Former Portsmouth centre-back Paul Robinson has labelled Ronan Curtis and Marcus Harness as two of the best players in League One, speaking on BBC Radio Solent after their 4-0 hammering of promotion favourites Sunderland on Saturday.
Both attackers played an important part in the heavy victory against the Black Cats, with 25-year-old Harness scoring the opener at Fratton Park in the 19th minute before Republic of Ireland teammate Ronan Curtis’ free-kick found its way to John Marquis to put the third-tier outfit 3-0 up on the stroke of half-time.
Championships moves for the pair have been talked up in the past, with manager Danny Cowley publicly stating he was waiting for second-tier offers to come in for Harness after seeing him record 15 goal contributions in League One last season.
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However, there has been even more speculation surrounding Curtis, who has been open about his wishes to take the step up to the Championship with or without the south-coast side.
Derby County, Reading, Blackburn Rovers and Cardiff City have all been linked with a move for the Irishman in the past, but the former two’s transfer embargoes and the latter duo cooling their interest has seen him remain in the third tier as things stand.
He has played a vital part in many of Pompey’s goals in his three seasons at Fratton Park, going two better than Harness and registering 17 goalscoring contributions in 42 league games last term.
Curtis may not have started his season as quickly and he would have wanted to, but he and his Portsmouth teammate received heavy praise from pundit Paul Robinson after the much-needed victory over Lee Johnson’s men, saying on BBC Radio Solent (quotes via The News): “Curtis and Harness are up there with some of the best players in the division.
“They’ve shown that over the previous seasons and it’s only been flashes for Pompey this season really.
“I think what you’ve seen from them today (Saturday) against Sunderland, who are top of the league for a reason and a big club in the division, we’ve seen a top performance from them and what they are capable of.
“They probably wanted to prove themselves and it all came together.”
The duo have the technical ability to make the step up to the Championship and their statistics from past seasons back that up. Curtis has been especially consistent in his last few years at Fratton Park.
But both need to continue showing consistency ahead of a potential move in the future. If it wasn’t for Covid-19 and its effect on finances, both may have already moved on by now.
Previously-linked second-tier side Reading were in desperate need of wingers at the start of the summer, and with his valuation reportedly set at around £2m at that point and the Royals’ owners not afraid of spending money, it wouldn’t have been impossible to have seen Ronan Curtis make the move to Berkshire if they had not been under an embargo.
However, this failure to get a move elsewhere will only be a motivating factor for the duo who will be hoping to get to Curtis’ preferred destination with current side Portsmouth this season, securing their second-tier status without the need to push for a move next year.
Both would be hugely missed by Danny Cowley, so whilst other teams including Sunderland, Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday and others will be expected to be competing on paper, promotion this season may be the most important to Pompey if they want to retain some of their brightest stars.