Jayden Stockley proved a pivotal player for Bristol Rovers last season despite never kicking a ball for the blue and white quarters.
Identified by former manager Paul Tisdale in January as the answer to the Gas’ goalscoring woes, and as detailed by CEO Martyn Starnes, Rovers had a loan deal verbally agreed only for a last minute u-turn and Stockley to sign for Charlton instead.
In the red of the Addicks, Stockley scored eight goals in 22 games; an amount that could well have kept Rovers in League One and potentially even Tisdale in a job, in what is one of those “sliding doors moments” in football.
Five months on and Stockley’s future is taking a similar turn as the Preston forward has, understandably, been in demand across League One with Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town and Portsmouth the leading contenders.
On Monday morning, Hampshire Live and Football Insider reported that Danny Cowley had struck a breakthrough in persuading Stockley to move to the south coast with the claim that an agreement had been reached with Preston.
A transfer fee in the region of £300,000 plus various add-ons had been struck with the understanding from Fratton Park that the Dorset-native was keen on a return to the south coast, having also previously played for Pompey on loan in 2015 as a 21-year-old.
“Substantial” personal terms had been offered with the feeling, just like at Rovers in January, that Stockley was set to be the physical goalscoring presence that Cowley required this summer.
“They become available because they are south coast boys, they love the area, live in the area and have family in the area,” Cowley said last week.
“When we are identifying, that is part of the process. When you’re looking at recruitment you’re always thinking about your location and your geography.”
But by Monday evening, in a tale familiar to Rovers, Pompey’s status as favourites for Stockley had waned with the Portsmouth News revealing that the player himself was set on a move back to Charlton.
As Starnes said in May: “I managed to negotiate terms with Preston, which seemed to be accepted, and I was told all Stockley had to do was go in and knock on Peter Ridsdale’s door and say he wanted to come to Bristol Rovers.
“Unfortunately, he chose to go to Charlton Athletic. Probably because of their position in the league and I’ve subsequently found out that our offer for Jayden was 50% more than Charlton are paying, so it was nothing to do with finances.
“We pushed the boat out to try and get Jayden but at the end of the day it was his choice to go to a different club.”