June 21, 2024

Detailed: How Portsmouth pulled off a transfer coup to beat Derby, Sunderland and Brentford to in-demand starlet

The Bet McLean Oval last season became a regular acquaintance in Pompey’s recruitment drive.

On four occasions, the Belfast home of Glentoran was visited by either sporting director Rich Hughes or head of recruitment Phil Boardman.

Their sustained focus was fixed on a teenage midfielder called Terry Devlin, yet they weren’t alone.

Several years earlier, the Northern Ireland youth international had ventured to Middlesbrough and West Ham on trial.

At that time he was on the books of Dungannon Swifts, yet not ready to make the jump, returning home to maintain his promising development.

It was a switch to Glentoran last summer which would escalate Devlin’s flourishing reputation, prompting a queue of English admirers to form an orderly line.

Amid a congested market place, with many clubs linked, Pompey viewed Derby, Sunderland, Stoke and Brentford as their main rivals for the starlet’s services.

As it was, the Blues emerged victorious, spending around £90,000 to secure him on a three-year deal with a club option.

The culmination of fine work by Fratton Park’s recruitment team, who not only ventured to Northern Ireland to watch the young talent in action, but pored over video footage during exhaustive research.

Inevitably, first-team fixture commitments prevented John Mousinho undertaking his own trips to Glentoran, instead studying clips of Devlin – and liked what he saw, thereby rubber stamping Pompey’s interest.

The Blues were not merely impressed with what they witnessed on the pitch, with character references containing glowing comments about Delvin’s attitude and professionalism.

Glentoran had accepted they would not be able to keep hold of the energetic midfielder after just a single season, consisting of 32 appearances and two goals.

Not prepared to stand in the way of a promising career, it was a departure viewed as inevitable by club officials, supporters and his many English admirers.

Yet during the 2019-20 season before Covid hit, Devlin ventured to Middlesbrough and then West Ham for trials with Dungannon Swifts team-mate Michael Forbes.

However, it was Forbes who was successful, winning a two-year scholarship with the Hammers in April 2020 at the age of 16.

The defender remains on West Ham’s books and last season started all three of their Papa Johns Trophy matches, featuring against Walsall, MK Dons and Cheltenham.

Now, three years later, Devlin has followed him to England and will be seeking to make an impact in the forthcoming campaign.

Pompey possess high hopes for the 19-year-old and view him challenging for first-team involvement in his maiden season, with no plans to loan him out.

It means he will vie with Marlon Pack, Joe Morrell, Tom Lowery and Harry Jewitt-White for spots in Mousinho’s midfield.

Certainly the Fratton faithful will be relishing seeing the highly-regarded youngster in action following the thorough recruitment process which brought him over here.

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