, after signing for the Blues back in January, but it appears that the change of manager over the summer did not do him any favours. After being substituted off after 60 minutes against Stevenage on October 20, the number nine has not started one game since and has only really featured off the bench for ten-minute spells.
Furthermore, with the recent loan of Caolan Lavery, this time from Sheffield Wednesday, Cook has made it quite clear that the strike-force is an area that he feels needs strengthening. With the likes of Conor Chaplin knocking on the door and Adam McGurk, who scored both goals against Macclesfield, back from injury, it is hard to see where Tubbs will fit in. It will be interesting to monitor who claims those spots in the starting line-up with the busy Christmas spell drawing ever closer, but if the 31-year-old is not getting regular games, there will undoubtedly be a number of teams after his signature in January.
Ultimately, with Tubbs not actually being Paul Cook’s signing, it wouldn’t surprise me if he is to leave in two months’ time. The Liverpudlian boss now has the opportunity to shape his squad in the way he likes and bring in players to suit his playing-style so perhaps the move for McNulty, and indeed Lavery, will bring improvements on the pitch, as Pompey press for a place in English football’s third tier next term.